Treat Corporations and Foundations Like Individual Donors

grants 2016-

We are often asked if corporations/businesses and foundations should be included in a major gift program that is primarily focused on individuals. The answer is yes.

Every corporation, business, foundation and “other” organization is much like an individual in the following ways:

  1. Each has a personality with specific passions and interests.
  2. Each of them needs to be qualified just like individuals do. Some will want to relate, others won’t.
  3. You need to set a goal and create a personalized plan for each of them, based on their passions and interests.
  4. You need to report back to let them know they made a difference. And you can’t thank and report back enough.

While it is true that a corporation, business and foundation all have different processes and protocols for “applying for” and securing a gift or a grant, the psychology and fundamental strategy are the same as for individuals.

The analysis is also the same. You need to measure value and donor attrition to see how the same business, corporation or foundation performed financially over time. I have done analysis on scores of corporate and foundation programs, and I’ve found the same problem Jeff and I find in individual donor files: organizations that gave one year that never give again.

In fact, in one recent file we were looking at, the value attrition from just the corporate donor list was 65%! Millions of dollars had just disappeared. And it wasn’t one big gift from one corporation/business that went away – no, there were many that just stopped giving.

And when I asked for the details on each of the businesses and corporations who stopped giving the only answer I could get, as to why they stopped giving, was: “I really don’t know.” Hmmm. This is not good.

So any corporate, foundation or “other” organization program giving to your non-profit should be handled with the same rigor, attention to donor preferences and analysis as the major gift program for individuals. There is NO difference between the two except for the strategy and process for executing the ask and securing the gift.

Don’t make it any more complicated than that.

Jeff and I always tell folks who work in the corporate and foundation areas that corporations, foundations and other grant-making organizations are simply groups of individuals who have agreed on what they believe it is important to fund. They are still individuals who have the same hopes, dreams and vision for our hurting planet as individual donors do. They still experience emotion and longing, just as individual donors do. They still want to know their giving made a difference, just like individual donors do.

So when you are writing that proposal or application for a grant, do make sure you follow their rules and protocols. But you also want to make sure you speak and write from the heart. And as you are preparing for the ask, you are writing to people, not to faceless and heartless organizations.

Keep that in mind – there is no such thing as a faceless and heartless organization. It just feels like it because of the requirements they set for funding. That feeling can easily get you off track, so you believe you need to be stiff and formal. You don’t. Be authentic, caring and passionate about asking them to join you in this great cause you both care about. It will make a huge difference in the outcome, believe me.

Richard

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One Comment

  • Rob Tonus says:

    Having managed a foundation for four years, I can attest to that . . . Charity staff and volunteers who approached me with respect and asked my opinion BEFORE submitting their proposals were more likely to be considered as good partners when projects were being reviewed by the Funding Committee. Those who thanked me whether they got their funding or not were more likely to be looked on favourably when they submitted their next proposal. And those who invited me to their celebration events, even if I couldn’t make it due to distance (I was responsible for providing funding throughout the whole province of Ontario) increased their chances of being looked on favourably when they asked for funding again.

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