- Mission Alignment
The first item to consider is if your NFP’s mission aligns with a company’s giving pillars.
Ms. Wort kicked off the discussion by citing Symetra’s three giving pillars.
- At- risk youth
- Housing and homelessness
Ms. Ragain added that REI focuses on People, Places and Research
- Re-wilding cities and towns and keeping wild places wild
- Connecting underrepresented groups to the outdoors
- Demonstrating nature’s physical and mental health benefits
- Advancing climate action and sustainable innovation
REI wants to keep provide safe and equal access to the outdoors to all.
- Tax Exempt Status:
All corporate funders are interested in knowing the tax-exempt status of a potential new NFP partner. In the case of Symetra, they work with 501 (c) (3) organizations only whereas REI would consider partnering with a 501 (c) (4) or even an organization that used a fiscal sponsor.
Both Ms. Wort and Ms. Ragain stated that most companies research a potential NFP’s profile and status on GuideStar and the IRS website.
- First Impression & Communication
Ms. Wort stressed the importance of getting the basics right such as the name of the corporate contact and to proofread for potential spelling and syntax errors. NFPs should avoid form letters and focus on making the email stand out by sharing stories of those they have helped. One should not always ask for money but instead strive to make a connection.
Ms. Ragain reiterated these statements and added that these communications should not be sent to the CEO of their company as it would not get timely attention or seen at all. Furthermore, a ‘cut and paste’ template stands out as such and messages that are genuine and personalized are most likely to get a response.
Both panelists agreed that websites are very important and should be kept current with the organization’s mission, work it does and impact clearly communicated. Ms. Ragain stated that it should include pictures and bios of leaders as well as information about other corporate donors. She also mentioned that she should not have to search for a phone number or email.
Although smaller non-profits may not have the budget for sophisticated productions, even a brief one or two-minute video can convey important information about an organization’s work.
Ms. Wort added that the website should also contain DEI (diversity equity inclusion) statements and COVID pre-cautions as well as make it easy for individuals and companies to donate online. A nonprofit’s digital presence should create a three-dimensional picture of their mission, work, people and impact.
- Social Media
Both speakers agreed that social media has lost some of its luster for them but did state that it is important to their marketing departments who approve sponsorship asks.
- GuideStar, Charity Navigator and Benevity Profiles
This relates to Tip #2 above. NFPs need to keep their profiles on these sites as comprehensive and up-to-date as possible.
All agreed that corporate philanthropy is a small community and corporate funders often share experiences with each other. Legal cases and negative press is easily communicated. Nonprofits need to be more cognizant of this.
- Leadership & Staff
Nonprofits need to consider the reputation and experience of its leadership and the turnover rate of its staff. Constant turnover sends a loud message to corporate funders and they take more time to carefully examine what is causing workers to leave.
Ms. Wort and Ms. Regain agreed that the diversity of the Board is important and should represent the clients they serve. In order to evaluate a board’s diversity, their photos and bios should be on the website as stated in Step #4.
- Employee Involvement
Ms. Wort always looks for employee engagement opportunities as this presents a way in which Symetra can stretch its philanthropy giving. She admits that options like volunteering and days of service have been more challenging with COVID but encourages nonprofits to think of ways to partner and continue relationships during this time. Their employees need to feel connected in their communities at home and at work. People want to feel these connections now perhaps more than before due to the many uncertainties of this historic time.
The next CGN Learning @Lunch will be on January 14th, 2021.