This week, we continue with three more priceless secrets from our intrepid guest blogger, Becky Schieber. Becky is a freelance writer, editor and communication strategist. She spent more than a decade in the trenches of the country’s biggest newsrooms as a TV news producer before building a career in healthcare fundraising and corporate social responsibility. Here, she lets you in on the most important things she learned from running a global corporate foundation that she wishes she’d known when she was soliciting major gifts.
Secret 4: Tchotchkes
Plaques, trophies, certificates…we get a lot of those. During my time running a corporate foundation, nothing was lonelier than the box of tchotchkes I stowed under my desk because our designated corporate social responsibility showcase area was already chock-full.
We know you want to express your appreciation for our gifts, but why not invest the money you’ve allocated for stewardship back into your mission and instead send a heartfelt, handwritten thank you note?
Some of my favorite tokens of appreciation were letters from students who received our scholarships, because I could easily share these companywide – much more impactful than a dust-gathering plaque on a corner shelf!
Secret 5: Your Mission is Awesome, But…
If your mission wasn’t awesome, you wouldn’t be working for the organization. Kudos to you for trying to make the world a better place! But even though your mission may be 100% aligned with my corporate philanthropic strategy, that’s not my only consideration.
Here’s an example: I once had a very persistent fundraiser approach me multiple times about a sponsorship for a great event that was right up our alley. The problem? Our chief competitor was the title sponsor.
Much as we like to think the mission matters more than anything else, it’s not the only factor. Be mindful of industry exclusivity concerns when preparing your sponsorship pitches.
Secret 6: No Leapfrog
This is a big one. Please, please don’t leapfrog your corporate foundation contact. I know it’s tempting to go straight to the decision-makers in the C suite, especially if your board is well-connected. In some cases, this is absolutely appropriate, but often that C-level leader doesn’t have eyes on the nuts and bolts of the corporate foundation budget and priorities.
If your C-level contact directs you to her community relations or corporate foundation director, then that’s the person you need to work with. Repeated overtures to the CEO often result in him forwarding your email to someone like me and can be annoying to us both.
I once worked with a dean at a major university who was quite fond of doing this, and the resulting confusion about who was talking to whom and what had and had not been done was disastrous and frustrating all around. Nobody likes to be caught off guard. C-level leaders are busy running companies, and while many of them do carve out time for community involvement, they also hire people to handle the details for a reason. Be respectful of their time and the companies’ processes.
There’s a lot of opportunity with corporate philanthropy. Those who are willing to invest the time to build relationships, listen and learn will be successful in the long run.