Navigating the ‘ask’ for corporate investment in your event or programs has always been a tricky effort but now we are mired in a pandemic. Does that mean a nonprofit should give up on this type of financial support?
The short answer: no.
Just like with any fundraising activity, it always comes down to this cornerstone principle: it is all about the relationship. Be honest with your sponsors about how you are navigating these times of uncertainty. Although it may not be a wise moment to ask for a financial gift from your corporate partners, it surely is the perfect time to just check in with them. Just like any relationship, it is good to keep in touch. One piece of advice shared is the worst thing you do is to do nothing. Send your partners a note to see how they are doing and to thank them again for previous support as it is allowing you to continue to provide much needed services during this critical time.
This may prove to be the perfect time to hone your impact data to make an even stronger case for support. Perhaps your nonprofit can create a special COVID-19 service program to better support the community you serve and your corporate partners can engage in that program.
Another suggestion is to double down on the public recognition of our corporate sponsors from previous years on LinkedIn and your monthly e-newsletter. One of the main reasons why for profit businesses sponsor events is to raise awareness of their support of the community. It also helps raise brand awareness for the company. There’s nothing like a social media shout out by staff, board, and key volunteers to help a corporate partner feel appreciated. But keep in mind this important information provided by Classy.org:
Sponsors can be recognized by the organization, but this recognition must not endorse the sponsor’s product, use comparative language, or mention price information. Once you cross into advertising for the sponsor, the contribution becomes taxable income.
Look at programming collaborations with other nonprofits. In that case, you can ask for a large dollar amount that will go twice as far when it comes to impact. Engage your corporate partners in conversation about how you can collaborate with them on more effective ways to leverage their investment during these times. Perhaps exploring a virtual event may just be in order.
However, if a virtual event is not feasible, consider postponing the event altogether while you regroup on the next best steps. Perhaps engaging your corporate partner in a new and clever way to leverage the purpose of your event.
Of course, your sponsors may still pull their support due to the changes. Be proactive and seek alternative corporate partners who may be more aligned with the current environment and willing to be more innovative in supporting your nonprofit. As always is the case, look at the synergy between your mission and the company’s focus of service. Be very aware of potential conflicts of interest, too. Keep in mind that many corporations require employee support of a nonprofit before they will donate the big dollars, so be sure to check in with their human resources department or designated employee to find out the company’s process of working with nonprofits.