From Cause Marketing to Corporate Causes

You do really great work. In fact, you tell people about it all of the time (be honest). You tell family, friends, colleagues, donors, and potential donors. Of course, why wouldn’t you tell them? Your not-for-profit organization really is making a transformative difference in people lives. People get excited about being involved in causes that make a difference—it empowers them too.

I always say that if someone offers to help you to say “yes”… say yes emphatically. People get a sense of joy, fulfillment, and purpose by being part of something bigger then themselves. In the not-for-profit world, a lot of time is spent asking our neighbors, broadly defined, for support—both in terms of time and money.

Joe Waters, of course, points out that businesses are our neighbors too. Businesses are made up of people that are also passionate about being involved in their communities or invested in improving the human condition (e.g., cancer, literacy, hunger, homelessness, etc.) and many times they are just waiting for an invitation to be involved. Sometimes those business people are asked to partner with your organization through cause marketing—thus creating a win-win-win for the not-for-profit, the business, and the community.

Taking Another Slice of the Corporate Giving Pie

Many businesses have taken an extra step to setup charity foundations designed specifically to help not-for-profits. So, if you are already reaching out to businesses for support, why not go ahead and see if their corporate office provides philanthropy through grants.

Did you know that annually foundations award about $320 billion in annual grant awards; individuals provide $265 billion; bequests provide $32 billion; and corporations provide another $18.5 billion in not for profit funding?

The culture and practice of managing a not-for-profit is always changing.  Probably the most pressing issues are revenue generation, financial stability, innovation implementation, and staff recruitment and retention. Trying to engage staff through innovation can be very challenging as is paying for such innovation. Grants are effective mechanisms for creating sustainable innovation, collaboration, and continuing education as well as community and stakeholder engagement.

The Business Case for Your Boss

Why should you encourage your leadership to become more familiar with the grant development process?

Applying for grants provides not-for-profits with the following:

1.  Significant return on investment
2. Leadership can direct funding priority areas
3. Increased innovation
4. Long-term sustainability (multiyear funding)
5. Increased brand recognition
6. Staff recruitment and retention
7.  Increased research capacity by expanding from industry supported research to grant supported
8. Generate programs and outreach efforts to address charity care/community benefit that is more outcome-focused.

More importantly, senior leadership can guide innovation by: 

1.  Selecting grants fitting their strategic priorities
2. Provide the necessary structure (e.g., project requirements, budget, deadlines, etc.) for program development
3. Federal grants, especially, provide insight into high priority areas and emerging federal policies/practices
4. Innovation is grassroots thereby creating ownership over projects, requiring less oversight
5. External collaboration with Innovative Funding Partners will bring in nationally recognized experts to help guide all aspects of the project 

Leaders often spend a great deal of time and money trying to change the culture of an organization—with didactic methods being some of the least effective mechanisms. Through proactive grant training and development efforts, training can occur more systemically and naturally as to bring about positive momentum thereby helping to foster a cultural of change--with the potential for generating a significant source of new revenue. 

Not-for-profits are well positioned to apply for foundation funding opportunities and eventually a variety of federal, state, and city grants. Why not see if the business you connect with are looking to connect with your efforts through their foundation office? Our clients repeatedly state the way in which Innovative Funding Partners (IFP) does grant training and development positively changes the culture of their organization resulting in staff who become excited and engaged in a continuous innovation mindset (i.e., they don’t work for the system but with the system).  

Innovative Funding Partner's highly experienced team has been successful in not only assisting organizations with their efforts to gain funding but in offering training for key staff. In the competitive world of foundation, federal, and corporate funding, IFP has an overall success rate of over 70%, when most funding agencies award less than 10% of applications received. We have worked with small NGOs, large healthcare systems, academic medical centers, urban and rural hospitals, FQHCs, technology startups, and a variety of community serving organizations.


This is a guest post from Dr. Brian Kelley. Dr. Kelley is a psychologist and neuroscientist by training with expertise and experience working with not-for-profits/community serving organizations. He has worked with numerous organizations to support strategic planning, program innovation/development, and grant funding.