How to Convince Your ED to Invest in Business Giving (Without Fighting, Screaming or Crying)

You're sitting in front of your executive director and you have one simple request. "Can we please invest more time and money into raising money from businesses?"

She stares at you and her mouth opens as if to speak. But she says nothing. She looks away. Then she looks at you again. You're thinking, "What will she say? ..... How will I answer her?!"

I know what she'll say, and how you should respond. Here's how to convince your executive director that business giving is worth the investment of time, money and resources.


What Your ED Says: "There's no money in business giving"

How You Should Respond: It's true that business giving isn't the biggest slice of the philanthropic pie, but American businesses did donate nearly $17 billion last year. And that's just the money that they donated from the corporate checkbook. In 2012, the Cause Marketing Forum did a study of checkout fundraisers - which target customer dollars - and found that the top 64 programs raised $358 million. There were hundreds of other programs that raised tens of millions of dollars. Business giving is worth effort.

Resource: Who Gave in 2013? [INFOGRAPHIC]


What Your ED Says: "Business giving is for the big guys, not for small nonprofits like ours"

How You Should Respond: I can show you plenty of examples of small and mid-size nonprofits that have raised five and six figures with businesses. Large nonprofits don't have a special advantage when it comes to business giving. Small nonprofits like ours can do the same thing. We just need to adjust our expectations on how much we can raise because we probably won't be working with national chains. But even this isn't impossible.

Joslin Diabetes Center - a stand alone clinic in Boston - has a national partnership with discount retailer TJ Maxx that has raised millions of dollars.

While it's true that there are no guarantees we'll raise big money with businesses, if we never try we're guaranteed never to raise a dime.

Resource: 10 Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2013 [BLOG POST]


What Your ED Says: "We need to stay focused on individual giving. That's where the money is."

How You Should Respond: "I couldn't agree with you more. That's exactly why we need to target businesses. Companies can give us access to individuals through their customers and employees. Because companies are limited in what they can give from the checkbook - but recognize the power of cause marketing -  they love to tap OPM (Other People's Money).

You should also read what Joe Waters has been writing on the future of giving. Businesses are recognizing the value of doing well and good. And because technology is giving them unprecedented access to individuals, businesses could become a major enabler of giving in the years ahead.

Resource: Forget Zombies, Get Ready for the Goodpocalypse [BLOG POST]


What Your ED Says: "Businesses only give us access to the people we already have: middle-aged men and women."

How You Should Respond: Businesses are squarely focused on Millennials, the next generation of workers and consumers. They don't have a choice. Millennials - men and women under 34 - are 95 million strong and the largest generation. Businesses that aren't targeting this generation are being punished by critics and shareholders.

Nonprofits need Millennials just as much as businesses do. But businesses are more attuned to recruiting them so we need to put their marketing to work for us.

Resource: The Generation Companies, Nonprofits Can't Live Without: Millennials [PODCAST}


What Your ED Says: "Our cause isn't emotional enough."

How You Should Respond: Sure, our cause isn't as emotional as some causes. That doesn't mean we can't raise money from businesses. First, some types of business giving like matching gifts and volunteer grants aren't tied to how emotional our cause is. Second, businesses are more interested in the impact nonprofits are having - and with good reason. The Millennials they're wooing aren't attached to institutions. They're interested in organizations that are solving problems. Finally, working with companies will help us hone our emotional appeal for a consumer audience. Like it or not, we need to lead with emotion.

Resource: The Role of Emotion in Cause Marketing [BLOG POST]


What Your ED Says: "Corporate partnerships are too complicated."

How You Should Respond: There are many easy ways to raise money from businesses. Selfish Giving has curated 40 different strategies in a new book and on Pinterest. Some of the simplest tactics include donation boxes, pinups and purchase-triggered donations. Best of all, these tactics are easy AND lucrative.

Resource: Fundraising with Businesses: 40 New (and Improved!) Strategies for Nonprofits [BOOK]


What Your ED Says: "I don't want to get in trouble with the law."

How You Should Respond: I've been researching this and there are resources that can help us navigate legal issues. Our state's attorney general's office has rules for commercial co-ventures that can guide us. 

Resource: Contemporary Cause Marketing Legal Issues [RECORDED WEBINAR]

What questions will your ED ask you about business giving? Share them below and I'll answer as many as I can.