Corporate Giving, Small-ish

Let’s talk about corporate giving on a smaller scale.

Of course this is a difficult economy, but even prior to this time there were plenty of corporations with limited resources to give. Often the sponsorships and larger donations are determined at an executive level, possibly with other simpler giving programs at the local level. In addition to these simpler local giving programs, many local workers choose to give other intangible resources such as their time and expertise.

So let me first state that I approve of this system: that is, the executive level determines large partnerships and establishes programming for simpler support at the local level. This is not some big, cold-hearted behemoth – instead, it is an efficient way to run business and to also give, particularly when there are many at the local level, for how would you instruct and monitor that local giving was well-chosen and effective?

I recall leading a workshop for the SOAR Putting the Pieces Together Conference a couple years ago, on effective partnerships between non-profits organizations and businesses. We discussed the dual nature of such partnerships: how a non-profit can create an atmosphere in which a business can be of help, and types of support that a business can give when it does not have funding.

Key points:

* Often a non-profit will request funds only, but could a business offer something else: marketing expertise, volunteers, networking?
* In my eye, it is perfectly acceptable for the business partner to gain something in this relationship, for that’s what it is, a relationship.

In my recent professional experience, there are two particularly successful and effective such partnerships:

* Partner School Adoption Program: A three-year pilot program that I created, the Partner School program was a year-long relationship with a chosen school. Giving was tailored to meet the needs of the particular school, whether PTSA membership, quality supplemental lectures for students, or volunteer support for activities. Lake Hills Elementary was a dream partner, much to the credit of Principal Judy Buckmaster and Wrap Around Project Coordinator Erin Boone. Both Judy and Erin were, first and foremost, appreciative of what I could give. They were clear in their needs and open to new ideas.

Erin Boone, Judy Buckmaster, Brenda Gurung and - of course - the lighthearted Froggy

* Holiday Book Drive: Every year local branches of my organization host a Holiday Book Drive, collecting new books for area youth. Recently I partnered with Christine Ellis and Evergreen Healthcare because we wanted to help sick and hurting kids and we knew that Evergreen was doing great work because we’d partnered on other projects previously. When I first approached Christine, she inquired the scope of this partnership – I would arrange for donations, and all I asked was some form of acknowledgement. We were able to collect almost 900 new books for youth served by Evergreen Healthcare, from infants to teens. And Christine made her organization’s appreciation clear, arranging for a brief photo op and conversation with the CEO, a Vice President and numerous hospital directors. Absolutely perfect, and so so simple.

Bellevue Reporter article, Jan 15, 2009 - Steve Brown, CEO of Evergreen Healthcare, and Brenda Gurung

Let me close with this thought: an organization will wish to put themselves in a position to receive support. There have been a few occasions when I was approached by an organization requesting my assistance and buried in need. In fact, they could not accept volunteers nor networking. They were not self-aware – that is, they didn’t know what expertise they already had in their organization. Their needs were far beyond my scope of ability.

So, if you’re asking for support, have you created an atmosphere and structure to receive, to collaborate, to grow?

- Brenda Gurung


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