“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Well, at least that’s what the song says.
But for many, the holidays and winter weather bring a time of stress and even greater need. As nonprofit professionals, you know this better than anyone.
You also know that the holidays are a time when companies are thinking about giving back to their communities.
So, how do you turn that desire to give into support for your worthy cause? Here are some tips for working with companies during the holiday season:
Do your research. This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many fundraisers approach potential corporate donors with a general “please support us because you should” plea, without having any clue about what kind of philanthropy the company tends to engage in or how they think about giving back.
A little time on the company’s web site, with community newspapers and even on the phone with local leaders will be well spent.
Remember that companies are made up of people. When you approach the company, remember how you work with individual donors and keep in mind that, although the person you’re talking with represents a brand, he or she is also – well – a person.
The fact that the money you seek comes from a corporate budget shouldn’t stop you from being personable and developing a relationship.
Listen. Ask your contact how the company thinks about giving back and what its goals are in terms of helping the community during the holidays.
Ask about the employees, what they care about and if they have any traditions you could enhance. Keep an ear open for opportunities to encourage team building within the company while they rally around your cause.
Partner to accomplish both organizations’ goals. The more you listen, the better the chance that – together – you’ll come up with creative ideas for how to accomplish your fundraising goals and the company’s desire both to give back and engage employees.
Remember that, while traditional “holiday drives” may be done, there are many companies seeking to give back through the donation of professional skills.
Plan for the long term. Although the holiday season is already upon us, remember that the best relationships are about the long term.
Identify a way to begin – start small if you need to – then engage in a discussion about what’s next.
Good nonprofit/corporate partnerships aren’t just about money. They’re about collaboration toward the achievement of a common goal – collaboration that can be a heck of a lot of fun in the process.
A final note – If you try something with a new partner this holiday season that just doesn’t work, that’s ok; it’s only a failure if you don’t learn from it. Just make sure you’re open about why and use that discussion to take a positive step.
Oh, and as soon as January 1 comes around, make it your New Year’s resolution to get ahead of the game for 2011.
Begin thinking right away about how you can cultivate relationships so that next fall, you’re ready to make the most of the season of giving.
Rachel Hutchisson is director of corporate citizenship and philanthropy at Blackbaud.