Treat Corporations and Foundations Like Individual Donors

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by Richard Perry

We are often asked if corporations/businesses and foundations should be included in a major gift program that is primarily focused on individuals. And the answer is yes.

Every corporation, business, foundation and “other” organization is much like an individual in the following ways:

  1. Each has a personality with specific passions and interests.
  2. Each of them needs to be qualified just like individuals do. Some will want to relate, others won’t.
  3. You need to set a goal and create a personalized plan for each of them based on their passions and interests.
  4. You need to report back to let them know they made a difference. And you can’t thank and report back enough.

While it is true that a corporation, business and foundation all have different processes and protocols for “applying” for and securing a gift or a grant, the psychology and fundamental strategy is the same as for individuals.

And the analysis is also the same. You need to measure value and donor attrition to see how the same business, corporation or foundation performed financially over time. I have done analysis on scores of corporate and foundation programs and found the same problem Jeff and I find in individual donor files: Organizations that give one year never give again.

In fact, in one recent file we were looking at, the value attrition from just the corporate donor list was 65%! Millions of dollars had just disappeared. And it wasn’t one big gift from one corporation/business that went away — there were many that just stopped giving.

And when I asked for the details on each of the businesses and corporations that stopped giving, the only answer I could get as to why they stopped giving was: “I really don’t know.”

So any corporate, foundation or “other” organization program in your nonprofit should be handled with the same rigor, attention to donor preferences and analysis as the major gift program for individuals. There is NO difference between the two except for the strategy and process for executing the ask and securing the gift.

Don’t make it any more complicated than that.

And what Jeff and I always tell folks who work in the corporate and foundation areas is this: Corporations, foundations and other grantmaking organizations are simply groups of individuals who have agreed on what is important to fund. They are still individuals who have the same hopes, dreams and vision for our hurting planet as individual donors do. They still experience emotion and longing just as individual donors do. They still want to know their giving made a difference, just like individual donors do.

So when you are writing that proposal or application for a grant, you do have to make sure you follow their rules and protocols. But you also want to make sure you speak and write from the heart and that, as you are preparing for the ask, you are writing to people not to faceless and heartless organizations.

Keep that in mind, there is no such thing as a faceless and heartless organization. It just feels like it because of the requirements they set for funding. And that feeling you get can easily get you off track to believing you need to be stiff and formal. You don’t. Be authentic, caring and passionate about asking them to join you in this great cause you both care about. It will make a huge difference in the outcome, believe me.

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