Month: March 2014

Small Charities: Making a Difference all Over the World

         I love the charity I work for, but I have to admit I am a bit of a fan of charities large and small and what they do in their corner of the world. Yesterday one of my twitter followers drew my attention to this charity in Ireland.  Having worked most of my career for organizations that support children and families I had to love what this charity does.  Also working with sick children and their families I can appreciate what a benefit a service like this can be to them. The organization is called BUMBLEance and their vision is to:

Our vision is to provide improved and professional medical transportation services for long-term sick and seriously disabled children, who require professional ambulance transportation. We will transport children in a fun environment from the far reaches of Ireland, both urban and rural, to their treatment centres.

           Within the last two years our own organization started to partner with a local healthcare provider to provide mobile health care services,so I definitely appreciate what they do for children. A service like this is an interesting support and fills an important gap for seriously ill children. To be honest leading a nonprofit the first thing I had to think when I saw their videos was “how do we get one of these in Canada?”. Anyway check out their promotional video –what they do for kids is very impressive. If you live in Ireland or are just concerned about sick children- there are a number of ways on their website that you can become involved or provide support.

 

http://www.bumbleance.com/

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Your smartphone is 80 percent of everything Radio Shack carried in 1991

 

         A little over a year ago we re-designed our website. This year we will be doing some work on improving how mobile –friendly our website is. We re-designed the website to “tweak” our branding a bit, but mostly we were working on the backend to improve our on-line giving features and our peer to peer fundraising pages.  Our assumption was that we would raise some additional funds through peer to peer fundraising pages and overall this would drive more donations on-line. A couple assumptions that we made were that our millennial (and younger donors) would be the major users of the new features and that in general we would be receiving gifts in the $20 to $250 range. We knew we would have some larger gifts but the improvements to our website and software was really targeted at the base of our donor pyramid. Well wouldn’t you know it one of the first donors to use our new on-line features was a couple in their early seventies? This couple typically comes in twice a year and physically hands Marla a cheque. If Marla isn’t around they ask if I am in and they personally give me the cheques. The donation was a $5000 donation which blows assumption number two out of the water. The lesson is everything you think you know about on-line donations and new technologies will change by next year.

             The additional lesson for our team is that we do need to think of our on-line technology as major gift tools, not just as tools to solicit smaller donations. We also need to consider the behavior and habits of our more affluent supporters.  Six thousand smart phone users were surveyed by BBC World news and the findings are interesting. BBC World News found that:

•39 percent of affluent individuals access their smartphone at least once per hour (18 percent higher than the general population).

 •Affluent smartphone users are 18 percent more likely to share their location than the general population.

 •Affluent smartphone users are 4 times more influenced by mobile ads than they are by desktop ads.

Justin Ware suggests;” we at BWF_social have been suggesting clients look at online as a major gift tool, in addition to something to strengthen the annual fund”.  Overall charities need to consider tactics and appeals that are more robust when considering all ranges of gifts that may be solicited on-line. Ware also provides a few more rationales why a nonprofit may want to invest more thought into their on-line appeals to donors. He points out:” studies tell us that online-acquired donors give larger gifts, give more of their lifetimes, and have greater capacity to give.” My personal beliefs are that larger gifts are more likely to be made face to face, but our world is changing and as a society our comfort with online and electronic transactions are increasing. This January we received an on-line donation of $25,000, at a time when I still get pretty excited about $1000 on-line gifts a donation out of the blue like this reminds you how much fundraising is going to change in the near future. As an illustration of how much the world is changing on his blog post Ware has an Radio Shack ad from 1991. You can see in the ad that almost everything they are selling in the ad, now can be replicated by your  smartphone.

 

References

Ware, J (2014) Smartphones are Powerful Major Gift Donor Engagement Tools: on the Social Side of

          Giving Blog as retrieved from: http://justinjware.com/2014/03/05/smart-phones-are-powerful-major-gift-donor-engagement-tools/

Catching Your Staff doing a great job

 

          I have had a few messages about the Top 5 updates I do with my board that I described in the blog post below:

https://mathiesonlarry.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/you-need-to-provide-good-information-to-have-good-governance/

I actually do an update that is similar with our staff group, we call it simply DYK or did you know. It is really important for us to have our teams or departments work well together. For the most part our staff are pretty good are rowing in the same direction. I am a little biased but I think we have more than our share of good luck in attracting great people to work in our programs. However in any organization there can always be more or better communication. From time to time staff members in one team may feel that they are not getting the recognition that members from another team are, or that their team works harder or has fewer perks than members of another team. We wanted a way to recognize what people were doing really well, but also a way to communicate across our whole team what their co-workers were doing well. As Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson say in their book The One Minute Manager – “Catch people doing something right” and tell them about it. The DYK was kind of based on this notion; we wanted to catch people doing great work and celebrate it across the organization. Like the Top 5 for the board we wanted the information to be sound bites or headlines so that our staff would read it, and remember it.  I send DYK items via email to all the staff Friday afternoons around the time I send the Top 5 to the board.

           I don’t see all the great work our team is doing first hand every week, so my managers will email me items about their staff member’s activities. As well any member of our staff team can send me items. Some of the items are home run outcomes or behavior and some are just small things people do to make our work a little more effective. All of the items in some way make us more sustainable, make the service we provide a little better for kids and families, make our organization better/more effective in some ways or make a co-worker job a little easier. By encouraging all of our staff members to contribute items at some point in the year- makes it everybody’s job to catch co-workers doing great work.

References

Blanchard, K. & Johnson, S. (1982) The One Minute Manager: New York: William Morrow & Co,

Triple Threats: Volunteers who donate.

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              Around here we talk about a group that is pretty special to us, we refer to them as our Triple Threats. These are the individuals who give us their: time, treasure and talent.  For example our board members are triple threats. We recruit members to our board who have specific skill sets that we need (talent) ,they all donate in various ways and they devote their time to board meetings, committee meeting and events. However fortunately we also have other volunteers beyond our board members who are triple threats. Most research I have read about volunteers is that they are more likely to donate to charity and in general they donate more.

          Turcotte (2012) in his report, Charitable giving by Canadians describes: “It is well-known that giving, volunteering and helping others are all strongly associated: people who participate in one of these activities are also more likely to participate in another. In addition to having stronger pro-social values, people who do volunteer work are more likely to be solicited for a donation in the course of their activities and to experience social pressure (especially if this pressure comes from people they know well).Thus, in 2010, among people who had performed 60 or more hours of volunteer work in the previous year, 91% made donations, giving an average of $784 In comparison, 79% of those who had not volunteered during the year had made donations, averaging $288.” Even though volunteers are more likely to donate they may not necessarily donate to the organization they volunteer for.  There can be a number of reasons for this, but for our organization for a long period of time we held a view point that our volunteers gave us their time- we should ask them for their money too.  However reading research that had the same conclusions as the Turcotte study, made us realize that besides being foolish this notion was not helping our fundraising efforts.  Some of our volunteers were volunteering in our House and donating to the charities across the street (literally).

           There are 14 Ronald McDonald Houses in Canada; according to the national charity 5000 volunteers support those Houses. We have more than our share of good luck as over 1300 of those volunteers (or 26%) support our two Ronald McDonald Houses in Calgary and Red Deer.  Each year more and more of our volunteers become triple threats and we have employed a few tactics to make our volunteers aware of how they can financially support us. However one of the things we are launching this year is a new way we are thanking and recognizing our triple threats. The photo above is of a lapel pin that we had made for our volunteers. The three stars represent family members in the families we support but as well they represent: Time, Treasure, and Talent.  We have already presented our board members these, but as well at this year’s volunteer appreciation event we will be giving out these pins as well. They will be given to volunteers who both give their time as well as participate in our monthly giving program. If you don’t understand why we would focus on the monthly giving program you can read this blog post that explains why a charity might focus on this program:

https://mathiesonlarry.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/does-your-small-charity-need-a-monthly-donor-program/

References

Turcotte, M (2012) Charitable giving by Canadians, as retrieved from:

           http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2012001/article/11637-eng.htm

Small doesn’t mean you can’t be great: Nine things to pay attention to if you want you charity to be great. Part Two

 

Small doesn’t mean you can’t be great: Nine things to pay attention to if you want you charity to be great. Part Two

          In my last post I talked about four of the characteristics of successful nonprofits as described by Brinckerhoff. This post will pick up with the remainder of the characteristics.

Social entrepreneurship

           “A social entrepreneur seeks to take reasonable risks for the benefit of the people the organization serves (Brinckerhoff, 2004, p.19). Brinckerhoff goes on to explain:” Innovation- a characteristic of stewards noted above requires risk. To advance your capability to do good works, you’ve got to try new methods of delivery. Thus risk is inherent in improving your mission capability.” If you are the CEO of a nonprofit and you want to create a culture of innovation you need to create some balance. For you staff you need to make taking risks and trying new things feel less risky. For sure you do not want to punish mistakes. Staff who get punished for mistakes stop taking risks and stop innovating. For your board of directors, if you are trying to create this type of culture, you will have more support if you have an entrepreneur or business leaders who work in a sector or company that values an entrepreneurial approach.

A Bias for marketing

          All of these characteristics are important but clearly this is one of my favorites. I worked many years for organizations that received most of their funding from government sources; you don’t think or talk about marketing all that frequently. I am sure most of those organizations have started to realize that even if you only have one government funder you still need to think about marketing-maybe you will just call it something else.  It seems that Brinckerhoff views marketing as pretty important to the sector, as not only does he mention it in this book but he has also written another book entirely devoted to marketing (Mission-Based marketing: Positioning your not –for –profit). I am not going to say too much about marketing here as I do have a few other posts that describe my views on the importance of marketing, and I am sure over time I will write quite a few more.

Financial Empowerment

          Brinckerhoff (2004) describes this as;” Empowerment includes having and growing an endowment, improving the use of your financial reporting establishing and maintaining adequate cash reserves, establishing an endowment ,borrowing appropriately and … making money.” This are is also very broad and very important. I will likely write a number of other posts about some of these aspects. When I started working for the organization I work for now, in 2005, the society was worth (had assets of) a little less than $3 million dollars, now the organization is worth over $30 million dollars. We have done capital reserve studies on our assets like our Ronald McDonald Houses and our Care Mobiles. So essentially we know for the next 25 years how when we are likely to need new paint or a new boiler and what they are likely to cost when we need them. We have put aside funds so that we have that money when we need it. Eight years ago having this financial level of preparedness would have seemed inconceivable to us. However now we know better, and in certainty there are areas of our financial empowerment that are not yet at the level we would like to achieve, but with certainty we are working on those areas.

Compelling Vision

          “Planning requires that you step back from day to day operations and engage in “big think-generating a compelling vision. Planning allows you to focus your energies and your resources on what you community needs most and what you do best. (Brinckerhoff, 2004, p. 21).” My own bias is that many of the individuals and corporations who support you or might support you will do so in proportion to your vision. If you think big they will give you bigger gifts than if you think small. This is not to suggest you just need big ideas or big vision, you need to know how to and have the ability to execute. Big vision: without an adequate business case or plan quickly becomes unattractive to your supporters. I have a colleague who has run a similar charity for about two years. He is an idea guy – he has the most amazing ideas but no clue how to plan for their execution. Worse he does not have anyone on his team that are particularly good at execution. People get excited about the idea and they have the ability to attract some small donations. But because they have a hard time with execution their fundraising events lose money and they have a hard time receiving large donations. Donors love big vision, but if you don’t have a business plan that seems likely to succeed it quickly becomes just another goofy idea.

Tight Controls

          Many nonprofit leaders moved their way up through the ranks of direct service in their current or other organizations, sometimes when your passion is directly helping people –discussing financial or policy controls can be your least favorite thing. However if you want to be able to achieve financial empowerment and maximize your mission having tight controls is critical. The easiest way to find improvements in this area is to ask your external auditor to give you advice on how to improve your controls. After a few years if you are following this advice your auditors will likely have fewer nuggets of advice to provide you, however there are likely still improvement you could make. Our audit and finance committee has helped the organization do a risk analysis. Through this process you are trying to identify any areas that represent a risk to the charity and any area that controls can be improved. This analysis is not just of our accounting and finance but all aspects of our operation. After the analysis is completed you rank items in a hierarchy with risks that are most likely to occur and well as by how catastrophic it would be to the organization. Throughout the year we work our way, five items at a time to develop or improve controls and processes to reduce the risk to the organization.

 

          Each of these nine characteristics are extremely important to nonprofit organizations.  You could write in considerably more detail in each of these areas. For a leader running a small charity without a lot of resources looking at this list may be overwhelming, however paying attention to each of these areas can be accomplished with benefit to the organization without the depth or commitment of resources a large or more established charity can do. Each of these characteristics can be scaled to the size of your organization. For example staff training and investing in it is important but to the cash strapped organization the first step may be capitalizing a lot on the free or low cost webinars that are available to the sector, before budgeting for remote conferences or training sessions.

References

Brinckerhoff, P.C (2004) Nonprofit Stewardship: A better way to lead your mission-based organization:

            New York: Fieldstone Alliance

Brinckerhoff, P.C (2010) Mission-Based marketing: Positioning your not –for –profit: New   

          Jersey: John Wiley &Sons Inc.

If you want to read part one of this post:

https://mathiesonlarry.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/small-doesnt-mean-you-cant-be-great-nine-things-to-pay-attention-to-if-you-want-you-charity-to-be-great/

Small doesn’t mean you can’t be great: Nine things to pay attention to if you want you charity to be great.

     Brinkerhoff in his book on the subject talks about the concept of stewardship as a concept of leadership. He reminds us:” …in the not for profit sector, organizations actually belong to the communities they serve, the leaders have temporary stewardship over their assets.” He goes on to describe:” The key concept here is this: as a steward your job is to manage  your not-for-profit with the same care , the same attention to detail, the same level of responsibility that you would give to someone else’s property- because that’s the reality.” Your” not-for-profit is not, in actuality yours; it really belongs to the community and you are the temporary steward of its resources.”  What is really exciting is Brinckerhoff goes on to describe nine characteristics of nonprofit organizations that allow you to be successful, attending to these characteristics will enable your leadership to be good stewards and maximize your fulfillment of your mission. Here are Brinckerhoff’s nine characteristics of successful nonprofit organizations:

A viable mission

A business like board

As strong well educated staff

Technological savvy

Social entrepreneurship

A bias for marketing

Financial empowerment

A compelling vision

Tight controls

            Before I go on to describe these characteristics a little, I would suggest if you are on the board or an executive in a nonprofit organization, Brinckerhoff’s book is worth a read. Actually all his books are worth a read and a re-read. Brinckerhoff has done quite a bit of work for the Global RMHC organization, and as a result the Ronald McDonald House leaders have had more than a few opportunities to listen to Brinckerhoff speak on a number of topics important to nonprofit leadership.

Viable Mission

Having a viable mission is pretty straight forward. We are all involved in our organizations because we want to carry out our mission. Most of us are not interested in building one more widget ,we want to make a difference for people and we want to change our world. Your mission and your mission statement need to describe in an achievable way how you will make a difference for people and how will you change your world. Brinckerhoff reminds us the statement itself must be :  “ short, easily memorized and quickly (and often) quoted.”

A business like board

          I would like to think I am an expert at all aspects of running an organization or nonprofit, but the reality is I rely on other peoples expertise and advice. Some of this I get from my staff who are experts in their own areas, but a great deal of this I rely on from members and past members of our board. Nonprofit organizations need to populate their board with the best and broadest skill set they can achieve. This is necessary both for the advice, counsel and decision making they bring to the organization as well as the new relationships they will bring to the nonprofit.  Brinckerhoff suggests:” Business people are individuals who understand cash flow, feasibility studies, budgeting, human resources, and marketing. These people keep you true to the second rule of not-for-profits which is “No money-no mission.”

          I worked with our sister House in Northern Alberta as their Executive Director for about four years. When the two boards started “sharing” me I meet a board member who had been on the board almost 20 years (there were no limits on their board terms in their bi-laws- this is a topic for a whole different post). He used to describe to new board members when he was asking them to join RMHNA. “It is the greatest board in the world, you don’t have to do any fundraising, or make donations, you don’t have to do anything just come to a meeting once a month and have a free dinner”. If you have someone like this on your board and you are the CEO- you need to have some provocative conversations with your president and the board member.

A strong well educated staff

            As nonprofit organizations our human capital is our most important asset. For many NGOs it is the resource we spend most or a great proportion of our revenue on, in terms of salary and benefit expenses. However for small nonprofits we can be tempted to spend less on competitive wages and as a result have less qualified employees than other charities in the sector. Additionally it can be hard to invest in staff training and development as these investments are exactly that “investments” and the benefits and outcomes for direct service are not always or immediately observable.

            Most of the RMHs in Canada were built and started in the 80’s. For decades most were run like little mom and pop shops with little focus on hiring staff with any specific education or training. Most didn’t have a lot of staff and their employees seemed to be selected from the local bridge club. Most don’t operate this way anymore, we can’t not only if we want to deliver our mission but also if we want to remain completive with our charities in our market. You could write endlessly on this topic, but if you want to be a great organization you need to hire people with the right degrees to do the right job, and you need to continuously invest in on-going staff development.

Technologically Savvy

          Brinckerhoff (2004) tells us;” Intelligent use of technology can increase productivity resulting in much better stewardship of the communities resources.” If you have read any of my previous posts you will know that I am a fan of using new on-line tools to enhance your marketing and fundraising.  The good thing about new technology is that it is always improving and changing which in general means it gets cheaper and becomes more accessible and affordable for smaller charities. This however is also the down side of new technology as well; you have to determine when the right time to jump into a new technology or tool is. Sometimes being an early adopter can give you an advantage over other charities in your marketplace, sometimes early adoption just means you pay more for “glitchy” technology. Marketing and Fundraising are not the only areas to be technologically savvy. Charities should consider if new technologies can offer them improvements in their direct service delivery, the accounting, volunteer management and outcome measurement. 

In my next post I will talk about the remaining characteristics of a successful nonprofit

 

 

References

Brinckerhoff, P.C (2004) Nonprofit Stewardship: A better way to lead your mission-based organization:

            New York: Fieldstone Alliance

Even (especially) if you lead a small charity –you need to invest in marketing

 

            Almost a decade ago our organization was facing a situation that would either transform us, or destroy us. At the time the board had the foresight to find a skilled Marketing professional who had led Marketing departments for national companies. This director managed to convince the board that it was prudent and necessary to invest in marketing, we didn’t us the “M” word in those days, and instead we called it “communications”. She would have agreed with Grounds (2014) who describes “The most forward-looking charities have marketing and communications represented at board level and see these activities as fully integrated into business planning and achievement of business targets.” It was hard for our board to accept that we needed to spend donated funds to generate the funds we would need  for what was to become a much larger operation. She did however in the first year convince the board it would be a good investment to hire a student as our first part time communications coordinator and invest a little money into our website. I don’t remember what we paid Jill on an hourly basis but I do remember she could have made more working for Domino’s or some local retailer.

             A board and the organization’s management do need to accept that investing in marketing is really necessary. Brinckerhoff (2010, p3) informs that:” Good marketing in a nonprofit is good stewardship, because good marketing enables more effective mission provision.” We do invest a good deal more in our marketing than we did in the early years, but seeing the benefits of our communications and marketing made it much easier in later years to view these expenditures as an investment.  As a small charity we had realized we needed to think and behave more like a large charity. Of course there are obvious differences in the size of our budget compared to the communications/marketing budget of a large charity, but we did start to think of spending as investing in the future.

John Grounds (2014)  reminds us“…no charity, of any size or sector, can raise money, engage stakeholders and the wider public or indeed achieve lasting change without well planned, well executed communication. This applies to very small, wholly volunteer-run local charities and multinational charity brands alike.” If you are fortunate to work for a charity whose board and leadership understand this, your next learning will be that in addition to on-going investment in your marketing- you will need on-going learning in this area. Be prepared that what you are doing today will need to change tomorrow.  Brinckerhoff (2010, p.194) says:” New ideas, applications, trends, fads and great tools will be coming along at a rapid pace. It will be your job to sort out what fits with your mission and your goals in marketing.” 

           Our supporters and potential supporters have continuously evolving expectations on how organizations communicate with them. For example Grounds (2014) suggests:” Communicating with stakeholders or potential supporters will need to become ever more personalized and specific not only to individual needs and interests but to location, time of day, and day of week. People will expect the communications they receive to take account of their lifestyle to a much greater degree. Can I respond to this contact by doing something now, on the way to work, on my way back from the school run, in the supermarket, on holiday and so on? Does the communication take account of the way I live my life as well as the things my network of friends and I are interested in?”

            By the time you are really satisfied with how you are marketing and promoting your organization- well in reality probably before that time- you will need to be thinking of how you are going to change it. Grounds (2014) summarizes: “ Innovation will need to be at the heart of every charity’s thinking and we will all need to move more quickly in responding to people’s changing expectations. Today’s effective communication might be tomorrow’s old hat.”

 

References

Brinckerhoff, P.C (2010) Mission-Based marketing: Positioning your not –for –profit: New   

          Jersey: John Wiley &Sons Inc.

Grounds.J  (2014) ‘Today’s communication might be tomorrow’s old hat’; Voluntary Sector Network

          Blog, February 3 2014 as retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2014/feb/03/10-years-time-role-of-marketing-and-charity-comms

Social Media that goes bump in the night.

 

           I must admit when I first began to use social media it made me a little nervous. I was frequently worried that I would say something that would be damaging to my organization. Let’s face it if you follow me on twitter or IG you will know that at times I post some pretty goofy stuff.  Some of our staff embrace social media and are excited about its potential for our organization, some of our staff are terrified of it and are fearful it will damage our credibility or we will not be able to control the messaging about our organization. It is fairly likely that whether you are excited or fearful, people in your community are already likely talking about your charity somewhere on social media.

             If your organization’s  CEO is having a hard time being convinced that social media is important to your cause, Caroline Avakian, has some good advice;” Set up Google Alerts and TweetBeep (email alerts for Twitter mentions) for your CEO so she can see that there are already many discussions happening on social about your nonprofit. Once this is apparent, two things are likely to happen. First, it will become clear that your organization no longer controls your message and what people are saying about you online. Second, once engagement is revealed to key stakeholders, it will be apparent how valuable it is to join those conversations online – which is what social engagement is all about. Often resistance or apprehension comes from not actually experiencing the conversations and engagement in real time. “

          It seems that often fear comes from not understanding a situation, condition or phenomena.  Often I think people fear that if they say something on social media it is a permanent record and you can never take it back. If you spell someone’s name wrong or make a grammatical error it is a permanent record of how inept you or your charity is. Once you push something out their it is sort of permanent –but be real – how much attention do you think the world is paying attention to you. You will have to work fairly consistently to get noticed. Mansfield (2012) suggests;” The lifespan of a tweet is about 90 minutes. Most people browse only tweets in their timeline in real time. It’s rare that a tweet you posted last week gets traction.” If you tweet something out ,that is ,misspelt or grammatically incorrect pick yourself up and move on. You have not done your organization irreparable damage. If no one comments on it in an hour and a half-relax no one but you noticed the error.

           I think the reality is that you have to work consistently and persistently to get noticed amongst a very crowded digital space. That probably means that making a few mistakes will likely go partially unnoticed and you will have to work a little harder and longer to get that good following that is very interested in what you are saying about your cause. In saying this by no means would I suggest that it is not worth the effort.  Alex Swallow says it quite well on his blog: “I think that there are a number of important reasons why social media can be particularly powerful for small charities. The first is that I think social media, if used properly, is a way to start leveling the playing field. I can see lots of small charities who punch above their weight on social media in a way that their budgets would never allow them through traditional advertising and communications.”

 

References

Avakian, C (2014) Getting your board on board with social media: website SocialBrite Social Solutions for

          Nonprofits; as retrieved from: http://www.socialbrite.org/2014/02/24/getting-your-board-on-board-with-social-media/

Mansfield, H (2012) Social Media for Social Good: A how to guide for Nonprofits:  New York: McGraw

          Hill

Swallow, A (2014) How small charities can get big benefits from social media- 5 tips from me: blogpost

          as retrieved from http://alexswallow.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/how-small-charities-can-get-big-benefits-from-social-media-5-tips-from-me/

Do you know how you are helping your corporate donors?

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            Probably a better question than the one in the title is: can you articulate to your corporate donors how supporting you is good for their business? In an article titled Why giving is good for business Blake Mycoskie of TOMS describes:” I also saw that TOMS didn’t need conventional advertising; it just had to focus on giving and doing so in a sustainable a way—in other words, on our story. In the process, we would turn countless other strangers into our most vocal marketers.” Working with your charity may offer a strategic or market advantage to some of your corporate supporters. If you are aware of ways that companies benefit by helping you-get good at telling that story. 

          Our charity is supported by a lot of oil and gas companies. Some of these companies are more concerned about an internal or inward message given by their community support instead of an outward message. That is they view a lot of their community investment activity as a human resources activity, they are marketing inward instead of outward. This makes sense. In the same article Mycoskie suggests:” When you incorporate giving into your business in an authentic way, you attract amazing employees. You can only grow and keeping growing if you hire great people. We have employees who have left impressive companies and with generous perks to work in a warehouse without air conditioning or heat. And the reason certainly isn’t because we pay them more. It’s because they want to be part of something bigger. In fact, the greatest competitive advantage you have is to allow your employees to feel they’re making a difference.”

       Our Ronald McDonald Houses runs a program we call Home for Dinner. In the program groups of 3 to 12 people bring in groceries and cook a meal for all the families staying at the House. All sorts of groups now do these dinners but 9 years ago we only had three groups a month who would make these dinners.  The dinners reduce costs for our families and free up time so they can spend more with their child who is seriously ill. We wanted to increase the number of groups making dinners for families, because it was a benefit for our users. We started talking about the program to all of our corporate supporters as a potential team builder for some of their staff. We knew that many of our corporate donors were interested in ways to engage their employees in the charities the companies were supporting. Little did we know how doing something that was good for families would also be good for our fund development program. I could tell you countless stories of how companies continued to give larger gifts as their employees became more engaged with our program. One of our presenting sponsors of our biggest fundraising events had supported us for three years. At the end of the term they thought it was time to support another cause, so their community investment team sent an email to all staff encouraging them to vote between three other charities as the company’s charity of choice. Instead of votes the employees emailed back we love Ronald McDonald House- we know those families we ate dinner with them. Ultimately the company signed on as presenting sponsor for three more years. 

         Encouraging their employees to volunteer or become engaged with nonprofits is good business. In the United Health Care/ Volunteer Do Good Live Well study they found;” Encouragement from the workplace strengthens volunteers’ relationships with their employer and colleagues. This research shows that company involvement in employee volunteer opportunities can lead to employee well‐being and positive attitudes towards employers.”  In the study the researchers found that 81% of the respondents said that volunteering with work colleagues had strengthened their relationships with colleagues.” Most of the companies we work with are pretty concerned about having strong, productive teams. Most invest money in activities and events specifically directed towards team building. Getting back to the intention of some of our corporate supporters to create a positive message to their employees about the company through their community investment, the same study found that 76% reported feeling better about their employer because of involvement in their volunteer activity.

Nine years ago we had three groups a month, now we have a dinner group almost every night of the year. Everyone wins with this program our families, our organization and our corporate donors. Now that we are booked for dinners usually a month or two in advance, we prioritize staff from corporate groups who are significant and repeat donors to our charity. We offer this as a benefit to corporations who support us. When we are courting companies that we want to become donors we describe this program as an opportunity that they will be entitled to as a corporate donor.   Years ago we asked companies to have their employee’s help us with this program from what we thought was a place of need. Now we know the program can function as a donor stewardship activity for our current donors and as an added incentive for corporate prospects. What is really great it is it is a volunteer activity that makes it even more likely that the company and its employees will become even more engaged in what we do.

References

 Mycoskie,B . (2014) Why Giving is Good for Business as retrieved from: 

           http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140219125038-6418773-why-giving-is-good-for-business?goback=%2Empd2_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_20140219125038*56418773*5why*5giving*5is*5good*5for*5business&trk=prof-post

 

Volunteer Match (2010) UnitedHealthcare / VolunteerMatch Do Good Live Well Study: Reviewing the

          Benefits of volunteering; as retrieved from:

http://cdn.volunteermatch.org/www/about/UnitedHealthcare_VolunteerMatch_Do_Good_Live_Well_Study.pdf