In the military, Spray And Pray is a derisive term for firing an automatic weapon towards an enemy in long bursts, without making an effort to line up each shot or burst of shots. This lack of focus is prevalent amongst those without the benefit of proper training. Sloppily directed fire is ultimately wasteful. Unfortunately, too much of business philanthropy mirrors this Spray And Pray.
Every day hundreds of thousands and millions of small donations are made with the possibility they a) do some good in the community and b) provide some recognition of our ‘good corporate citizenship.’ Spray And Pray is a strategy based on hope and hope is not a strategy.
One of the cornerstones of enterprise development is The Value Proposition. In approaching potential backers, the formal proposal states the case for why an investment of “X” will create “Y” amount of value to the investor. But this approach is one that traditional nonprofits have been slow to embrace when dealing with potential business sponsors.
The typical charity pitch involves the search for funding to support the mission. Thus the appeal is often intensely focused on those needs. Rarely is the value to our business part of the equation. But in an age where networks are crucial to success, providing mutual benefit creates strong long term relationships which enhance the nonprofit’s effectiveness as well as the bottom line of our business.
“I get 40 requests per month. That’s more than one per day. I can’t say yes to all, but don’t know how to pick and choose which ones are right for me”.
We have trained nonprofits to be good at responding to Request For Proposals posted by government and foundations. In these situations, a nonprofit submits a meticulously prepared description of need, number of people to be served and how their effort will impact some societal issue. The accompanying budget request covers the total monetary needs and what percentage of the budget the requested funds will cover. Because nonprofits are comfortable with this type of solicitation, their appeals to our company will tend to mirror this format as well. The appeal does not address our needs.
Emotion Is Not A Strategy
Because nonprofits know the competitive nature of fundraising, they often add dramatic flourishes to their proposals to make a passionate case for our dollars. They want to leave a strong impression that the requested funds will have the greatest community impact. Under the charitable giving model, it’s all about them. I have sat on several advisory committees on behalf of corporate clients and have reviewed thousands of such proposals. It is argumentum ad passiones, an appeal to emotion which is a logical fallacy. We don’t make business investment decisions on emotion, so why do so with our philanthropy?
A Better Strategy
Consider a different scenario. A charity approaches us with a proposal which clearly shows that by working with their organization our company will receive a set of potential benefits – improved sales, increased employee engagement, heightened brand awareness and possibly a host of other advantages. This approach is a very different than argumentum ad passiones. Which of these attitudes speaks to our business savvy?
By definition, a Value Proposition is as straightforward as the name implies; what value are they offering to add to our business? If we want a long term association with a nonprofit, then it must be a mutually beneficial relationship. Each partner facilitates the growth of the other.
If there is one common complaint I hear from small business, it is the frustration of dealing with a huge volume of requests from charitable organizations. As one beleaguered storefront owner shared a recent Chamber of Commerce gathering, “I get 40 requests per month. That’s more than one per day. I can’t say yes to all, but don’t know how to pick and choose which ones are right for me”.
Into this void we created EasyGiving, a program which relieves small business owners of the burden of sifting through mountains of charitable solicitations. EasyGiving first works with the business owner to understand their personal values as well as their customer market. Then the owner can redirect all solicitations to EasyGiving. We match the business to nonprofits who meet the company’s charitable passions and gain exposure to their customer niche.
Here is a simple way to screen when we are approached by a nonprofit: Have they done their homework? Can they connect their client and donor base to the business’ customer demographic? Do they show some basic understanding how working with them aids that business?
These questions are the core of the value proposition approach, and it is by far the most successful way to fashion robust partnerships which bring rewards to commerce and rewards to our community. It is not a mercenary mindset. There are multiple nonprofits in our backyard who would welcome our sponsorship. It’s merely a way to identify mutually beneficial arrangements.
Consider that we would never do a significant advertising buy from a marketing firm unless their proposal provides a solid value proposition for increasing our bottom line. Why shouldn’t these considerations factor into our philanthropy?
Does this mean we eliminate your smaller gifts? No, but cutting back on some of the small gifts to make a larger investment with a single organization will give us more bang for the buck.
In the end, it works best when it’s a two-way street. If we don’t make an effort to share our business model with the charitable sector then how can we expect them to engage in the needs of our enterprises? The good news is that more nonprofits are building the capacity for thinking about adding value to our business. We can help them by insisting they present a strong value proposition.
We are building the foundation for exceptionally successful relationships. These partnerships will markedly impact both our community and our bottom line. We can do well while doing good!