For too long, the nonprofit sector has taken a “one size fits all” approach to fundraising; with dinner dances and golf outings clogging the calendar and development staff making phone calls looking for sponsorships at pre-established levels. Now I’m not suggesting that nonprofits shouldn’t do fundraising events. For many nonprofits, these are highly successful and bring in significant levels of discretionary funding for organizations. What I am suggesting, however, is that nonprofit organizations should consider what other options they have that they can offer to their business partners to start to develop more meaningful collaborations.

Businesses understand that if they are going to work with the nonprofit sector they are going to need to support the agencies they work with. While fundraising events provide an avenue for business owners to support charity, there is often very little benefit that the business derives from these sponsorships. Wouldn’t a relationship with your business partners where both sides benefit be a better option, with the potential of driving larger resources to your agency?

When was the last time you sat down with your donors or business partners and had a heart-to-heart with them to find out what they are looking for in a relationship with your organization? Donors want to support your organization in a meaningful way, but they would also love to derive some competitive business edge in the process. By taking time to understand their business model, what about your organization excites them, and how you can fit into their strategic thinking, you can really create a collaborative arrangement that really works for everyone.

I understand that this may be a little abstract, so let me throw out an example. Cerini & Associates strongly believes in education. We invest a lot of money each year in educating both our staff and the industries we serve. We were looking for a way to make a deeper impact thank what we were already doing. Along came the Book Fairies, a nonprofit organization that collects gently used books and puts them in the hands of teachers, students, and adults in an effort to reduce illiteracy and break the cycle of poverty. Real impact that appealed to us. We could have supported one of their events, but instead we opened a discussion about how we could effectively partner to help them leverage their impact, while creating a business advantage for C&A. We agreed on a model where for every billable hour of service C&A had, they would pay to put a book in the hands of a child.

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