I will probably make all my friends in nonprofit mad with this story, but I am not saying anything that in their heart of hearts, they don’t already know. So, here goes… How many times has your company been asked to sponsor a lovely event in support of your favorite charity? And what do they serve? Chicken. All too often, the rubbery kind. Don’t worry; this isn’t exactly a story about the meal, but rather, the outcome. So stay with me here.
Granted, I am actually a huge fowl lover and Chick-fil-A wins the ‘best use of a mascot in fast food’ award in my book. I like chicken any way you want to serve it up. But the thing is, I have actually heard more than one philanthropist joke about having to attend yet another ‘rubber chicken lunch/dinner.’ Before you cluck, ‘what’s the point of this story,’ here it is.
Regardless of the meal or your admiration for the charity, what is that sponsorship doing for your business? Before my corporate life, I worked in nonprofit so I understand how vital and challenging it is to bring in every dollar. But as a Foundation administrator, I joined the movement in which many companies made a ‘rule’ that they would no longer buy table sponsorships at charity events. And charities are still scrambling with what to do. Should they actually give up a tried-and-true money maker that is showing less profit each year and getting harder to fill the seats and gather the sponsors? Don’t get me wrong. Some events will and perhaps should continue. There’s a lot to be said for friend raising.
Still, it is a valid business question: What is that sponsorship doing for you? Does it align with your long-term business strategy? Is showing support for your community enough? Are you able to showcase your employees’ skills (other than chicken eating) or perhaps your products/services? Or better yet, does the event let you tell the world what your business stands for? Does it help you raise awareness in a way that brings future employees to your door? How much impact will that sponsorship have on your reputation? What is your return on investment – tangible and intangible?
This is what the new game is all about in corporate social responsibility (CSR). It means getting creative and looking for ways to have maximum impact. For instance, what would happen if you aligned with several businesses or with your supply chain partners to develop a program that serves your local community … but also has potential for global impact? Does the charity make sense for the business you are in? If you are an engineering firm, for example, and you aren’t doing something to support STEM education, you are missing a huge opportunity!
Fundraisers in nonprofits know the days of ‘no more chicken’ is not only coming, it is here. They need and want to figure out how to grow their support. Many are rightfully doing that in a way that engages individual donors under a strategically-planned stewardship plan. That’s definitely a step in the right direction. But maybe we should also learn a little from that chicken who crossed the road. Get to the other side of the business equation! If you aren’t there yet, bring both sides together to ‘scramble’ the status quo and lay the golden egg of creativity on business sponsorships without events! (yeah, that was bad, but you get the point!)
So what’s the #1 way to kill a rubber chicken? Find a new way to cross the road!