November 10, 2016 \ Rachel Jellinek
Mistakes Nonprofits Make When Seeking Corporate Sponsors


I attended a great panel presentation at Cape Cod Philanthropy Day entitled, “The View from the Other Side: Corporate Support on Cape Cod.”  Rana Murphy from Eastern Bank, Kara Boule from Nauset Disposal and Beth Marcus from Cape Cod Beer shared three common mistakes nonprofits make when approaching companies for support.  I thought I would pass along their feedback in case you or folks in your network can benefit from it in some way.

Mistakes Nonprofits Make

1. Don’t Make Your Emergency My Emergency

The panelists shared on more occasions than they would like to remember that they have been approached by a panicked nonprofit whose “first choice” provider fell through.  The obvious question that comes to mind is “Why did you go to our competitor first, instead of considering us first?”

2. Don’t Forget that Relationship-Building is a Two-Way Street and Hopefully Mutually Beneficial

Companies are happy to support the nonprofits in their community, but they are also in business to make money and thrive.  “If you ask us for pro bono help one year, what about asking us just for a discount the following year?  Or better yet, why don’t you buy from us the first year and then ask us for a discount or pro bono the next year?”

3. Don’t Make Assumptions – Please Have an Attitude of Gratitude

The panelists were very honest about being approached on short notice by nonprofits that also had a sense of entitlement.  “You’ve given something to our auction for the past three years, and it’s getting kind of old.  Can you do something different?”  Just because a company has a track record of giving doesn’t mean that they are in the position to keep doing so indefinitely.  To make an assumption of continued giving and to not be thankful enough in acknowledging past support is a surefire way to damage rapport.

All of the speakers were quick to say that many of the nonprofits they support are thankful and do not behave in such a way that makes them feel taken for granted. But they have had enough experiences that left them scratching their heads and thinking about giving their support elsewhere!