I often receive wonderful questions from my readers (which now total an astonishing average of 5000 a week!) and from colleagues I have met at conferences near and far. This week I received a wonderful question from a former donor relations professional who has now moved into corps and founds work. Basically it boiled down to- how do I better steward corps and founds. The basic premise to my corps and founds philosophy is a simple one, the same way you steward individual donors, just in an enhanced manner. I started my development career as a grant writer writing things in 90 pages or less, in triplicate (I jest), and for faceless boards who would decide large grants. The thing is, corps and founds are not nameless faceless entities. A corporation or foundation is made up of people. Plain and simple. We steward people. We can steward corps and founds in much the same way.
Here are some examples:
1. Always write acknowledgments to not only the grant maker but also hand written notes to your contact at the corp go a long way as well, it's a relationship, just like any other that needs to be nurtured.
You need not reinvent the wheel here, many of the programs you have in place for individuals will work well for corps and founds with minor tweaks.
2. Invite corps and founds into your giving societies, especially cumulative ones. We did this with the Chevalier society at NYU Poly and the folks just loved attending events and being around our high net worth individuals and I received so many expressions of gratitude for not making them buy a table, building loyalty and appreciation.
3. Offer real impact of their giving. Not just in the required grant reporting and annual reports, but in real life. Have them meet students that benefit from their support, have lunch with faculty that are leaders in their field, etc.
4. Provide them unique access opportunities. Corporations are always looking for unique event space at low costs, your organizations and campuses are full of them. Make sure that your office or the events office is connected to their office of events and planning, it will be an invaluable relationship and mutually beneficial. Offer your leaders or faculty as facilitators or speakers for their retreats or meetings. This is expertise they would otherwise have to pay top dollar for and they will be most grateful of your thoughtfulness.
5. Have a sit down chat, especially if you are new, about the ways and names of those who should be recognized and how they would best like the recognition. Perhaps you have been sending invitations to people who no longer work there or have been ignoring their branding, this is a place where attention to detail is paramount and can build strong bridges to the future.
6. Corporations embrace innovation and technology at in far more rapid and encompassing way than we do. Emails, blackberries and web based communications are king. Think of digitizing your invites and RSVP process, especially for this population,if you send the CEO paper invites they will get lost in a stack of thousands, and for that matter, executive assistants rule the earth. Be nice, know that they control your fate and embrace it.
7. Finally, remember that corps and founds are made up of individual people. As such they have different needs, cultures, personalities and methods. Adapt and change with each one in order to best meet their needs.
What have you done in this arena? What are your thoughts? I look forward to hearing from you soon.