I had a chance to catch up this morning with an acquaintance who manages the corporate contributions program at a large company. After finishing the business at hand, I picked her brain on the lay of the land, philanthropically, in our community. She sees dozens of sponsorship and contribution proposals every week, so she has a good brain to pick for what’s going on.
Much of what she had to say came as no surprise – proposals come to her all the time that are poorly written or not well researched. This is a company that funds quite a range, from operational needs, to capital requests, and sponsorships, but there are still guidelines they follow. They like to be visible in ways that aren’t extravagant. They enjoy being part of a group of sponsors, rather than the sole source of funding. This information is readily available online or by just picking up the phone and asking, but time and time again, nonprofits ask for help without doing their research.
Oh, and when they do get the support, a shocking number of these nonprofits go blissfully on their way afterward, ignoring a fairly basic rule in development… and in human interaction for that matter.
“We probably hear Thank You from only about half the groups we fund,” my friend said, and then kept talking, listing off a few groups who are really good at sending pictures of crowd-filled events, reports on outcomes and revenue, souvenir printed programs or other chotskies, and completely ignoring the fact that my jaw was on the table.
Did she just say half of the organizations this company sponsors aren’t even taking time to say “Thank you?” I was busy gathering my wits when my companion noticed my reaction.
“Oh yes,” she said, “but they still come back the next year and ask again.”
The thank-you thing again. Seriously, why does this continue to be an issue?
On the one hand, I’m shaking my head in embarrassment for these groups, but on the other, I totally get how this happens. I do. I run into volunteers for organizations all the time who love to tout the fact that they have very low administrative overhead. They’re proud of this, because they’ve been taught to believe this is a sign of a highly efficient organization.
“We’re all volunteer,” they tell me, “we don’t pay staff,” or if they do, it’s not very much.
Well great, I think (note the italics for sarcastic effect). Good for you. That’s awesome. …And probably temporary, because you’ll either be gone soon, or you’ll get wise to the fact that volunteers need to move on with their lives at some point, or be replaced, either by other volunteers or by paid staff. There are some, but very few, I’ll wager, who want to take on a volunteer position for life, and very many organizations that have found they can’t always hold volunteers accountable for everything that needs to be done, such as reliably taking pen to paper to say thank you after an event.
The whole “living on a shoestring” ethic at the expense of the relationships with your supporters is the topic of a future blog post, but in the meantime, please, when you’re planning your program or special event, make sure you allocate resources for follow up.
When everyone’s exhausted and done picking up the crepe paper and returning the rental chairs, who is in charge of reporting to the supporters and the sponsors and the donors who helped this happen in the first place?
Having a good follow up plan in place and someone in charge to implement it (whether or not that person gets paid, they must be accountable), is the first step to the next great event, as well as to lasting relationships with valuable supporters.
Share: What have you done to keep your sponsors in the loop, show them how much you appreciate their support, and continue to engage them? Leave us a comment. We’d love to know.
Photo by: The Italian Voice