June 21, 2013

How to Extend a Government-Funded Program with Corporate Dollars

What is the key to obtaining corporate support for your work?

“It’s all about the leverage,” said Pam Nabors, President of Workforce Central Florida. Ms. Nabors was explaining that her former employer, Capital Workforce Partners in Hartford, used corporate dollars to fund services for more than 500 summer youth. Each youth was supported by a business scholarship of $1,000 to $1,600. In turn, Capital Workforce transformed this investment into $7,000 of youth services or leverage.

How It Works

  • The requested funding helps local youth. It also supports a shared vision of a better community where the corporation conducts business.
  • The nonprofit sought funding for a proven summer program. The existing program was funded by governments and foundations.
  • Since the program infrastructure already existed, 100 percent of the donated dollars went to youth who would not otherwise be served.
  • Corporations were not asked to solve all the community’s challenges.    Sponsorships required a small investment to help one youth.
  • In return for its investments, corporations received immediate leverage and long-term corporate branding support.

Four Steps to Corporate Dollars

1. Identify a Need. Design a Why.

From your most successful program, identify the people or the need you would want to meet but cannot because of limited money. Imagine that you are a corporate executive. Why might you care about helping these people—compared to all the nonprofits that seek your support? Are the people your potential customers? Are their relatives your customers or potential customers? Might some become your employees? Do you want to grow your relationships with the local community? Jot down a list of why support is both logical and emotionally satisfying for corporate partners. These ideas, when tidied up and verified, will become the reasons why you request corporate funds.

2. Determine Cost.

What does it cost to provide the service? How much for direct services? Program oversight? How about overhead: audits and the like? How will the cost change if you add more people? Total the costs and divide this by the number of participants. Round up to the nearest hundred. This is the amount to request per person.

3. Calculate Leverage.

What else does it take to create the results you provide? Determine the value of all the other in-kind program resources your nonprofit organizes and brings to customers. Does a guest speaker teach them to write resumes? Do you refer people to other services to obtain counseling? Do you provide coaching? Books? Estimate the value for all of the in-kind resources your nonprofit provides. Again, divide your total by the number of participants and round to the nearest hundred. This is your leverage, the amount of resource each corporate gift creates.

4. Make It Irresistible.

Explore what else, above and beyond this existing leverage, you can provide to corporate partners. Will a press release offer media coverage? Will a celebration event draw community stakeholders and a chance to publicly thank the corporations? Will your customers write appreciation notes that a business can post on the brag wall and in their media? Will you provide a story several months later for a newsletter—to extend the benefits of supporting your customers over time? Create even more leverage before you request corporate funding to make your offer irresistible.

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit CEO Library.

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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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