May 18, 2016

How to Improve Your Business Outcomes Without Changing Your Investment

3 plastic bucketsBusinesses that fail to clarify their expectations with nonprofits mess up. Without clarity nonprofits assume business investments represent donations, even if you write checks with other intentions. If you expect ROI, unclear expectations will dampen your returns.

From my work with business leaders, I see companies that invest in nonprofits dipping into three goal buckets:

1) They love the cause,

2) They give to pay back for benefits they, their family or employees received,

3) They anticipate a business return.

Your investment whether time or money might dip into one, two, or even all three of the buckets. However, without communicating your goals, most nonprofits will assume your love the cause or Bucket #1. They’ll assume you’re a donor.

Why? Nonprofits prefer donors. Individual donations, once obtained are simpler than supporting business ROI. Research demonstrates that donors need three responses to be satisfied:

  • To be thanked.
  • To be shown that the gift was used as intended.
  • To learn that the gift made a difference.

Upon achieving these three goals, i.e., by writing a thank you note and perhaps making a follow-up call, the nonprofit moves you to their stewardship pile. Here you’re educated and prepared for more engagement and requests.

Improving Business Outcomes

If you intend to fill bucket #3 you will want to establish clear expectations. Explain your strategy. Explain how you think the nonprofit can help you with specific goals. Then negotiate tactic. Even better, explore ways to innovate and create wins for the nonprofit, the community, and your business.

Two-Sentence Summary

Most nonprofits choose the donation option for you unless you request otherwise. If your looking for ROI—and it’s logical to seek at least some ROI if you’re investing business dollars—place a different order.


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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