December 14, 2015

Save Money: Dance with the Ones Who Bought You

statue of a child's foot and handLeft. Right. Straight Ahead. Corporate philanthropic giving usually takes one of three directions. The “Dance with the Ones Who Bought You” choice meshes giving back with reducing business costs. Using this option, you evaluate your support based on the nonprofit’s potential to grow loyalty with existing customers and employees; that is, people who already “bought” you. This choice, when you drill down, reduces or contains costs. Here are some examples that involve employees and customers:

Matchy Match Employee Gifts

You’re probably aware of employee matching gift programs. You match your employee gifts to nonprofits they choose. General Electric, for example, matches gifts one-to-one. Other firms double or triple employee gifts, such as Johnson & Johnson and ExxonMobil. By helping employees enhance their giving, businesses recognize and encourage employee community involvement. When junior employees get active in local nonprofits, many will learn and practice skills: the results can reduce training costs. When employees establish new relationships, the results support marketing efforts.

Matchy Match Customer Gifts

Moving beyond employees, you might also create a matching gift program for your customers. For example, Thrivent Financial, a financial service company whose customers are members of Christian congregations, matches customer gifts. Through Thrivent Choice, customers select from a list of eligible nonprofits. After some paperwork on the customer’s part, Thrivent matches the gifts to the nonprofit the customer selected. Big picture, programs like these help companies stand in a new spot far from competitors and drive customer loyalty.

Show Us The Way 

You don’t have to require a personal gift, like the two choices above. Instead you might call only for a customer or employee connection. For years, getting a United Parcel Service (UPS) grant required that a nonprofit find an UPS employee to bring their request to the table. Likewise, a local real estate firm requires an agent to sponsor a twice-a year funding opportunity. Programs like these focus giving back efforts in places where customers or employees are already engaged. They reward and enhance this engagement.

“Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.”—Keats

Other options put you in the driver seat. Here, you select opportunities to offer unique experiences you believe will benefit your customers or employees. For example, for customers who love science, you organize a behind-the-scenes tour at the blood bank. For art inspired customers, you arrange a small session with a visiting artist. For your staff, you give where your employees can participate in hands-on activities. You might connect with the Food Bank of Manatee. They, along with many other food banks, partner with local businesses for food giveaway days. These one-time events engage employees teams, inviting them to step away from regular work roles, engage with teammates in fresh ways, and send local families home with an extra bag of groceries to fill their empty pantries.


The “Dance with the Ones Who Bought You Option” for philanthropic investment reflects a solid business strategy to give back and see a positive return. For brevity’s sake, I’ve highlighted just a few of your many choices. For more ideas, sign up for The Link or call me for your free discovery session.



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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