Your Corporate Fundraising Glossary

When it comes to describing what exactly I do, I’ve heard every possible term imaginable – corporate fundraising, cause marketing, sponsorship, corporate partnership, you name it.

At their root, all of these terms seek to define the relationship between charities that raise money from companies, or companies who provide money to charities.  Note: I didn’t say companies donating or giving money to charities. Nor did I mention whether the money raised is coming from a customer or the company directly.

The complicated relationship and giving dynamics between companies and charities can be extremely confusing but worth taking the time to understand. While it may seem like semantics, using the correct terminology to describe the relationship is important in order to ensure that the first step you take as a corporate fundraiser, is the right one.

Understanding Your Audience

Much of the confusion surrounding these terms actually stems from the fact that definitions of corporate fundraising tend to shift, depending on whether you’re speaking to someone in a corporation or a charity. This is important to note as the perspective each brings to the “naming” process is reflective of what they are looking to get from the relationship.

Let’s start the unraveling by examining the three most commonly used terms:

Corporate Fundraising:  Corporate fundraising is a term used by corporations to describe when the company fundraises on behalf of a charity through their employees or customers. On the flip side, corporate fundraising is what most fundraisers call it when they are talking to other fundraisers. This is often to distinguish corporate fundraising from individual fundraising, which can have its own department.

Corporate fundraising is frequently used as a catch all term for all the money raised from companies. Just be sure to discuss internally what exactly falls under which umbrella. Event sponsorship and corporate foundations. Where do they fit in to the mix? Tackling these types of questions at the outset will allow you to move quickly when the right opportunity pops up.

Cause Marketing: Expert, Joe Waters, has a great definition of cause marketing: “Cause marketing is a partnership between a non-profit and a for-profit for mutual profit.” For charities, the most important component of cause marketing is that the partnership has mutual profit, or mutual benefit. Using this term as a fundraiser talking to companies (and particularly to marketing departments) is very useful, but to use it you need to be prepared to deliver.

Keep in mind that the benefit is not just that the company has the opportunity to give you money, it has to be more than that – and it has to be measurable.

Sponsorship: Corporations can sponsor all kinds of things, including charity programs and events. When it comes to sponsorship, the relationship between company and charity almost always takes the form of a business transaction whereas with cause marketing or corporate fundraising, the cause is at least part of the relationship and transaction. A sponsorship leads to a specific business deliverable. Don’t forget that for good sponsorship to exist, you must be able to measure both impressions and customer engagement.

Before you pick up the phone or write an email, make sure you can answer the following questions: What is my goal? Am I talking to someone at the company in a position to help me reach my goal? What information do I need to have a productive conversation with this person?

Arming yourself with the answers to these three questions will provide you with the clarity you need to engage in a meaningful conversation with your corporate prospect.

Want to dive a little deeper into the meaning of corporate fundraising? I have a helpful tip sheet to share that goes into more specific terminology you need to get acquainted with! To get it, please email me at [email protected].

Talk soon!