This month, we're thinking about thanks... especially for those who support nonprofits in their important work. It's time to think outside the box about stewardship. 


Positive business relationships are critical to the success of any organization. Without working capital, insurance, supplies, clean and safe facilities, nonprofits would struggle to effectively complete their mission. How much time do you spend on these relationships?  Commonly, time is invested when contracts are up for renewal, when we look to tighten our belts to meet a budget, or when the need arises for a new crop of volunteers or for capital campaign contributions.  All these situations are very “us-centric”, that is, what can they do for us.  This approach may be missing some great opportunities.


As an organization, the old (and inefficient) method of talking to business partners about annual philanthropic support meant quantifying the spend with various vendors over the past twelve months, ranking the top ten, and then trying to talk them into a gift…all without giving the impression that it was any kind of quid pro quo. Gifts would happen, but they were coming from a place of “how much do I have to give to keep this person happy, retain the business, and get them off my back?” Not the kind of nourishing, authentic relationship we’re looking for at all. Neither party enjoys these awkward and transactional conversations and honestly, we should stop having them.


What if we take an approach that is “them-centric” and rooted in gratitude instead?  When you build or renovate a facility you can send all the firms that worked on the project a note of thanks, with pictures showing the positive impact their work is having on the community. When a program ends for the season, you can send an email expressing your thanks and highlighting the impact the vendor’s company had in making the program possible. You can thank your insurance company and broker for providing the tools and trainings to help keep people safe. If you refinanced your debt during the pandemic, you could remind your lender about the importance of their flexibility in your organizational sustainability. You can show appreciation by finding ways to highlight your partners in your ongoing public relations and media opportunities as well.


Stewarding these important business relationships will make an ask for charitable support a part of a more authentic relationship and less an obligatory gift.  Just as importantly, these organizations and their leaders will likely be more eager to work with you and your team in the future.  This could lead to better terms and conditions, pricing, service, flexibility, and in-kind services. The overall value to your organization could be many times the amount of the gift you received the old way.



Header Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash


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