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I was about town the other day pounding the pavement, distributing Corporate Sponsorship packets for an organization’s upcoming Disco Inferno. Truth be known, I am a disco diva at heart and am happy to Chair this event. I love disco. I listen to disco while I work and drive. I even have a funkadelic sticker that says ‘Disco Diva”. And, if you watched the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics— you know that each country walked into the stadium to a 70’s disco tune.
Anyway, I made sure I called local companies before visiting them to introduce the event and give them a packet, as a courtesy. I stopped into one and spoke with the general manager. Merely glancing over the ‘really nice packet’, and with no questions about the event, number of people expected to come, or sponsorship benefits for companies… he dismissed the event. He said he must get 50 calls a day for giving. That he gives ‘quite a bit’ locally and he just can give to everything.

Well, I do understand that companies get numerous calls. I don’t know about 50 a day?! But, my question to him was, while I understood his situation, “What was his return on ALL that giving?” Understand, goodwill is a great benefit to companies and they want to give back too. His daughter is a Brownie and he helps them— but that shouldn’t be about company giving. He can open up his own personal check book for that! If their giving is based on a first-come, first-serve; or if their giving is based on doing it the easy way—- give to what we gave to last year; or if their giving is based on one person’s solo decision— then for sure— their giving is nothing more than a deep well that goes dry before 6 months in to their budget year and no bottom line results are seen as a part of giving.

I hear this scenario ALL THE TIME! Company giving is about goodwill. It is also very much about brand, impact, product or service delivery, employees and the bottom-line. People squirm when I say this. But it is the “makuto”— the truth that everyone know but speaks nothing of. ( this is a Fijian word and I LOVE IT!)

Next time you are asked to contribute to an event or cause, ask yourself—How does this align with my company’s business interests?

This Entrepreneurship article was written by Maggie F. Keenan, Ed.D on 2/11/2006

Maggie F. Keenan, Ed.D., is the Principal and Owner of givingadvice. We are a leader on philanthropy in the Southeastern region of the U.S. The firm works with companies and foundations to create giving programs that maximize their impact for communities and causes. We work with professional advisors offering philanthropic planning services that add value to their client relationships. or