By Lori Tsuruda
This seems like a tired aphorism, but it has some truth to it in terms of increasing corporate philanthropy and volunteerism via corporate partnerships.
When developing mutually beneficial relationships, it’s about who you know well enough to develop a mutually beneficial relationship and not about how many contacts and friends you have in LinkedIn and Facebook. (I strongly suspect that most people who have 400+ connections do not count all these connections as people they know well enough to ask to make a significant effort or do a selfless favor for them.)
Beyond knowing what we need/seek, we need to understand what THEY need/seek and directly address this in our proposals so they will take action. In fact, we should shape and angle the entire proposal to balance their needs with ours.
We used to rely on word of mouth and newspaper research to learn what they need–Remember the Tess McGill character played by Melanie Griffith in Working Girl?–but now we also have the internet to access information many choose to share publically. When one blogs, for example, s/he give us information and insight into what s/he cares about as well as pet peeves.
For example, I learned from a lapsed donor’s blog posts that he supports high leverage, smart approaches (not unsurprising since he is a venture capitalist, but a repeated theme one can’t miss), so I tailored a recent pitch to emphasize People Making a Difference (PMD) programs that exemplify those qualities and asked him for both financial support and referrals to charities he works with that need assistance with volunteer recruitment and/or management.
When it comes to my board-level volunteers, it is challenging to get them to think in this manner when most are not natural networkers or professional business “rainmakers,” but we actively work on this as part of every board planning effort since we all recognize that we cannot accomplish everything without more help from people beyond the board. This is a huge motivator in itself, but we also make sure to share success stories involving new and developing relationships that arise from this process and have gone so far as to describe the process and share the talking points that lead to success.