“Success is surely right around the corner…we just need to knock on a few doors…”


One of your board members just suggested you go and contact some leading Fortune 100 companies to ask for a gift or sponsorship – because “surely they will give money to our organization.” Right?

As your board members pivot in their seats (or peer into their Zoom screen) to hear your eager assent, your eyes widen. As a development staffer or committee member — how do you respond?

Post-COVID (we are “post,” right?), organizations are digging out and looking to make up for lost time – and lost support. Your association’s members may be tapped or distracted and reaching them is a challenge. So it’s only a matter of time before someone suggests seeking sponsorships and grants from non-traditional/non-endemic (that is, non-member) sources.

The plan is pretty alluring – on the face of it, that is…

Attracting support from non-endemic sources is only possible when you have a clear sense of the unique value your organization brings to their table. Identifying that value calls for an honest and focused discussion with your board and leadership, exploring these questions:

  • What does your nonprofit association offer they cannot obtain anywhere else?
  • Does your organization have solid and actionable data regarding its mission impact? About its constituency reach?
  • What would it take to interest a Fortune 100 company in your organization?
  • What types of access and visibility could you offer such a company, to both your members and those they serve?
  • What public or media goodwill might a sponsor enjoy from supporting your association?
  • Are there any categories of sponsors that need to be avoided at all costs?

Data is essential not only to understand your constituency but to allow you to demonstrate how your information is unique.  Because your association’s strength – and philanthropic marketability — lies in the uniqueness of its reach and impact.

Attracting non-endemic financial support also requires a robust development and marketing team and a committed Board of Directors — all with a very good understanding of the market-and-mission benefits your organization can offer to non-endemic supporters. Equally important, you’ll need a dedicated team to acquire this donor relationship, deliver the desired deliverables and outcomes, and maintain the connection and continued support (all while keeping your organizational vision pure as you resist the siren song of mission creep that sometimes is heard in the company of powerful and generous friends…).

Some of the most successful campaigns I have been involved with resulted in annual six-figure support over years.  However, it may take a focused approach, many hours of cultivation, and an organizational shift in mindset in order to meet the demands of a new, non-traditional partner. 

So when your board member makes that innocent suggestion to knock on some Fortune 100 doors, make sure everyone is knocking with their eyes open!

How will your organization find its success in 2022 and beyond?  If you are interested an initial conversation, contact me at:  lori@associationphilanthropy.com

Lori Vega has over 25 years of professional experience in the not-for-profit sector with a focus on business and strategic development and fundraising for major medical societies and other not-for-profit organizations.  She has served in senior executive roles for national medical associations including the Chief Development Officer for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), and Director of Strategic Partnerships for the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the AAFP Foundation.  Lori’s primary focus is fundraising through corporate sponsorships, developing corporate giving programs and identifying and securing grants for educational initiatives and research, both at the national, local and international levels.

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