Cause survey finds strong corporate focus on giving

LOS ANGELES: Corporate America is taking its commitment to nonprofit partnerships beyond the usual cash commitments, prompting charitable groups to increase efforts to attract the best partners, according to the 2005 PRWeek/Barkley Evergreen & Partners Cause Survey.

LOS ANGELES: Corporate America is taking its commitment to nonprofit partnerships beyond the usual cash commitments, prompting charitable groups to increase efforts to attract the best partners, according to the 2005 PRWeek/Barkley Evergreen & Partners Cause Survey.

In the aftermath of natural disasters, from tsunamis to hurricanes, corporations have increased giving to relief funds, and at the same time continued to champion causes they've supported for years. A large percentage of US companies have developed long-term efforts that include volunteerism, community outreach, and, of course, money.

"It's not just about writing checks anymore," said Mike Swenson, president of Kansas City, MO-based Barkley Evergreen. "It's about getting your people in the company and your customers emotionally engaged in something that then says something about your brand."

Charitable partnerships are becoming standard business practice, according to the survey, which found that the majority of respondents (78%) felt that such partnerships are a necessary practice in today's competitive landscape. The survey included 346 respondents: 155 nonprofits and 191 corporations. "Consumers are really holding corporations to do good things," said Krissy Barker, manager of cause-related marketing for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. "Corporate America is hearing that message."

For nonprofits, this has led to an increased emphasis on branding their organizations and programs to provide maximum impact for partners. "Both sides are branding now," says Carol Cone of Boston-based Cone. "The nonprofits are getting more sophisticated."

The survey found that corporations place particular value on the ability of nonprofits to reach target demographics. Swenson said that the youth market is especially influenced by nonprofit affiliations because "these generations really want to get involved. They don't want to sit on the sidelines."

Many respondents, however, also expressed uncertainty about how funding would shape up in the coming year. Thirty-eight percent of nonprofit respondents said they expected to see an increase for their organizations in corporate funding, while almost the same number (40%) said they didn't expect to see more money, highlighting the ambiguous market evident in a tough economic climate.

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