We should–and usually do–work hard to make our best possible case for support to corporations. We of course want them to know as much as possible about us. But what we know about them is just as likely to determine the outcome of a request.

I was recently thinking about the extent to which we need to know our corporate prospects in order to make the assessments, ratings, and evaluations that should precede requests for funding. That brought to mind the annual fund-raising conferences for our geographic area that I would attend each year. The conferences usually included three or four contributions managers from large corporations and banks.

A common theme for the contributions managers was to cite their most important requirements in order for attracting their attention. Universally these stewards of corporate funding hit the same top three awareness areas and asked that contribution seekers be able to answer the same specific questions:

Know Who We Are

  • Have you read our corporation's annual report?
  • Have you looked at our website?
  • What do we make and/or sell?
  • Who are our customers?
  • How many employees do we have?
  • Where are we located?
  • Who are our corporate officers, and are any of them involved in your organization?

Understand Our Concerns

  •  What are our policies regarding endowments, capital campaigns, annual operating support, giving to projects and services, and United Way supported agencies?
  • If you wish to "double dip" and obtain our support for a specific campaign, do you know whether it is our policy and practice to support a special fundraising event or project for an organization already receiving donations?
  • Does everyone in your organization who might approach us know what other requests from your organization are in current submission, were made in the past, and  how we have responded ? Keeping your organization's solicitations organized and coordinated is supremely important to us.

Understand Our Interests

  • Have we identified strategic areas in which our philanthropy is concentrated, and if so what are they?
  • Do any of our employees give to your organization?
  • Do we match employee donations with corporate funds, and if so what is the  formula?
  • What is our corporate citizenship mission in your community?
  • Do we want our sponsorships and donations to be recognized publicly–locally, statewide, nationally, globally?

Each and every year at each and every conference those stewards of corporate philanthropic funding made it clear that we needed to come to them prepared. And they told us that in order to have our best chance at receiving their support that preparation included knowing and understanding who their corporations were and what they cared about when it came to both philanthropy and community.