TeamBuilding through Corporate Philanthropy

Corporate philanthropy works best when there is a true partnership in place. As we know from my Huff Post article, there needs to be a return on the investment for the corporation.

What if the ROI brought not only dollars, but also volunteers and meaningful skilled labor to the organization that directly benefitted the nonprofit’s service recipients?

Further more, what if the corporation was able to utilize their interaction with the nonprofit as an opportunity for their staff members to bond and serve the community in a meaningful way together?

How do these unique corporate sponsorships start? A lot earlier than you would think. Karen Begin, Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity in San Diego, says, “So many people volunteer for Habitat in some way shape or form in high school college or through work. When these individuals get into executive-level positions, they recall their positive experience with Habitat when their companies are looking to serve in the community.”

There is a source of funds from corporations that most nonprofits have not thought to tap. Many large corporations have money budgeted for staff development and teambuilding through human resources. These funds are in addition to the company’s marketing and sponsorship dollars. Habitat has found a unique and incredible way for employees to bond and support a charity. Begin says, “Not only do companies want to give back, they want an amazing experience for their employees to volunteer so they feel good, doing good.” Habitat offers that for groups of 10 or 400 employees ranging in sponsorship levels from $5,000 to $250,000. “We work with companies at their level and can always find an experience or an opportunity for companies to volunteer even if the company only has a couple hundred dollars to contribute.”

It helps that it is easy for company’s to buy into Habitat’s mission. Habitat has a story that is easy to understand: a stable, safe home is the catalyst for many positive changes for a family. At the corporate team build day, employees often have the opportunity to alongside the partner family who will receive the home. Each employee learns a skill like putting up drywall or molding – a skill that is different from his or her day-to-day work skills. The home building experience often allows the company President and an associate to work side-by-side – an opportunity that may not naturally occur in the office.

Currently, Habitat for Humanity San Diego is building 11 homes in Escondido, 6 homes in Imperial Beach and 6 in El Cajon. There will be four homes built in 5 days from the ground up during the last week of June 2015 in El Cajon through Habitat’s Home Builder Blitz. Each home is sponsored by one or more local builders who leverage their relationships in the building industry to gain donations of building products and labor with a goal of building the homes at zero cost to Habitat.

Habitat is flexible in providing a team building corporate experience and has the capacity to bring the experience to the corporation. The executives from MBK Senior Living communities are hosting their annual retreat in La Jolla this year and as part of the retreat, they wanted to have a teambuilding experience. Through a partnership with Habitat San Diego, the team will take a half-day of their retreat to build and paint 5 playhouses for 5 partner families – and make a donation of $2,500 per playhouse. Habitat will then distribute the playhouses to the families to reside on the property of their new homes.

It is not just cash gifts from corporations, in-kind contributions are a huge component of Habitat’s budget. Construction in-kind materials and service donations total $101,000 year-to-date (July 2014-February 2015) with a budgeted $270,000 for next fiscal year. Companies like Home Depot and Lowe’s give both in-kind materials and cash. For the Home Builder Blitz event, each homebuilder (Belfour Beatty, Clark, McCarthy, RQ Construction) takes on building one house. They call all their subcontractors to request in-kind services and supplies from their subcontractors (like drywall, plumbing, lighting, framing and electric). This type of donation allows homes to be built quickly (in 5 days!) and professionally.

And then there is the ROI of Recognition for corporations through Habitat. Begin recognizes that “it is feel good stories of Habitat that attract the press. The message is not just about Habitat doing good work; it is often tied to the corporate sponsor sending out 100 people to build half a home in one day. The media has opportunities to interview the partner family and the corporation.”

It helps that Habitat is a nonprofit organization with household recognition. Most people know that Habitat builds homes for families in need. Ms. Begin recognizes that “not every nonprofit can offer team building experiences to for-profit corporations like Habitat, but the key to successful corporate partnerships is to find unique experiences that allow corporate employees to interact with each other and with the nonprofit’s service recipients.”

If you want to learn more about corporate philanthropy, attend North County Philanthropy Council’s upcoming panel discussion around corporate philanthropy this Friday, May 1 at 11:30 a.m. at the Sheraton in Carlsbad.

Corporate Philanthropy: How can nonprofits effectively engage corporations in philanthropy that will positively influence their bottom line?

Join Me as panel moderator of

Corporate Philanthropy: How can nonprofits effectively engage corporations in philanthropy that will positively influence their bottom line?

at the North County Philanthropy Council Luncheon

on Friday, May 1, 2015 at 11:30 a.m.

at the Sheraton Carlsbad.

Interested? More info and registration here.


The business of philanthropy tends to rely on an emotional appeal to donors. Corporations are not necessarily driven to make donations for altruistic reasons nor are they influenced emotionally to support nonprofits – much like individual donors. Individuals have a heart. Corporations have a bottom line.


When corporations are engaged further in philanthropy through a method that positively affects their bottom line, they are more likely to give and engage with nonprofit organizations. This type of corporate philanthropy results in building healthy communities. We have great examples of these partnerships between corporations and nonprofit organization in North County.


The North County Philanthropy Council Luncheon Panel Discussion will answer: How can nonprofits effectively engage corporations in philanthropy that will positively influence their bottom line?


 Panelist Include

Neville Billamoria PhotoNeville Billimoria, SVP Membership/Marketing and Chief Advocacy Officer, Mission Federal Credit Union

Neville Billimoria is an effective communications and values leader, growing organizations through external marketing, media, and sales effectiveness, as well as internal organizational alignment, corporate communications and leadership development. He brings experience, energy and empowerment to his leadership role as SVP Membership/Marketing and Chief Advocacy Officer at Mission Federal Credit Union where he has accountability for a strategic array of crucial outward facing functions and promoting Mission Fed’s public image and brand. Neville serves on several boards including; the Mission Federal Community Foundation Board, San Diego Non Profit Association Board, & the Education Synergy Alliance Board. After graduating from UC San Diego, Neville remains involved on the UCSD Alumni Board, and teaching martial arts, yoga and meditation on campus for over 30 years. He is a frequent speaker on topics including marketing, branding, leadership and community engagement.





Tory See Photo



Tory See, Community Relations Manager, ViaSat

Tory See is the Community Outreach & Charitable Giving Officer for ViaSat, Inc. and has the

exciting role of shaping ViaSat’s footprint in the community through engaging employees in

philanthropic endeavors in the community. In her past roles at ViaSat, she was responsible to

guide strategic plans, process analysis, employee engagement and resource management. Her

previous experience working in a family private office managing both the wealth and family

foundation has led to her current role of engaging with the community and nonprofits on behalf

of ViaSat. Tory lives in Carlsbad with her husband and two beautiful daughters.









Chris Cochran Photo

Chris Cochran, Community Relations Manager, Stone Brewing Co

Chris Cochran is the Community Relations Manager for the Stone Brewing Co., and has been with the company for nearly 14 years. A graduate of UCSD with a degree in Communications with a focus on Mass Media & Marketing, Chris has used those skills to be a critical member of the Stone organization and has added greatly to their incredible growth. He also is very active in the North County community where he sits on the Board at the Boys & Girls Club of San Marcos, on the Board of Trustees at The California Center for the Arts Escondido, and at ArtHatch/Distinction Gallery. He also served eight years on the Parks & Trails Committee for the City of San Marcos…where he also lives with his awesome wife Leslie and amazing cat, Tanner Finnegan!






Kathy Patoff Photo




Kathy Patoff, Vice President and Foundation Officer, Union Bank of California 

Bio coming soon.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: How-to-Instagram-for-Good

Did you know that 53% of donors will leave a nonprofit because of a lack of communication


Thanks to our modern technology, nonprofits can communicate in less than 140 words and with one photo to keep donors engaged. Instagram is a simple as snapping a photo and sharing it online. The key to making it an effective strategy to communicate with current and potential donors is the messaging of and with the photo. Here are my TOP 8 WAYS TO UTILIZE INSTAGRAM to thank and communicate with current donors AND engage potential donors, AND solicit donations for your organization. Check out how Charity:Water does it!


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#1 Share the NEED for your organization.


Charity Water Instagram Post Need


#2 Ask for a DONATION to support the NEED.

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#3 Share SUCCESS stories that are a result of a DONATION.

.Charity Water Instagram Post Success Story 1


Charity Water Instagram Post Success Story 2


#4 THANK your donors for the DONATION.


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#5 Give updates on your PROGRAMS that are a result of a DONATION.


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#6 Point followers to read your BLOG about the organization’s PROGRAMS.


Charity Water Instagram Post Blog


#7 Promote your organization’s PRODUCTS for sale that will support PROGRAMS.


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#8 Show off the CELEBRITIES who support your cause to encourage others to DONATE.


Charity Water Instagram Post Celebrity

“Heart String” stories: Telling Your Organization’s Story

“If you want people to understand and identify with a complicated concept, tell a story about it.”

-Donald Miller, Author and Storyteller



This video demonstrates that how you tell your story will change how people will respond – and will result in donations to your nonprofit organization.


Andy Goodman, author of Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes, says that “sometimes you may find it particularly difficult to explain what you do in a concise and compelling way.”


In his storytelling workshop that I attended in 2013, Andy shared a story that demonstrated a number of facts about welfare. After the story, he shared the actual statistics – that did not actually line up with the story. However, what made the greatest impression on the audience and the message that they walked away with – was the story.


As nonprofits, we need to develop our “heart string” stories that help convey the programs we produce and the statistics we are trying to change or increase.


How do you write a good story?


According to Donald Miller, author and storytelling guru, “stories are terrific tools for communications. They instruct, provide rest, give us inspiration and help us learn empathy for others.” Stories are “a sense-making device.”


If you want to convey how your organization helps the community or a certain population, tell a story about an individual you were able to help with your services.


When telling the story, clarity is key. Miller says that “within a story, life seems to be clear” but cautions that the storyteller that “the more a story rambles and wanders, the more it feels like real life and the less people will engage.”


To gain clarity, you need a structured plot.


Miller’s storytelling formula:

  1. A character has a problem.
  2. Then meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action.
  3. That action either results in comedy or tragedy.


In the case of your nonprofit “heart string” story, the guide is your nonprofit (services or the program manager implementing the programs) the action will result in success for the character.


I agree with Miller that, “good stories don’t happen by accident. They are formed and molded and edited so they are clean and clutter free.” I encourage you to spend time writing out your heart string stories – whether the story will be told live in front of a group of potential donors or through a compelling direct mail letter. Rehearse the story so that it is clear, concise and to the point. Don’t ramble and keep it short.

Ask for Advice, Get Money Twice


Although the artist Pitbull is not my usual “go to” for fundraising advice, his latest pop song “Feel This Moment” featuring Christina Aguilera has solid fundraising advice:


Ask for money, and get advice

Ask for advice, get money twice.


There is something very valid in Pitbull’s lyrics. When approaching potential donors, it is often better to ask for advice than to ask for money.


It follows my favorite fundraising magic statement:

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When we ask individuals for “advice” instead of “money”, we are telling them that they (and their ideas, opinions and feedback) are important to the organization. We are also sharing our upcoming project or need within the organization that will require additional funding. This invites the individual to become our organization’s collaborator. In order for a donor to give, they must understand that there is a need. When you make them part of the conversation around the need, there is a higher likely hood that they will want to help fill this need.


Feasibility studies are another way to strategically ask for advice from current and potential donors. While the study is meant to determine if the project is “feasible”, I see the real value as an opportunity to sit down one-on-one with individuals and ask for their advice. While I am asking for their advice, the organization is gaining buy-in for their project.


As fundraisers, we have heard that involvement leads to investment. Asking for advice is a way to “involve” an individual with your organization. Often we are looking for reasons to meet with our long-time supporters or engage new supporters. Sharing with them about what the organization is currently doing – and then asking for their input is a valuable way to engage the donor.


Utilize the advice you receive wisely:

  1. Shape and better the proposed project.
  2. Gain an understanding on whether the individual is interested in financially supporting the project or not.
  3. Create an appropriate donation solicitation for the advisee.

Join me at the San Diego AFP Luncheon on 12/5!

AFP San Diego Chapter Luncheon Workshop – December 2014

Title: Keep the Lights On: The Overhead Myth

Date: December 5, 2014 at 11:30am -1:30pm

Location: Mission Valley Double Tree Hotel, 1515 Hotel Circle South, San Diego, CA


Moderator: Renee Herrell



Judy McDonald, Parker Foundation

Peter Ellsworth, Legler Benbough Foundation

Senator Dede Alpert (Retired) Girard Foundation


Session Description

Fundraising for overhead has always been a challenge for nonprofit organizations. Funders often focus their giving on programs. The “overhead myth” is centered on the idea that nonprofits are valued by how little they spend on overhead. Overhead includes salaries for non-program management, office space, office technology, and office supplies – the non-sexy budget line items of a nonprofit organization. Often nonprofits get caught in the “Nonprofit Starvation Cycle”, a vicious cycle that starts when funders have unrealistic expectations of how much nonprofits should spend on overhead and value nonprofits who spend little on overhead. To meet these unrealistic expectations, nonprofits begin to skimp on overhead and misrepresent their costs to make their overhead look smaller to receive funding – thus perpetuating funders’ unrealistic expectations. Three local funders will speak about why they fund overhead through the foundations they represent and how to positively shift the culture and mindset around nonprofit overhead.


This panel discussion is based on the article I wrote for Huffington Post: The New Four-Letter Word in the Nonprofit Sector

Register here:

More information at:

Huffington Post Article: Billion Dollar Blow Out

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For the full article read below of click here to Huffington Post.

If you had a billion dollars, would you give it all away?


Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates did it and then asked others to do it.


Mark Zuckerberg has  to do it.


And one of San Diego’s leading philanthropists, T. Denny Sanford, has already donated a billion dollars and pledged to give even more.


In total, 127 of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families have signed the infamous giving pledge to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.


Sanford’s philanthropic philosophy is to “aspire to inspire before you expire.” In fact, Mr. Sanford plans to give away all of his money to charities before he passes.


Sanford’s latest aspirations led him to team up with National University Chancellor Michael Cunningham, a man who Sanford respects for “his vigor, vitality and direction.” Together they created the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy.


Sanford’s $1 million gift to National University, California’s second-largest private, nonprofit university, comes with a vision: to not only positively influence nonprofits but the leaders that serve these causes. According to Sanford, “there are great schools for philanthropic organization management and administration but we didn’t see a school in the market that would specifically support nonprofit fundraisers.”


As you can imagine, fundraisers approach Mr. Sanford quite often asking him to support their causes. He probably knows fundraising pitches better than most fundraising staff members. And because of this, he wants to help fundraisers hone their craft in order to better engage philanthropists – like himself – to support very important causes. Through the Center, “nonprofit’s frontline people will be taught how to properly and professionally present the cause that they represent to donors and the community.”


“There are so many great causes that go unfunded or are poorly funded. I really think this system and methodology at National University will be very, very effective in educating nonprofit fundraising leaders.”


Sanford has sage advice for nonprofit professionals. Keep the fundraising pitch focused on the cause and make it as simple to understand as possible. The ‘Sanford rule’ – as he calls it – is that you must be able to tell your charity’s story in a way that your grandmother would understand it in no more than a 10-story elevator ride.


“Oh, and sign up to take workshops and classes at the Sanford Philanthropy Center at National University.”


There will be no shortage of students for National University’s new nonprofit education offerings with 1.4 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States that represent the 3rd largest workforce among U.S. industries (behind retail and manufacturing) and reported 1.6 trillion in revenues (National Center for Charitable Statistics).


It is Sanford’s intent to take this program to other educational institutions throughout the United States because not every nonprofit leader can come to San Diego.


Sanford says that the education offerings will “not be out of a book, they are going to be hands-on.” The Center’s mission is to effect positive change through the development of nonprofit leaders and teachers through the offering of inspirational and impactful programs that meet 21st century global needs.


The Sanford Education Center officially opened its doors in La Jolla, CA on September 18th. The state-of-the-art-facilities include a lecture hall space, capacity for 150-plus people and integrated video technology where many of the workshops, seminars and classes in the Master of Arts in Cause Leadership will be held.


“In one way shape or form, all nonprofit employees are in the business of raising money. There are no schools nationwide that do a significant job for the people who are on the frontline of nonprofits meeting with donors – until now.”


The A-ha Moment of Raising Major Gifts

A year ago, I started working with a new client who wanted to dramatically increase their major gifts program – a program that had existed in result of mostly unsolicited donations. We spent 3 to 6 months poring through donor lists, noticing giving patterns, identifying relationship managers, creating individual cultivation strategies and solicitation amounts for each donor.


Time passed and no solicitations were made.


As we were coming up on our deadline for raising major gifts, the CEO of the nonprofit told me that she was disappointed that we were not making our major gifts goal.


This was a tough conversation for a consultant to have. We had clearly outlined the strategy for soliciting each donor including how, how much, when and why. But the CEO had not set the appointments and made the solicitations. I was at a loss on how to approach this conversation.


The good news is that our tough conversation turned into an “a-ha moment” for my CEO client. She admitted that she felt she didn’t have the confidence to ask for a major gift and more importantly – if she asked for a major gift from these individuals she had had a relationship with for years and years, she would ruin the relationship.




The good news is that fundraising is all about relationships! And this CEO has incredible relationships because of her ability to create meaningful relationships with individuals.


As a fundraiser, it is your job to give individuals the opportunity to donate to the organization you represent. Once you have cultivated a meaningful relationship with your potential donor, it is time to “pop the question” or make the solicitation. The solicitation is fueled by the relationship that you have cultivated between the potential donor and the organization.


Let’s get back to my client story because it has a good ending. Once we identified the “road block” that was standing in the way of my CEO asking for major gifts, we were able to talk through it. She shared that she felt she lacked confidence to ask. I shared how her relationships with these individuals is what fuels major gift asks and that her asking for a donation was honoring the relationship she had developed between the individual and the organization. Plus these individuals have capacity and an inclination to give. I argued that they would be insulted if she did not ask.


In the end, the CEO made some pretty big asks and received some pretty big checks. In one meeting, she made her thoughtful solicitation and the donor admitted that they had only planned to give $1,000 (a tiny amount compared to her ask). The wife immediately wrote another $1,000 check to the organization – which means my CEO left with twice as much as the couple intended to give. And the couple agreed to consider the larger solicitation as they were interested in the projects it would fund.


I recently spoke with Chris Weil of The Weil Family Foundation and he shared with me some indicators that an organization is ready to start soliciting major gifts.


  1. The organization has a track record of successfully executing on its stated mission.
  2. The organization has a hard won and loyal group of supporters.
  3. The organization has demonstrated financial responsibility.
  4. The organization has a loyal, hardworking, and enthusiastic board of directors.
  5. The organization can make the case.


I would add one more:

  1. The confidence to make the solicitation. This can be learned and developed in any CEO or Development Officer.


For a the full list of indicators and descriptions – especially in light of a capital campaign and new initiative or program, please read Weil NPO_Expansion_Indicators.