by Simeon Chapin, Director of Community & Social Development at VSECU Vermont has more than 6,000 charitable organizations, all with important missions that help better the lives of our neighbors and improve our communities. For organizations that rely on charitable giving to sustain their missions, we are entering a very important time of year for fundraising. With 18% of all donations occurring in December, it is by far the most popular month of the year for giving.
While individuals are responsible for the majority of December’s donation surge, non-profits should not overlook corporate giving, as many businesses also get in the philanthropic holiday spirit. For instance, at my organization VSECU, a credit union for everybody in Vermont, we are currently conducting our annual member-directed giving program, We Care 2. With this unique program, which invites Vermont charities to apply for donation funds, we engage the credit union’s member-owners as part of the giving season.
Evaluating all applicants, our giving committee selects five charities as finalists and our members vote to direct $20,000 in donations from VSECU. When choosing the finalists, our giving committee looks for certain criteria that illustrate the value, impact and viability of an organization to ensure our dollars will have a real impact on Vermonters.
But what do Giving Committees look for when deciding where to donate funds, and how do organizations appeal to those committees? Here are a few ways charitable organizations can effectively convey their value to prospective donors to further their organizational mission.
Demonstrate transparency surrounding value proposition and impact
Clearly defining and communicating your value proposition is an important first step. Prospective donors need to understand what value an organization brings to its constituents or the community and what differentiates it from similar charities.
It is also crucial to transparently illustrate the impact of your efforts. Share statistics, benchmarks, and trends that showcase results and progress. Just as powerful are success stories and personal narratives. A beneficiary’s real-life story truly puts your organizational impact into perspective. An organization we’ve supported, Northeast Kingdom Youth Services, for example, does an excellent job of sharing its success stories to illustrate its impact.
Communicate values and align with organizations that share those values
Beyond your value proposition, donors, sponsors and partners need to understand your core organizational values. Businesses want to support charities that share their values. So from a website, to corporate brochure, to marketing collateral, it is important to convey more than just your impact, but also your purpose. VSECU has established the issues of heat, shelter, food and financial literacy as our core sustainable principles. Therefore, we look for organizations that support those causes and value those needs, such as Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf and Capstone Community Action.
There are many worthy causes out there, so for donors it often comes down to the charity that most closely aligns with the business’ own values. Ensure you speak to those donors by emphasizing your core purpose and values clearly, and manifesting them in everything you do.
Illustrate consumer appeal through social media engagement
Social media following can be a powerful barometer for prospective corporate donors. A strong social following and consumer engagement illustrates the reach and support for your organization. Our We Care 2 program places an emphasis on social media, asking our members to share and engage with the five finalists, as we think this is an important way to assess the interest in and appeal of a particular cause.
So as you prepare to maximize the December fundraising opportunity, take a look at your social channels. Help strengthen those platforms by driving stakeholders and constituents to your social channels, actively engaging with your followers, and providing valuable content. You could also consider conducting a social campaign to drive engagement and visibility during this year’s giving season.
Simeon Chapin is the Director of Community & Social Development at VSECU. In his role at VSECU, a credit union for everybody in Vermont, he leads development of partnerships and projects that make significant impact on the quality of life for all Vermonters - specifically in the areas of financial education, food, shelter, and heating.