The fact is philanthropy was never alive. It is nothing more than a quaint notion that many of us would like to think is alive and well – reflecting the very best of human nature.

Last week I wrote a blog addressing the tragic passing of service clubs. There was an enormous response from my 4000 readers.

One of the things that service clubs need to realise, along with charities and business is that no-one does anything for nothing. Everyone wants a return from everything they do, even if that return is as simple as feeling good. Recognising this fact is the key to unlocking sponsorship dollars.

Corporate Social Responsibility is alive and well and growing in importance, but CSR should never be confused with philanthropy. CSR is not philanthropy.

Further, suggestions that dollars are harder to raise in tough economic times is hard, are grossly exaggerated. The main effect of tough economic times is that sponsors and donors need a greater return on their investment – or in some cases – just a return.

Every organisation involved in sponsorship, CSR and even making simple donations has a right to expect and a responsibility to its shareholders and other stakeholders to expect a return. What is more they have a right to expect that the return is tangible and meaningful.

A logo on a programme, a sign at the oval, a mention in a speech or a couple of low cost radio advertisements does not represent a tangible, meaningful or even useful return. Further, the fact that this is what is on offers often explains why money is so hard to raise.

Further, not for profits, including arts organisations, charities and service clubs all too often labour under the illusion that business has a responsibility to support them or their sector. The fact is they don’t. Their primary responsibility is to their shareholders. Beyond that they need a return and the not for profit needs to treat contributions as an investment that deserves a return.

Even if it is true that business has a responsibility to its community and the broader population, they do not have a responsibility to a particular organisation or sector, and they do have a responsibility to ensure their investment produces a return. Further, by assuming that there is no responsibility, the potential to raise much needed dollars is greater.
In my view, in most cases, the return being offered is at worst non-existent and at best difficult to identify or quantify – and that is why not for profits are finding it so hard to raise the funds they need.

I would argue that most not for profits don’t even know what types of return their targeted benefactors need or are looking for. Many don’t even know how to find out.

There is a very real potential, given the power of CSR to develop much closer and productive relationships between business and not for profits. There is a lot that businesses can gain from such relationships and there is a lot not for profits, and therefore the community can gain from such relationships.

I want to see business contributing MUCH more to ‘not for profits’.

The productive way forward however, starts with forgetting the notion of philanthropy, and setting aside completely recognition in the form of logos on programmes and signs around the oval.

It must involve developing mutually beneficial long term relationships based on an in-depth understanding of each other’s needs and commercial imperatives. Partnerships where information and experiences are shared are essential. Not for profits need to better understand how they can generate a return for business and business needs to understand the types of contribution that the not for profits can make.

Some rationalisation of ‘not for profits’ and a little less ego in the arts sector might also help. Many ‘not for profits’, even the great contributors to the community need to think about whether they would be better served merging with like-minded organisations to generate economies of scale and with a view to delivering more ‘bang for the buck’. Arts organisations, in my view need to stop thinking that they are special and that business has a responsibility to support them.
Some are special, but not many.

In considering the return on investment that businesses expect not for profits might look more closely at:
– Internal audiences and how they can help develop the culture within the business being targeted
– Targeting businesses where there is an alignment of values and culture that can be leveraged both internally and externally
– Demonstrating the contributing businesses what they can do themselves at little or no cost to leverage their association with the not for profit
– Helping the business integrate its various CSR activities with a view to maximising the return on every dollar invested
– Understanding the businesses objectives in terms of CSR and developing strategies to link directly into those objectives and associated strategies.

Like business, ‘not for profits, need to embrace the concept that effective marketing is about developing ‘products’ for your market, as opposed to finding markets for your products. In this regard I am not so much taking about the programmes they offer, as I am about the nature of the return they offer contributors.

In closing, I would note that even if I am wrong – even if philanthropy is ‘alive and well and living in Balcatta’ (with Elvis) – not for profits will raise much more money, if they assume it is dead.

The potential to develop community causes through business support of ‘not for profits’ is hugely underestimated and the potential for business to benefit from CSR is even more hugely underestimated. But that potential will not be realised whilst ‘not for profits’ continue to look for philanthropists (and I include private philanthropists in that – but that is for another article).

The ‘not for profits’ and businesses that understand this, and there are a few, are already benefiting – as are the communities they serve.



This issue will be discussed in detail on THE D. JOHN CARLSON NETWORK –

John Carlson is a behavioural scientist, strategic planner and lateral thinker focusing on branding, marketing, communication, personal advancement, business development and behaviour management.

No tags 0