By Allison Weber, founder of Allison Weber Consulting, a fundraising and communications business dedicated to helping mission-driven organizations tell better stories.
It’s no secret that corporate donors are invaluable partners for nonprofits. They can make a huge impact as they provide significant support across areas including grantmaking, employee engagement and cause marketing. The mystery that stumps some organizations is how to strengthen their corporate relationships so they grow over time.
Thoughtful donor stewardship strategies are the key to enhancing corporate partnerships. These strategies should include a variety of tactics for recognizing and sharing insights with your corporate partners.
The details of your stewardship strategy will depend on things like your donors’ interests and your resources. And a plan for if, when and how you’ll thank donors on your social channels is an important part of that strategy.
Deciding how to handle donor recognition on social media is a complex exercise. It can be tough to know how to move forward since your donors have different communication goals than your nonprofit.
Read on to learn how Feeding America and The Global FoodBanking Network have recently stewarded their corporate donors on social media. The two organizations are partners that share the same cause – fighting hunger – yet they have different philosophies and audiences, leading them to pursue different approaches with fundraising and communications.
Feeding America is the second-largest nonprofit in the United States. With hunger rates increasing dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis, the organization is focused on maintaining their community’s trust, increasing reach and driving engagement on social media.
The digital team works hard to produce social content that balances sharing stories of the people they serve, the impact of their work, and the generosity of their supporters.
They maintain a standard number of posts per day for optimal performance. They also have a keen focus on the broader environment, ensuring their content is relevant and appropriate to the moment.
During certain moments – such as natural disasters – they quickly pivot planned content to be more contextual and reflect new priorities.
The social media posts that get the most engagement often include strong examples of mission impact, surprising facts, spotlights on special groups like kids and volunteers, or useful tools and resources.
The organization assesses potential posts to determine their alignment with its messaging strategy, brand voice, audience insights, historical performance, and cultural tones and considerations.
Feeding America gratefully stewards its corporate donors through its digital channels, yet stays focused on sharing content that will increase audience loyalty. This helps them to continue to drive awareness and support for the anti-hunger movement.
Feeding America and Subaru
Subaru is not only one of Feeding America’s top supporters, but also a relatively new partner.
A few months ago, Subaru generously donated 50 million meals to Feeding America through a campaign that supported 199 food banks across the country. More recently, Subaru helped donate 100 million additional meals.
The company generously took the first step in sharing their recent donations on social media.
In a tweet, Subaru tagged Feeding America, shared a video with the Feeding America logo and photos of the nonprofit’s impact on-the-ground, and linked to a webpage with more information about their partnership. The webpage included a link to a Feeding America donation page.
Subaru’s social post demonstrated a commitment to fighting hunger – and to Feeding America. In addition to sharing the social impact of their recent support, they also took steps to help increase Feeding America’s visibility and encourage additional donations.
Feeding America responded by not just retweeting Subaru’s content, but also framing it with more information about the impact of the company’s generosity in light of the pandemic. This allowed the nonprofit to recognize Subaru with its large social audience and demonstrate its role as a key thought leader in the fight against hunger.
Bottom Line: Feeding America carefully considers what content their social followers will appreciate the most as they determine how to highlight their donors. They thank their top supporters with authentic messages that offer something valuable to all their followers.
The Global FoodBanking Network
The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) uses its social channels to showcase its mission in action – and views creative partnerships as central to their work around the world.
While the communications team features a wide variety of content on social media, one of the messaging themes they focus on is innovative partnerships. That’s because posts about collaboration – especially multi-partner or cross-country engagement – achieve a variety of goals from the organization’s perspective.
They demonstrate the importance of teamwork to the nonprofit’s approach. After all, GFN’s philosophy is to walk alongside its member food banks and corporate partners – rather than in front of or behind them – so they can equitably achieve shared goals.
Featuring global partners also enables GFN to increase its reach. Many of its partners have loyal audiences on social media. When the organizations that GFN highlights on its channels share that content with their audiences, GFN reaches more people.
Additionally, social posts featuring partners also serve as a special opportunity to steward key relationships. With so many generous supporters, GFN is careful to limit its stewardship-focused posts to special cases. However, those posts can go a long way in moving collaboration forward.
The Global FoodBanking Network, FedEx, and International Paper
GFN recently posted on Facebook and Instagram about a unique collaboration that involved two of its corporate donors, International Paper and FedEx.
A couple of months ago, the companies worked together to help GFN respond to the hunger crisis in Latin America. International Paper donated cardboard boxes to pack charitable food, while FedEx donated the costs of shipping those boxes internationally to GFN member food banks.
Because of the ingenuity of GFN’s corporate donors, a Colombian hunger-relief organization – Banco de Alimentos Bogotá, a member of the national food bank network system, Asocación de Bancos de Alimentos de Colombia – was able to distribute a large quantity of high-value groceries.
International Paper and FedEx worked together to leverage their core competencies. In doing so, they relieved local food banks of high transportation costs and offered nourishment to hungry families.
Many corporate donors generously donate funds to GFN and global food banks, but fewer companies give targeted in-kind support that helps cover operational costs. As a result, GFN was pleased to showcase this innovative example of collaboration.
Following GFN’s social posts, both corporate donors shared information about the collaboration on their digital channels as well. This gave the companies a chance to shine a light on their corporate citizenship. Importantly, it also introduced GFN to many new potential donors.
Bottom Line: The Global FoodBanking Network features examples of successful collaboration on social media as one of several strategic messaging themes. The organization appreciates the opportunity to feature unique engagements with corporate donors to encourage more creative collaboration.
Corporate donors can help nonprofits elevate their work unlike virtually any other type of financial supporter. Yet it’s not always easy for these partners to build lasting relationships.
When they don’t share the same messaging objectives as their corporate donors, it becomes tricky for nonprofits to determine how to best feature them on social media. Examining how other organizations navigate these issues offers helpful food for thought.
With millions of social media accounts around the world, nonprofits must develop creative yet consistent voices to stand out. They should stray away from stewardship posts that look ad-like, choosing instead to thank supporters with relatable messages that share gratitude while also inspiring a wider audience.
Despite their differences, many nonprofits and companies are similarly focused on reaching more people and building a better world. High-performing social content is the best way to achieve those shared goals.
The nonprofits of today that thoughtfully steward both their corporate partners and their social audiences will be best-positioned to achieve meaningful social impact tomorrow.
Also by Allison Weber:
How to Maximize Success Stories Across Your Nonprofit’s Digital Channels
Allison Weber, of Allison Weber Consulting, is passionate about helping mission-driven organizations tell better stories. Through working at Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, and Opportunity International, one of the first nonprofits focused on providing banking services in developing countries, she’s developed the skills to write for a variety of audiences and channels.