Are Nonprofits Directing Corporate Billions for Entrepreneurial Possibility?

by Gary Wexler

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Goldman Sachs donated $241 million to charity in 2012. That doesn’t include the thousands of wealthy people whose money they manage and the amounts those people have given. Think about JP Morgan, Google, Microsoft, Starbucks, Edison, Gap and all those well-heeled community and family foundations. That’s not to mention the donations big and small from millions of private individuals. Yes, charity is a big, big business floating in a pool of billions of dollars.

What those corporations know. Those corporate donors are the ones who take entrepreneurial risks every day. They invest in technology and recognize that the Internet is its main driving force. They know that the Internet is more than anything, a communication tool. They know that as a result, communications and marketing is now the change that is affecting all business possibility.

They will understand why nonprofits need to market. They are the source of marketing dollars. But nonprofits have to make the case.

A culture and a mentality. Nonprofits claiming they have no money to market, is a culture and a mentality, not a reality. It’s not doing the world of causes any good. And it’s not responsible.

To thrive in a changed world and deliver results to donors, nonprofits have to educate themselves and funders to the importance of marketing and what it actually is now. Being responsible to your cause today is not about avoiding marketing, but finding a way to do it. Marketing is the only responsible way to leverage donors’ monies as well as build the cause and its services.

The money to market does exist. It just requires strategy and creativity to get it flowing.

Resistance mired in fear. The resistance to marketing is mired in a culture and mentality of yesterday. It’s based on an old understanding of nonprofit marketing. It’s fueled with a fear of change and risk-taking entrepreneurship where one if vulnerable to failure. Of course some of it will fail. But some of it will also succeed. And that will make all the difference in the world.

It’s time to begin this funding conversation in a huge way with the corporations, business people, community and family foundations who understand what risk and entrepreneurialism is about.

Gary Wexler is adjunct professor of nonprofit marketing in the masters program at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. He consults on marketing strategies with nonprofits and businesses in the United States, Canada and Israel.

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