Holiday philanthropy guides may not be in non-profits’ interests

Blogs are awesome tools for wondering “out loud”.  Last week I was working on a non-profit’s marketing and communications plan and realized they were putting time and energy into lining up businesses to sponsor listings in printed philanthropy guides.  Did they have a positive ROI, I wondered?

Not for most non-profits.  It could even hurt them by diminishing the amount of dollars available for direct contributions from potential corporate sponsors.

How so?  Here in Sacramento, we don’t have a lot of corporate headquarters.  We do have a large number of businesses that are regional operations of national companies.  When they underwrite a listing in a philanthropy guide, they take the money out of their contributions budget, not their advertising budget.  The amount of available money in their budget goes down.

When non-profits approach them for direct contributions or to sponsor events that may result in friendraising or fundraising, the businesses may figure they’ve already done their bit for that organization.  Or they may not have the money left to spend.

It may be good for the business’ reputation to be seen as a community good guy, but better use can be made of the money for the non-profit.  Several non-profits say they have received a donation or two based on the info published in the guide, but they might have gotten a better return if they had worked directly with the business.

P.D.  My Twitter pals were uninterested in my query, but I did get a few responses from friends in the non-profit world whose perspective I value.  I didn’t quote or name them here in case on the off-chance that local publishers wouldn’t take kindly to their skeptical view of these guides.


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2 responses to “Holiday philanthropy guides may not be in non-profits’ interests

  1. Betsy,
    This year, I’m experimenting with using one of my blogs, “Gift Guide for Book and Library Lovers” as a way to raise money for California School Libraries. See

    I’ve offered this as a hotlist for about 5 years, but converted it to a blog, added Google AdSense, and direct any modest revenue to the California School Library Association.

    The Gift Guide is a fun hobby for me, and is popular with literary and small business folk. I can’t imagine creating a print guide, buying reative talent and mailing lists, or buying postage.

  2. Thanks, Jackie. Best of luck with your endeavor. We need libraries!