In previous emails, I have shared CHARGE’s thinking that nonprofit corporate sponsorship sits at an inflection point. Based on consumer attitudes towards social responsibility, for-profit companies will be inclined to seek out nonprofit partners to create sponsorship programs. However, these programs will bear little resemblance to gala sponsorships or support for a 5K race. They will be mutually beneficial programs, creating win-wins for sponsors and the nonprofit property. We have come to a unique place where corporate social responsibility meets sponsorship meets nonprofit marketing.

A Case Study in Purpose-Driven Sponsorship

My colleague, Jared Skok, head of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and sustainability at animal health giant Elanco, is a good example.  Jared relayed a project he co-created while leading CSR at Tesoro Corporation.

Tesoro, a former Fortune 100 petroleum company (now part of Marathon Oil), was headquartered in San Antonio. That city is also home to one of the world’s largest and most innovative homeless shelters, Haven for Hope, which shelters 1,700 people nightly, and whose Board consists of influential community leaders. Haven for Hope built its shelter facility in an old warehouse district. It consisted of several multi-hundred thousand square foot buildings on a 22-acre campus with about 80 other on-site nonprofits to provide wraparound services.

From a CSR perspective, homelessness did not fit within Tesoro’s strategic focus areas. The energy company focused on environmental sustainability, for example.  However, when Haven for Hope’s VP of Development requested a meeting with Skok, he agreed to meet and tour the campus.

An Idea Looking Skyward

While listening to the VP’s donation pitch on tour, Skok kept looking up at the buildings’ massive ceiling space. When the VP asked what Skok was looking at, he said, “The roofs.” “Why?” the VP asked. Skok then inquired as to the agency’s electrical costs. The VP replied that it was one, if not the most considerable expense, next to staffing.

Knowing that San Antonio averaged about 220 sunny days per year, Skok thought the roofs would be perfect places for solar panels. With solar power, Haven could redirect the cost savings into the homeless shelter’s programs. That solar power discussion evolved into brainstorming about collaborative projects helping Haven for Hope align with Tesoro’s CSR goals. The teams came up with an energy savings project that was a win-win.

Although structured as a grant, the Tesoro – Haven for Hope relationship was a purpose-driven sponsorship. Tesoro gave Haven for Hope a $100,000 gift used to purchase and install super energy-efficient windows in a new transitional housing unit it was building, the average annual energy cost savings of $20,000 per year. In return, the Haven promoted Tesoro as its environmental partner.

Food for Thought

I’m not suggesting that there’s something revolutionary about the Tesoro-Haven relationship. Nonprofits receive contributions of this sort all the time. However, one important element makes it a valuable case study for purpose-driven sponsorships. The Tesoro-Haven for Hope relationship aligned the sponsor’s brand, CSR goals, and promotional needs. The result was the same as a donation: more resources to increase Haven for Hope’s impact. However, like traditional sponsorships, this purpose-driven sponsorship benefited both the sponsor and the property.

Will we see more opportunities like Tesoro-Haven in the current environment?  Absolutely.  With for-profits more engaged in social responsibility, marketing professionals will be involved in helping carry that message out through sponsorship.

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