Deena Carstens Munn: Much can be gained when corporations and nonprofits seek common ground

If your company is interested in establishing or enhancing its collaboration with philanthropic organizations, Dan D’Armond, community and government relations director for BMC Software, offers some excellent observations and questions to ask as you review your involvement.
Here is my interview with him:

Deena: What are corporations typically asked about corporate giving and forming strategic partnerships?

Dan: One of the most commonly asked questions corporations receive from nonprofits is, ‘What is your giving strategy?’ Maybe the better question is, ‘Can a corporation afford not to collaborate with nonprofits as part of its strategy?’

Many nonprofits approach potential corporate partners with the promise of a short meeting as to not take much of the corporate giving officer’s time, and then go through a long list of information such as what they do, who they serve, events they have and the all-important, ‘What can we put you down for?’

In an attempt to keep on schedule, they forgot to do a vital task — listen.

A truly strategic partnership results from an actual discussion on goals and objectives.

What is it that the company views as strategic? What does a good partnership look like to them? What types of program elements are they looking for? What are examples of partnerships that have been successful and valuable?

Companies that are active participants in their communities do so for a variety of reasons — good corporate citizenship, cause marketing, community engagement, branding, building community credibility and so on.

Determine, ‘Why do we do what we do?’ and, ‘What do we hope to get out of our community partnerships?’ Having a clear mission statement on areas of philanthropic focus is the starting point.

Talk to sales leaders to find out where their customers are involved. Take the internal temperature on what motivates employees to become involved in volunteerism.

Each corporation must have these internal discussions so that it can effectively communicate its goals and objectives to the community partners and therefore select the best partnership programs.

Nonprofits need to ask these same questions first of themselves and then of the corporations. Nonprofits know the programs and value they provide to the community and to their clients. They also know the tools they have in their tool chest to deliver on a true partnership.
Deena: How do nonprofits and corporations measure success?

Dan: Having a clear and agreed upon set of outcomes and how they will be measured is critical to renewal of the program collaboration.
In the current climate of shrinking budgets, corporate giving officers must demonstrate the return on the investment of each of their collaborations.

I feel the most important element to building effective community collaboration is by knowing your audience — both internally and externally.
Both corporations and nonprofit organizations must know what success looks like to them inside and outside, as well as what the most important tools are needed to reach success.

The combination of these well-thought-out strategies and resulting collaboration will bring positive and lasting change to the communities that both organizations serve.

Deena Carstens Munn is the founder of the Houston Philanthropic Society. Deena has more than 10 years of experience in corporate philanthropy and over 20 years of experience working with nonprofit charitable organizations. She is the founder of, and also works for, IHS as a senior sponsorship manager for CERAWeek. Deena has enjoyed volunteering for Hospice of North Central Florida, Texas Children’s Hospital, the Greater Houston Partnership (Energy Collaborative), Houston Technology Center, Christian Community Service Center (CCSC), P.A.W.S. Houston and The Nature Conservancy. More is available at

Learn more about the Houston Philanthropic Society at:
Twitter: @HoustonPS