Three Tips to Attract Corporate Support for Your Purpose-Driven Project

While coping with his mother’s devastating diagnosis of lung cancer, John Matthews, global vice president at SAP, became familiar with the grim statistics that surround the disease.

The survival rate for lung cancer depends largely on the stage at which the disease is diagnosed, which is why it is so important to generate greater awareness and decouple the stigma from the disease, often incorrectly assumed to exclusively affect people who smoke tobacco. This realization led Matthews to begin Ride Hard Breathe Easychasing down a cure for lung cancer, one mile at a time. At the heart of this purpose-driven project is the mission to “End the stigma and suffering for lung cancer patients and caregivers, in memory of Kathleen Matthews.”

For the project, Matthews cycled from SAP in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, to the Golden Gate Bridge in California. The journey took him 52 days to complete. Along the way, he raised $93,000 and gathered the support of numerous people and businesses to see the project through to its successful completion.

On a recent episode of the internet talk radio program Game-Changers with Purpose, Presented by SAP, hosted by SAP’s Bonnie D. Graham, Matthews discussed what he learned about organizing a purpose-driven project that largely depends upon the goodwill and charitable contributions of others. Joining Matthews on the panel were Fred Yentz, president of Strategic Partnerships at Telit, an Internet of Things (IoT) enablement firm that contributed its technology to support the cross-country bicycle ride; and Ashley Tully, director of Global Marketing at SAP, who helped Matthews gather support within SAP.

Listen to a recording of the hour-long program here: IoT for Good: Cycling Purpose Around the World.

Start with a Plan

Gathering support for a purpose-driven project like Ride Hard Breathe Easy may seem like a herculean task at the outset. It requires identifying the right person within a company to help you, securing an appointment to make your pitch, explaining your project in a way that will get people interested, and then requesting that they commit their time and energy – limited resources, even in the best cases. The good news, according to the panelists on Game-Changers with Purpose, is that there are plenty of companies out there that would really like to be involved with purpose-driven projects. But to gather support from these companies, you will need to have a plan.

As the Game Changers panelists explained, the company needs to be convinced that the project makes good sense in its purpose and execution. There also needs to be a clear match between the project and the company in terms of the potential value of its contribution towards the project’s success.

Here are three tips, based on excerpts from the radio show, that the Game-Changers panelists had for anyone seeking support for a purpose-driven project:

1. Know Your Purpose

“Once you get the word out, people want to get involved,” said Tully. “A lot of people sit back and wish they could make a difference but are not really sure how to make a difference. If you can spell out, even at a high level, what your needs are – not just that I am trying to find a cure for cancer, but this is how I am going to go about it and this is what I need – then people can get involved because they know how to get involved.”

“We want to make sure that the cause makes sense,” said Yentz, explaining the perspective of Telit as a donor to Ride Hard Breathe Easy. “We are a technology company, so we really like to put forward our technology as what we can bring to the event. We looked at this event and asked, how can we participate?”

Telit donated an IoT solution that enabled real-time tracking of the cyclists during the event; thus, enhancing personal safety, data recording, and communication for the cyclists no matter where they were riding. “It is not a monetary thing,” said Yentz. “It is putting folks and technology in the works to make this a better event that can be publicized with real data. It was a match.”

2. Contact the Right People

We first came up with a basic strategy. Fortunately, at SAP we have a framework where we do work already with cancer,” explained Matthews. “I simply contacted the right people who run corporate social responsibility globally and asked them two questions: Do you care about what I am doing? Do you want to be part of it? The answer can be no. Not everybody is going to care about everything. Ultimately, we built a team of people who understood what we were trying to do, who were passionate about it, and it transferred.”

“You could just see they were excited about this,” recalled Yentz. “One of the things that is most important is that you’ve got to have somebody on the other side that is passionate. That passion is infectious. If you see somebody that is excited about what they are doing, clearly the benchmark has got to be a reasonable cause, right? If that reasonable cause is associated with personal passion and excitement, then we are excited to be in it.”

3. Articulate Your Target Outcomes

Yentz suggested asking yourself a few serious questions before meeting with potential corporate donors: “What are your real goals? What is a success? If we help and you are passionate about this, what is the outcome you are trying to drive? Is it a monetary goal? Is it an awareness goal?”

He added, “If somebody has a wild idea and they are passionate and just all wound up, but there is not necessarily a plan, then it is a weaker presentation. You want to put your time and your resources into things that make a difference.”

Tune In for More Game-Changing Business Insights

Game-Changers with Purpose is a special edition series of Coffee Break with Game-Changers. For more business and technology insights, listen to Coffee Break with Game-Changers broadcast live every Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. PT/11: 00 a.m. ET on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel. And follow Game Changers on Twitter at @SAPRadio and #SAPRadio. 


Experts’ comments have been edited and condensed for this space.