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How The Salvation Army USA Western Territory Took a More Proactive & Strategic Approach to Corporate Fundraising and Engagement

Headquartered in California, The Salvation Army USA Western Territory serves thirteen U.S. states — plus the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Guam — and aims to meet human needs without discrimination wherever, whenever, and however it can help. It’s a mission that the nonprofit — an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church — has pursued around the world since its parent organization, The Salvation Army International, was founded in 1865. To welcome more donors who are aligned with this mission, the organization has made some major changes to how it reaches and stewards one key donor segment — corporate donors — over the past decade.

In 2014, The Salvation Army USA Western Territory hired its first-ever Territorial Director of Corporate Engagement. Prior to this, the entire U.S. arm of The Salvation Army — which includes the USA Western Territory — had no dedicated, proactive corporate engagement roles at the territorial level. Instead, development team members typically balanced regional corporate partner engagement alongside other responsibilities like stewarding major gift donors, organizing at-scale fundraising efforts, and engaging with new and recurring donors. 

Wanting to expand The Salvation Army USA Western Territory’s corporate donor pool and ensure its local partners would have an exceptional donor experience, the new corporate director for the Western U.S. set out to reimagine the team’s regional corporate fundraising program, later adopting LinkedIn Sales Navigator, LinkedIn's sales and fundraising solution, to power these efforts. 

As a result of this new, strategic approach, the USA Western Territory now has dedicated corporate engagement professionals in nearly every division, all working to provide excellent direct stewardship to corporate donors. Here’s what the team learned along the way.

Taking a proactive approach to corporate engagement 

The Salvation Army’s trusted and recognized brand meant that, for a long time, companies would approach the Western Territory’s fundraisers about making a corporate donation, rather than the other way around. Still, the team saw an untapped opportunity for The Salvation Army to expand its reach in the West by adopting a more proactive corporate fundraising approach. 

The team began to research companies with philanthropic interests and values that aligned with The Salvation Army’s mission. 

“[Many of these new potential corporate] donors were more aspirational and maybe hadn’t given to the Army in the past, but were big philanthropic players in the community that we’d be remiss not to try and build a relationship with,” says Maria Todaro, Territorial Director of Corporate Engagement. “That’s where Sales Navigator has been huge.”

The team leaned on Sales Navigator’s powerful LinkedIn search features to learn more about their prospective corporate partners and to help build lead lists of who their best points of contact might be. Then, after identifying the right decision makers to reach out to, they leveraged the tool to map their professional networks and identify mutual connections that could help make warm introductions via InMail or the contact’s preferred method of communication. 

When this wasn’t possible, the corporate engagement team would try reaching out directly to prospective corporate donors. This didn’t always work though, which is when the team decided to lean into its broader supporter network, working with one of its board members — an employee of LinkedIn — to make some strategic corporate connections. 

“We had a list of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in our territory that we’d tried reaching out to [with no success],” Maria explains. “[Our board member reached out to our team and said,] ‘I'm willing to reach out to people and say ‘I'm a board member. Here’s my personal story and why I care about The Salvation Army so much… I noticed your profile. Would you be willing to talk to me for 30 minutes?’ 

“He’s been getting responses… one of them from an executive at a company we’ve been trying to reach for a long time. Now they’re coming in for a tour of one of our programs and are interested in joining an Advisory Board.”

Being able to reach a greater number of corporate donors is only one of the benefits that has come from The Salvation Army USA Western Territory’s more tailored and targeted approach. As the corporate fundraising landscape has evolved, companies have become more intentional about the impact they want to make. With dedicated corporate fundraisers in almost all of The Salvation Army USA Western Territory’s divisions, the team can spend more time getting to know the business issues partners are facing and the specific impact they want to drive in the community. 

“We're able to take a more donor-centric approach to corporate fundraising,” Maria says. “We can figure out where the crosspaths are with The Salvation Army… what we can bring to the table instead of it being transactional. We're really trying to be true partners over a long period of time and provide mutual benefit… [to] make these partnerships and these relationships sustainable.”

Advice for other nonprofits: “Help each other”

The Salvation Army USA Western Territory has been so successful in its corporate fundraising and engagement approach that other territories are starting to adopt some of its best practices. For fellow nonprofits that want to get the most out of LinkedIn Sales Navigator for fundraising and corporate engagement, The Salvation Army Western Territory team has six top tips: 

  1. Bolster your organization’s LinkedIn presence: To ensure that each division had a distinct LinkedIn presence, social media managers across the organization created Showcase Pages under The Salvation Army USA Western Territory’s main LinkedIn Page, using them to post about the divisions’ unique programs, community, and events. “We [took steps to] really integrate LinkedIn before we even went [onto using] Sales Navigator,” Maria says. “We wanted to be sure we had the framework set.”

  2. Expand your collective network: Before diving into outreach, the team held internal trainings to help board members, fundraisers, and other staff to improve their LinkedIn profile and build their network. “Make sure that you’re connected to all of your board members so that you can identify who they know and ask for warm introductions to people you want to meet,” Maria says. She also recommends, after every external meeting, connecting with the people that you met in person on LinkedIn. 

  3. Make it easy for people to share content that supports fundraising: To keep the organization’s mission top of mind for partners, the corporate fundraising team encourages its directors to post regularly on LinkedIn about their division’s impact. “We send out an internal resource email to all of our corporate directors every week, and we always include a LinkedIn post example,” says Amy Hudson, Territorial Corporate Engagement Coordinator at The Salvation Army USA Western Territory. Amy explains that they provide a link to one of their internal magazine’s news articles and suggested post copy, which fundraisers can use as-is or personalize.
  4. Leverage Sales Navigator as a board-building tool: The Salvation Army team looks for LinkedIn members who have indicated they are interested in joining a nonprofit board. But even if the team is unsure, they don’t hesitate to reach out to people who match the criteria they’re looking for. “It's kind of flattering,” Maria explains. “[When someone says], ‘I saw your experience, you look incredible. Would you be interested in talking about being on our advisory board?’ … You don't know until you ask, and you'd be surprised how many people are open to the conversation.”

  5. Don’t act in a silo: Each divisional corporate director at The Salvation Army USA Western Territory uses LinkedIn Sales Navigator a little differently. While they are geographically dispersed, distance doesn’t hold them back from sharing best practices. “We talk about LinkedIn a lot,” Maria says. “[People will] say, ‘I did this and it worked,’ or ‘Have you tried this feature?’ So those conversations really help.” 

  6. Lean on your rep: Adopting any solution is easier with the right support. The Salvation Army USA Western Territory team has built close working relationships with its LinkedIn Sales Navigator reps over the years, turning to them for feedback and ideas about how to use the solution better. “We’ve been so lucky to have incredible reps who spend the time joining our monthly calls to provide training on new features, or to send us resources that we can share with the field,” Maria says

To learn more about how your organization can elevate its corporate fundraising and engagement efforts with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, contact us today.