When environmental organizations consider adding corporate sponsorship to their revenue mix, one of the first considerations is ensuring that the values of the two parties are in close alignment. But that’s only one of several important steps, as ALUS Canada is discovering with its newly-launched New Acre project and its first corporate sponsor, TD Bank Group.
ALUS Canada works with farmers in six provinces, identifying marginal or ecologically sensitive farmland and paying farmers to restore or enhance that land in ways that are beneficial to the environment. Today, it has nearly 24,000 acres of land in its program. Funding has come mostly through the generosity of the W. Garfield Weston Foundation as well as various levels of government.
When ALUS Canada made the decision to seek corporate sponsorship, it knew it needed to think differently about how it went about its business.
Corporate sponsors need tangible demonstrations that their money is making a difference, explains Katherine Balpataky, director of Corporate Partnerships and Business Development at ALUS Canada, in a phone interview with EcoLog News. They need a story they can tell to employees, to customers and to shareholders.
To meet those needs, ALUS Canada created New Acre, a program that allows sponsors to target their funding to specific initiatives or regions. New Acre also delivers metrics that demonstrate the difference the sponsor is making.
“We have a lot of science that demonstrates the benefits, things like improved water quality, carbon sequestration,” says Balpataky. “Sponsors can use them in their own sustainability reporting or to tell the story they want to tell.”
TD, for instance, is putting $220,000 into New Acre over two years. Part of that funding will support 300 acres of naturalization projects in eight ALUS communities across Canada. TD’s funding will also help raise awareness of New Acre across Canada by expanding its bilingual materials.
Balpataky expects New Acre to appeal to corporations with a stated environmental objective, particularly those that are willing to look beyond the “greening” of their own internal operations. Companies that want to make a social impact, particularly around specific communities, are also good sponsorship prospects, she says. So, too, are companies that are interested in building relationships with farmers — agribusiness, food, beverage, transportation.
Each potential sponsor needs a tailored approach, Balpataky warns. Every company has its own unique messaging, its own unique suite of needs, that it will hope to meet through a program like New Acre.
Balpataky says she expects to announce a second New Acre corporate sponsor within the next few months, but finding the right sponsors is still a challenge. Nature-based solutions are still relatively new concepts, she says. Potential sponsors need plenty of education