Think Outside the Box for Support from New Sources

Jamie Ring | August 06, 2014

At Genzyme, we partner with several hundred nonprofit organizations around the world as part of our support for the broader rare disease community. When the leaders of these organizations talk about their needs and priorities, two common themes often emerge. The first is the need for increased funding to accomplish their goals and the second is a desire for greater in-kind support (i.e. support that is not monetary in nature, but rather comes in the form of goods or services). We understand that having a diverse pool of resources and skills can be the key to sustainability for a non-profit organization. That is why Genzyme has long held the philosophy that we should always strive to “go beyond the financial” to provide opportunities for other forms of support, whenever possible.

I’ve been interested in learning more over the years from patient associations about how they diversify their funding sources and tap into large corporations for support. Advocacy leaders I’ve asked about this tell me they believe there’s a common misperception in the rare disease space that the only source of corporate funding available to patient groups would be from a potential pharmaceutical partner. Their advice to newer patient groups is to explore larger non-pharmaceutical corporations (international food or retail corporations for instance) that may have a generous community relations program. You can usually find out more about such programs by visiting corporate websites and searching under their Community Relations or Corporate Social Responsibility pages.

In addition, they suggest that patient groups think “outside of the box” about what else a company could provide to your organization besides funding, via in-kind support. Instead of spending money on redesigning a logo, is there a university with a graphic design or art department who may be willing to donate time to help create one for you? Or could a large advertising firm provide logo design services to your organization free of charge? Could a local physician that cares for patients with the disease you focus on help you to review patient education materials?  As an example, at Genzyme, we have provided volunteers to help at patient community events, educated patient advocates about social media and web development, and offered scientific advice to nonprofit research organizations among other things. Regardless of the source of support provided (financial or in-kind), keep in mind that many companies, including Genzyme, are required to publish this information publicly to comply with transparency regulations.

As you think about new potential sources of funding, don’t forget to consider the other resources that universities, companies, or civic groups may be able to provide! Saving money on services may be just as useful – and perhaps more meaningful -- as receiving funding from a partner. If you have any suggestions or best practices to suggest to others, please let us know!


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