Supervisor Concerned About County ‘Hitting Up’ Corporate Sponsors

Supervisor Shawn Nelson is expressing concern about county efforts to receive donations from corporate sponsors, questioning whether it could potentially put undue pressure on companies that do business with the county.

“Obviously a government agency soliciting funds” is “a little bit awkward,” Nelson said during last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting as he and his colleagues were about to approve an updated corporate sponsorship plan for county animal services, parks, and libraries.

His concern, he said, was that the county would be “hitting up” organizations that it does business with for contributions, creating a situation where they could feel pressure to contribute.

In response, county CEO Frank Kim emphasized that in the past, it’s actually been the county that’s been been approached by vendors with donation offers.

“We really haven’t had an avenue or a structure to have that discussion” and the sponsorship plan helps the county with that, Kim said.

A marketing plan for attracting corporate sponsors was approved about a year ago, and so far has resulted in sponsorships of pet adoption events at the county shelter from the Anaheim Ducks hockey team and TV stations NBC and Telemundo.

Animal shelter officials are still trying to get a pet food supplier to sponsor the chow at the shelter, according to a staff report.

The county has also obtained product discounts for people in a low-income family program and helped raise money for county libraries.

As far as the county being proactive and reaching out to business leaders, Kim said, it’s really “a soft sell.”

Kim offered to give supervisors an update of discussions and contacts county staff have had with potential sponsors. It was unclear if this would be done in public or in individual private briefings of supervisors or their staff.

Nelson then said the South Coast Air Quality Management District, where he serves on the board, scares businesses with their regulations and then calls them up to ask them to buy tables at events.

“That’s awkward because they’re a regulatory agency,” Nelson said, adding that he just wants to make sure “people feel welcome, not obligated” to support the county with sponsorships.

He asked Kim to ask people whether they felt sponsorships were obligatory and “what we can do to make their experience better.”

 

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. He can be reached at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.