As reported in Giving USA, over the past decade, corporate support nationwide has only been 4–6% of all charitable giving. Compare corporate giving to individual giving and it is not a lot. However, it still amounts to billions of dollars. Your organization should attempt to secure some of those charitable dollars.
Do Your Homework in Advance of an ASK
Board members and other volunteers are valuable links to businesses in a community and can help open doors. Board members and volunteers who work for businesses can introduce the organization to the appropriate people at their place of employment. Personal relationships can make a difference and may even be the deciding factor. Volunteers can be the organization’s advocate with the business. Other key considerations include:
• Prior to requesting any funding from a business entity, it is important to understand what the corporation’s interests are. What types of organizations do they support? Some businesses have a preference for arts or education; others prefer to support homeless individuals or feeding the hungry. Again, this is where a board member or other volunteer can be invaluable. As an employee, they can easily find out information about the business’s charitable giving.
• The organization also needs to determine the type of requests the corporation will entertain. Some businesses will not support capital projects or operating expenses. Many businesses will only support specific projects that are measurable and have a beginning and an end. In addition to community goodwill, businesses want to be able to see the impact of their dollars on the community and on their employees.
• Find out if the business has an application process or if a letter is acceptable. Does the business accept requests year-round, or is there a specific date by which requests must be submitted? When requesting support from a business, whether an application or a letter, provide all the information they are requesting and be very succinct.
• Know what dollar amount the corporation will consider. If the business’ average gift is $10,000 and the nonprofit asks for $25,000, the organization will most likely be turned down. Exceptions to this are when a member of the business’s management team is on the nonprofit’s board of directors, or if the organization has worked to develop the corporate-nonprofit relationship and knows the corporation will make an exception for the ask.
• When possible, encourage the corporate decision-maker to visit the nonprofit’s site.
Understand the Full Potential of Corporate Giving
Depending upon the size of the business, there may be as many as six pools of charitable giving: direct charitable dollars, marketing dollars, corporate foundation giving, employee giving, matching corporate dollars, and in-kind gifts. The size of the business entity will often determine how many of these charitable business sources are available.
Following are the six corporate sources of funding:
• Direct charitable cash gifts are the most common source of corporate funds. Businesses of all sizes can and will make charitable gifts of cash to an organization.
• Another pool of money within a corporation is marketing dollars. Corporations will often use marketing dollars to sponsor a golf tournament or support a program to which their name can be attached. Marketing dollars help support the nonprofit but also market the name and goodwill of the corporation.
• Larger corporations, such as Medtronic, PetSmart, and American Express, have separate foundations for charitable giving. These corporations have an application process with guidelines. They also have requirements for reporting measurable results regarding how the funds were used and the impact on the community. These foundations most often give where they have a business presence.
• Within large corporations there may also be an employee giving club. These clubs are employee funded and managed. The employees come together, pool their money, and once or twice a year distribute the money to nonprofits within their community. They act like an in-house United Way. The employee giving club may have an application process or it may be a closed process in which the employees determine which nonprofits they want to support. It is beneficial to the nonprofit to have a champion at the business.
• Matching corporate dollars was discussed in the previous blog: Did you know billions of dollars are left unclaimed?
• Businesses are a tremendous source of in-kind gifts. Besides the usual auction items for a fundraising event, nonprofits should examine their other institutional needs. When a nonprofit is developing its budget, staff should determine if there are items in the budget that could be supplied by a business as an in-kind gift instead of being purchased by the nonprofit. It is often easier for a business to provide in-kind items rather than cash.
Although not the largest source of charitable giving, corporate giving is important. It needs to be a facet of an organization’s fundraising plan.