Learn more about why and how businesses donate to charity, and how nonprofits can find success in building corporate partnerships.

Companies across the country are becoming more strategic in their philanthropic decisions and are looking for partnerships that will advance their goals and make an impact in the community. As companies embrace new and improved corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and programs, nonprofits have the opportunity to build personalized relationships with companies that share similar values and goals for significant community impact.

The Landscape for Corporate Giving

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, corporations played an increased role in responding to the needs of the community through renewed CSR strategies as evidenced by the more than $11 billion that corporations committed to advance racial equity efforts since 2020.

In 2020, corporations gave an estimated $16.88 billion, making up 4% of all charitable giving in the United States. As millennials make up a majority of today’s workforce, it is likely these cause-oriented and mission-driven individuals are looking to their companies to set an example in the community and support organizations they care about—bringing a sense of purpose to their daily work. According to the recent CCS Philanthropy Pulse survey report, 91% of nonprofit respondents see corporate giving results maintaining or increasing throughout 2022.

How and Why Do Corporations Give Back?

Corporate philanthropy is a partnership that is grounded in giving back for social good through time, talent, and treasure. Giving back to the community can put a corporation in the spotlight through increased brand perception, better public reputation, and a positive work environment.

Companies tend to give back to the community in a variety of ways, including:

Company-Sponsored Foundation/Community Grants

Larger companies may have a private foundation linked to their business and aligned with the company’s mission. Gifts are made through a formalized grantmaking application process. Company-sponsored foundations often focus on the geographic areas in which the company is located, the emerging needs of that market, and key priorities or constituent groups that align with the mission.

Matching Gifts

Many companies offer to financially match donations that are contributed by their employees to a nonprofit. The matching ratio will vary per company—from 1:1 up to 4:1. Double the Donation is a matching gift tool for nonprofits to consider.

Corporate Sponsorships

Corporate sponsorships are a common type of support that nonprofits can receive from a new corporate partner. These sponsorships are typically associated with a form of recognition at a special event or program depending on the gift level.

Employee Volunteer Grants

For employees who give their time back to local nonprofits, some companies award volunteer grants directly to the nonprofit each year based on the number of hours an employee volunteered.

How Can My Nonprofit Engage Corporate Donors?

As your organization looks to strengthen your corporate giving strategy and engage strategic partners, consider the following steps:

1. Solidify what corporate engagement opportunities you can offer.

Assess what opportunities you can provide to corporate partners and their employees to see your mission in action. Determine how these touchpoints can support filling any gaps or emerging needs of your organization.

2. Do your research. Look local and ensure alignment.

Take time to do your research on potential partners and qualify them in a similar way to an individual donor prior to outreach. Create a list of 10 to 15 well-respected companies in the local community that you want to build a relationship with. Start with the “About” page on the company’s website and branch out from there.

Consider the following questions:

3. Leverage your current connections to open doors to new opportunities.

Rather than a cold call or email, leverage your current connections and see who could support with making introductions to local companies. First, consider your board members and biggest advocates. Determine what personal or professional connections they might have, particularly with regard to senior corporate leadership. If you have an established volunteer program, reach out to volunteers to see who can make a connection to either their employer or others within the community.

4. Focus on building the relationships and utilize moves management.

As with individual donors, we should cultivate and build relationships with corporate partners that focus on transformational giving rather than transactional giving.

A) Cultivate & Brief

Engage in open dialogue either one-on-one or in a small group. Be sure to listen to how they talk about their vision, needs, and priorities. Build rapport and begin to learn and explore the company’s passions while sharing the emerging needs and opportunities that exist at your organization. This step could consist of multiple conversations or touchpoints. The more we get to know potential partners on an individual level, the easier it will be to propose a customized opportunity for future engagement.

Key questions to ask include: What does impact look like for your company? In what ways are you hoping or looking to engage with the community this year? What aspects of our work interest you? Where do you see your company’s priorities aligning with our areas of greatest need?

B) Solicit

Ensure that the company is strategically involved in developing the partnership opportunity. Before making any solicitation, discuss what a partnership with your organization could look like. Be prepared to share impact outcomes, key metrics, and tell a story. Schedule a time to present the partnership opportunity, engage in discussion, and outline how this partnership will help the company achieve its philanthropic goals.

C) Steward

Stewardship is crucial to the longevity of any corporate partnership. Find ways to demonstrate the value of your relationship and consider how you can leverage various mediums to promote the work you are doing together. Get creative on how to engage their employees in your mission—especially if a formal volunteer program is not in place.

Like all donor relationships, building a strong corporate giving strategy requires trust, transparency, shared values, and open communication. Although corporate partnerships may be more complex, the potential impact on your mission can be quite strong. Regardless of where you are in your corporate partnership journey, there are always opportunities to enhance your process, strengthen your relationships, and build a sustainable giving pipeline now and into the future.

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