Corporate Giving

By | November 8, 2017
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Businesses Give Back

Out of the roughly $300 billion dollars in charitable giving in the United States every year, roughly 5% (about $20 billion) comes from corporations and businesses. Given that percentage, it’s unlikely that corporate giving will be your primary source of funding, but it can be a good complement to your other fundraising activities.

Fundraisers have different options when approaching companies that range from small businesses to large multinational corporations. Broad categories of types of support include cause marketing, employee giving drives, foundation grants,  gifts in-kind, matching gifts, rewards programs, sponsorships, and volunteer programs.

The reason that companies give varies from company to company. Some give because they want to be seen ‘investing’ in the community. Some were founded by philanthropically minded individuals who exercise their giving through the company. Some use it as a way to build employee morale and team spirit. You need to understand the ‘why’ behind every corporate giving program so you can discover if your organization is a good fit for their priorities.

One caution for Church based or religiously affiliated organization – many corporations will not support anything that has to do with religion. Sometimes you can still fit into their giving priorities if you focus on the material benefit that you are providing to a group of people that they want to serve. If they reject you because of your religious leanings, don’t take it personally. Just move on.

Types of Corporate Giving

Cause Marketing – You’ve seen the commercials… Walmart is teaming with Feeding America to donate 1,000,000 meals to charity. When you buy selected items, Walmart will make a donation that will support 3 meals going to a needy family. This is cause marketing. The business wants you to associate their brand with the good they are supporting, and are willing to turn a portion of their marketing budget into a charitable donation to do so.

Employee Giving Drives – A specialty of United Way Annual Campaigns, the employee giving drive is a time limited fundraising effort at a company that is approved and supported by management. The company will typically set a ‘big goal’ for employee participation and total giving. The benefitting organization will be given time and space to address employees to explain the need for the gift and the impact it will enable. The employees are given pledge cards or access to a website that enables them to give. Gifts are often taken using payroll deduction, so you get the money in monthly installments.

Foundation Grants – Some businesses establish a separate foundation that they use do to all of their charitable giving. This kind of funding is a type of grant.

Gifts In-kind – Businesses provide goods and services, and sometimes they are willing to donate those goods or services to a worthy organization. Sometimes, they will offer their services at a reduced rate.

Matching Gifts – Some companies provide an employee benefit by matching their charitable giving at some level. Companies will typically give $1-to-$1 or $1-to-$2 up to a certain maximum gift threshold. Usually, they require that employees report their gift using a form or website before the gift match can be processed. It’s a good idea to know which companies in your area have this kind of policy in place, and make sure your tell your donors that this is an option.

Reward Programs – A rewards program or affiliate program provides a way for an organization’s supporters to generate funds for an organization by shopping at a store or purchasing a particular item. Examples include Amazon Smile, Kroger Community Rewards, Krispy Crème donut sales. Some portion of cost of sales is given to the designated non-profit.

Sponsorships – Sponsorships are often tied to a specific event like a golf tournament or a program like a children’s food pantry. They often have ‘deliverables’ associated with their sponsorship, which vary based on the level of their sponsorship. Deliverables might include tickets to the event, logo placement on event advertising, logos on event merchandising like t-shirts and mugs. The big thing that sponsors are typically looking for is brand recognition to a desirable audience. So a golf tournament for lawyers might be a good fit for luxury goods companies, a hunting expo would be a good fit for hunting equipment companies, and a cancer walk might be a good fit for medical service providers.

Volunteer Programs – Many companies have paid volunteer programs that provide employees a set number of paid volunteer hours per year. They will often have a ‘community impact committee’ or similar group that decides on a group volunteer opportunity for the year. Many United Way’s work with their corporate partners to coordinate a community wide ‘day of service’ with multiple ministries being served by multiple companies. Providing great team building opportunities can open the door to corporate sponsorships of some kind. A number of companies have a ‘volunteer grant’ program where a certain number of volunteer hours at an organization triggers a grant to the organization.


Fundraising got your head spinning? Don’t know quite where to start? Check out Key Concepts and learn the basic ideas that will help you build and maintain a strong and growing donor base.