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When the economy is good, corporations tend to be more generous with their donations to not-for-profit organizations. But competition can be stiff and companies don’t give away dollars hastily. Groups that make well-thought-out pitches to corporations — and support their requests with solid facts and figures — have the best chance at securing corporate backing.
Where should you focus your efforts?
Unless you have unlimited development resources, you’re probably better off focusing on companies with which you have an actual connection. Businesses like to partner with “natural fits” that share their goals, values, and service areas. And they often choose a single theme or focus. For example, pharmaceutical giant Merck works with charities fighting to reduce maternal mortality around the world. And as part of its commitment to boost economic activity, JPMorgan Chase pledged $100 million a few years ago to help revitalize the city of Detroit — help that included deploying its “service corps” of employees to lend a hand to local nonprofits.
Indeed, organizations that enable a corporate donor’s employees to get involved often have an advantage. If a firm’s charity of choice is a food bank, its employees might volunteer to do everything from providing strategic advice to the organization to repacking fresh produce for distribution to the community’s needy.
Companies may also be receptive to charities whose mission matches that of key executives’ personal interests. For instance, a company might donate to and raise money for a cancer charity if the child of a company executive suffers from a rare form of the disease.
What will you need to prove?
It’s not enough, however, for your nonprofit to match the general interests of a company or its CEO. You also need to make a clear, compelling case that their corporate dollars will be well spent. Companies want to align themselves with fiscally responsible organizations that can prove they get results.
Companies are likely to ask such questions as: Is your organization self-sustaining? What kind of outcomes does it achieve? Are the outcomes measured in both qualitative and quantitative ways? How much do you spend on programs vs. administration and other costs? What other forms of financial support do you receive?
Although most businesses understand the PR value of donating to or partnering with a charity, it doesn’t hurt to remind them of the benefits — for example, community goodwill, increased name recognition, tax breaks, and improved recruiting and employee retention. Emphasize that donations are investments and that the work that donations make possible is a corporate giver’s return on the investment.
Should you simply ask for money?
When you approach potential corporate supporters, don’t just ask for a check. Some businesses may not be in the position to give generously at that moment. Or they may be looking for a different kind of relationship with your charity. Instead, brainstorm ways your nonprofit and the business can work together for mutual benefit. Here are some ideas:
As mentioned above, some companies encourage their employees to contribute volunteer time to a not-for-profit. Consider organizing a day of service with a company that enables the entire office to participate (and still get paid) while your nonprofit tackles a major project (such as repainting your facility). Or ask local employers to consider implementing a matching program that makes financial grants to the nonprofits where their employees contribute or volunteer.
You also might want to inquire about donated services. Most people are familiar with pro bono legal services, but other professional firms (accounting, PR, marketing, technology) may also be willing, even eager, to lend your nonprofit their expertise on a short- or long-term basis.
Consider asking for gifts-in-kind. Many manufacturers and retailers end up with excess inventory that could be donated — if only the businesses knew whom to give it to. Say you run a food bank. You could contact local food producers, grocers, restaurants and caterers to indicate your interest in their unsold, but perfectly edible, goods.
According to Giving USA, businesses donated nearly $20.8 billion to charity in 2017 (the last year of data available). This marks an increase of 5.7% (adjusted for inflation) over 2016. To join the groups enjoying greater corporate largesse, your organization needs to develop corporate relationships wisely and strategically.