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  • Writer's pictureDanielle M. Locke

Rethinking Corporate Sponsorships

My Best Tips to Maximize Corporate Giving for Your Nonprofit

News flash, fundraising friends! You are missing out on significant dollars when it comes to receiving support from our peers in the “for-profit” world. In my experience, there are at least seven different methods by which corporations share profits and goodwill with the social sector. Want to know how to access more money through corporate philanthropy? This article has all the information you need to get started to create a very profitable corporate fundraising strategy.

Now is the time.

Corporate budgets are typically set in October, so we need to get started now to access the biggest gifts for next year. Your goal is to make sure your organization is a line item in their 2022 budget.

The most well-known corporate support is typically event sponsorships. We’ve all placed our share of logos on the event website and t-shirts, and maybe even signed up as a table sponsor or keynote sponsor...

But there are so many more exciting options when it comes to corporate philanthropy! Seriously. My nonprofit coaching clients are always amazed when I tell them how many corporate giving options exist that most nonprofits don’t even know about. Are you ready? I am about to pull back the curtain and share with you some very valuable insider information!

7 Different Types of Corporate Support:

1. Corporate Sponsorship

2. Program Partnership

3. Corporate Foundation grants

4. Financial Donations

5. In-kind Donations

6. Employee-led Initiatives

7. Employee Volunteerism

Now that you know there are so many untapped opportunities for corporations to support your work, the question becomes how do you get in on the action? One common myth is that corporations only give to big organizations. I can confidently say that any organization can access these dollars. But how?

All you need to do is stay focused on building relationships with decision-makers and using your unique assets to provide them with value – trust me, you have more to offer than you think!

Corporate Sponsorship

Sponsorships are paid for with marketing dollars. These dollars are about building awareness, improving a company’s reputation by aligning with your organization, and driving new business. Sponsors expect certain marketing opportunities in exchange for their contribution; these might include logo placement, an opportunity to speak at your event, or a promotional email to your audience.

Start by getting to know your corporate prospects: What are their products/services? Who is the audience they are trying to reach? How can your organization help them accomplish their business goals?

Next, develop sponsorship packages that leverage your strengths to meet their needs. Of course, keep in mind the integrity of your mission and the health/safety of your audience. For example, Company XYZ is looking to reach families with small children. Your audience is mainly families with small children. You could offer to send a special email blast or feature XYZ at your Walk/Run.

Always focus on the Win-Win approach. You need funding. They need help that you can offer. It’s a win-win!

Program Partnership

Partnership is about funding your mission-delivery. Many corporations these days are less interested in seats at your chicken dinner and more interested in having an impact on their community to create goodwill for their brand.

Partnership is also about bragging rights. And in some cases, like with very competitive banks and hospital systems, it’s also about exclusivity. Partnership is often an alignment between the corporation’s services and your mission.

For example, when I consulted with the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, we worked with a local bank to fund their Financial Literacy training programs. They could then promote their good deeds to their shareholders, customers, and the community!

Corporate Foundation Grants

Corporate Foundations are created specifically for charitable (and tax) purposes, usually based on a percentage of the company’s profits. Like other foundations, these organizations will likely have funding priorities, a formal application process, and a submission schedule. Also, like other foundations, they will require a post-grant report and a measure of impact.

The funding priority does not always align with their services. For example, PNC Foundation’s signature funding program is PNC Grow Up Great®, which is focused on early childhood education while their business is focused on mortgages and asset management.

Depending on the size of the corporate foundation, they might not have a dedicated staff member managing grants. Often, the person responsible for grant-making works in Community Relations, Human Resources, or an Executive Assistant role within the company.

Please note: Foundations cannot receive benefits of any kind including event tickets and gifts like tote bags. These are grant dollars and can only be used for charitable purposes.

Financial Donations

Did you know that most C-suite Executives (CEO, CFO), and sometimes directors and managers, have access to their own pool of discretionary dollars? These donations can range between $500 and $5,000. To access these dollars, establish a relationship with a high-level executive who can request the dollars. These dollars are usually unrestricted donations that can be used to fund your program(s), support an event, purchase supplies, etc.

In-Kind Donations

Instead of (or in addition to) financial donations, many corporations will make generous contributions of goods or services. This can include soda or water for your event, office equipment, books, etc.

Think creatively about where you spend operating money! You can often get some of these services donated, including printing, advertising, legal advice, cleaning services, landscaping, etc. Also, sometimes corporations loan their executives for specific nonprofits projects like strategic, financial, or marketing planning; mergers; or new service development.

Employee-Led Initiatives

Corporations are looking for ways to further engage employees with their company and engage with the community as a means of retaining employees. This is especially true in a post-pandemic workplace. Many larger corporations have employee-led initiatives like giving circles, grant counsel, employee volunteerism, among others. This is a great way for you to gain entry to a corporation with whom you do not yet have a relationship!

As an example, I was first introduced to Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems through their Employee Giving Circle. The corporation designates a certain amount of money each year for the employee group to grant. Each quarter, a group of employees review letters of request from nonprofits and allocate thousands of dollars to fund local programming.

Employee Volunteerism

“Done in a Day” projects are popular with corporations, simply for ease of scheduling and employee communication. You might look within your organization for projects that would require 10-20 volunteers and could be done in 4-8 hours.

Examples of this include painting, landscape clean-up, or assembling fences or beds. These types of projects are typically coordinated through the Human Resources Department.

Volunteer work can also be arranged in shifts so that employees and anyone else in the community can come in for. An example of this is at foodbanks, where you can stop in during designated hours to unpack, sort, and repack dry goods for distribution.

You can also request other types of volunteers such as Board or committee members, delivery drivers, data entry support, etc.

First You Have to Get Your Foot In The Door

Relationships develop over time. The more people you know who work within corporations, especially high-level employees, the more opportunities you will have to develop mutually beneficial relationships.

Start small and try to ensure that all interactions are successful and rewarding for your new corporate friends! This is the key to developing ongoing relationships.

And don’t be afraid to ask for introductions! After successfully working with the Bendix Employee Giving Circle, I asked our contact who oversees their event sponsorship dollars and their corporate foundation. She was happy to provide an email introduction. Also, a human resource staffer was on the Giving Circle, and we created some exciting employee volunteer experiences together.

What other ways have you partnered with corporations? What other ways have corporations supported your mission? Spend some time thinking about all the big and little ways your organization already connects with corporations. Then consider which relationships have the potential to take things to the next level!

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