Corporate philanthropy: The key to better fundraising campaigns

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Rachel MillsWhite arrow icon

Corporate philanthropy: The key to better fundraising campaigns

Nonprofit organizations and other frequent fundraisers are always on the hunt for new funding sources. Of course, individual donors do an amazing job of answering the call year after year. But there’s another fundraising source that you don’t want to miss out on, and that’s corporate philanthropy. 

Corporate philanthropy is when companies take action to make a positive impact on the community, local or global.

Most often, they donate money and award grants. Companies can also encourage their employees to volunteer, offer pro bono services, match donations, sponsor fundraising events, and much more.

Even if corporate philanthropy is new as a fundraising tool, odds are that you’ve seen it in action. Think about PepsiCo donating $60 million in funds for healthcare workers and at-risk communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, or Walmart offering a 3:1 donation match for employees. 

Before you can persuade companies to open up their wallets or unleash their volunteer forces for your cause, you’ll need to understand corporate philanthropy from their point of view. 

Read on to learn the benefits of corporate philanthropy for companies and fundraisers, the different ways companies give, and examples to inspire you.

What’s in it for companies?

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Achieving a healthy bottom line and satisfying stakeholders is always top of mind for business owners, whether they run a global commerce giant or a mom-and-pop shop. However, giving back to the community means getting a lot back in different ways. Strategic philanthropy opens the door to benefits like: 

  • 😃 Achieving better brand recognition and goodwill: Paying it forward givs companies an organic way to improve their public image and stand out from other local businesses or competitor brands, all while making a social impact.
  • 💪 Attracting, hiring, and retaining the next generation of talent: Of employees aged 18 to 36, three in four expect their employer to take a stand on important issues affecting the country. 
  • 📈  Increasing employee engagement: When companies offer philanthropic opportunities and show interest in causes that employees care about, studies show that employees are happier and more productive. 
  • 💰 Creating business opportunities: On average, 55% of people are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies. Exposure to new audiences and businesses can lead to increased sales. For instance, a restaurant that donates meals to a fundraising event may see a boost in catering orders. 
  • 🌎 Affecting social change: Business owners can experience deep, personal satisfaction from making a difference on an issue that’s near and dear to them, whether they engage with an individual, local nonprofit, or international charitable organization. 

What’s in it for nonprofits and other fundraisers?

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The benefits of corporate philanthropy for nonprofits and other fundraisers may seem obvious. Mainly, corporate support gives organizers the power to reach their fundraising goals faster, often in exchange for something as simple as a mention on their website or event signage. 

While financial support is one of the biggest perks to a corporate team-up, many nonprofits depend on volunteers and free or low-cost services or tools, like tax guidance or donor management software, to stay afloat. So, another major benefit to corporate philanthropy programs is the ability to tap into a large network of skilled employees and company partners. 

Being affiliated with a reputable business can also add legitimacy and build trust in your campaign or mission.

This is particularly true in local communities where small businesses are well-known and woven into everyday life. 

In many cases, one high-profile sponsor or a long list of sponsors can attract media attention, getting more eyes on your fundraising page and more donations and volunteers flowing in. Companies typically get their marketing and public relations arms working to spread the word about their efforts, too. 

But here’s something you may not know: The majority of donors say they’re more likely to donate if they know a company will match their gift. And one-third of donors will provide a larger gift to a nonprofit if they know it’ll be matched by their employer. In other words, donors give more often and give higher amounts when they know there’s a company in your corner.

The different types of corporate philanthropy

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Corporate philanthropy is much more than getting a check in the mail or seeing funds appear in your bank account. There’s a wide range of tools that large corporations and small businesses can use to help you maximize your fundraising efforts. Corporate giving programs may offer financial support, volunteerism, and free products or services to drive your mission forward. Here’s a snapshot: 

  • Making cash donations, like lump sums, ongoing payments, and expense reimbursements
  • Providing in-kind donations, like products, professional services and expertise, and cash equivalents (bonds, stocks, assets, etc.)
  • Committing to corporate sponsorships, where companies pay to be associated with events, campaigns, and more
  • Offering matching gift programs, where companies match charitable donations for a limited time or up to a certain dollar amount
  • Launching employee programs, like paid volunteer days, corporate matching gift programs, and automatic payroll deductions for donations 
  • Starting volunteer grant programs, where employers offer grants to organizations that their employees volunteer for 
  • Starting community grant programs, where companies award cash, gift cards, and more to select organizations
  • Establishing a corporate foundation, like a private foundation or public charity that’s managed by representatives or partners of the company

Each company’s level of involvement and commitment will vary. They may agree to a one-time raffle prize donation or make sustained efforts to become a pillar of the community by partnering with your organization. It all depends on what you ask for and what the company is willing to give. Check out our guide to getting donations from companies for steps to write a strong donation request. 

3 real-world examples of corporate philanthropy

Take a look at these charitable organizations and personal fundraisers who beat their fundraising goals with help from a corporate sponsor or partner.

1. NBCC's 32nd Annual Fall Benefit

corporate philanthropy: Two female toddlers smiling

Raised: $214,560

Type of corporate philanthropy: Donation matching

The North Bay Children’s Center, a childcare nonprofit providing education and safety net services for disadvantaged children and their families, knocked it out of the park with their fall benefit thanks to a generous donation match. Together, two of their sponsoring businesses matched $70,000 in contributions from donors.

2. Virtual Step Up for Recovery 2020 

corporate philanthropy: Smiling group of women in front of event photos

Raised: $54,861 

Type of corporate philanthropy: Sponsorship

PEER Services, which aims to prevent and treat substance abuse in Illinois, had to move fast to convert their “Step Up for Recovery” annual stair climb to a virtual fundraising event when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. They rallied 27 corporate sponsors to support their efforts, as well as teams of eager peer fundraisers, to clear their goal by $4,000. 

3. JLWDC Home for the Holidays Raffle

corporate philanthropy: JLWDC Home for the Holidays Raffle ticket

Raised: $20,380

Type of corporate philanthropy: In-kind donation

To further their mission of women’s development and volunteerism, the Junior League of Washington (JLW) raised thousands of dollars with an exciting holiday raffle. They grabbed their donors’ attention with fun raffle prizes, including a Peloton bike and $1,000 Visa gift card, donated by their company sponsors.

Corporate philanthropy and you

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Ultimately, corporate philanthropy is mutually beneficial.

Companies earn goodwill for their contributions and invest in the communities that make their businesses thrive. Their wealth of resources — donations, volunteers, services, and more — go to groups and causes that need them. These partnerships make social change a much more achievable reality. 

Here’s some more good news: Corporate philanthropy is just one form of corporate social responsibility that companies engage in. Check out our guide to corporate social responsibility (CSR) to discover the other ways that companies fund missions like yours.

Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.