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Nonprofit Strategies

Corporate philanthropy: The key to better fundraising campaigns

Learn the benefits of corporate philanthropy for companies and fundraisers, the different ways companies give, and examples to inspire you. We’ve also included a guide with steps to get funded.

Rachel Mills
December 29, 2023
February 18, 2021
Nerd Mr Butter

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Big corporations often have healthy bank balances and can be a surprisingly effective source of funding or in-kind donations for nonprofits. Corporate giving is a valuable way to support your mission with cash, materials, promotion, and volunteers.

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. 

Discover what corporate philanthropy is, understand the benefits, and see how other nonprofits are making it work for them. 

What is corporate philanthropy?

Corporate philanthropy is when companies take action to make a positive impact on the community—local or global. It’s also known as corporate giving.

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 relatively 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. American companies are looking to philanthropic initiatives as a way to make a positive difference in the world.

Types of corporate philanthropy

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.

Here are just some of the ways corporate giving programs can make a difference: 

  • Cash donations 💲 The most common type of giving, cash donations consist of lump sums of a specific amount of money, ongoing payments, and expense reimbursements.
  • In-kind donations 🛍️ In lieu of cash, companies may provide non-monetary donations such as products or professional services and expertise.
  • Corporate sponsorships 💝 Companies give their support by paying to be associated with events, campaigns, and more.
  • Matching gift programs 🎁 Corporations match charitable donations for a limited time or up to a certain dollar amount.
  • Employee programs 🎉 These programs look different at every company, but can include paid volunteer days and automatic payroll deductions for donations.
  • Volunteer grants 💳 Employers offer grants to the organizations that their employees volunteer for.
  • Community grants 🏗️ Companies award financial support to local nonprofits or community-based projects.
  • Corporate foundations 🏢 These are private foundations or public charities 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 for a fundraising event or become a long-term partner of your nonprofit organization. It all depends on what you ask for and what the company is willing to give. 

The benefits of corporate philanthropy initiatives for companies and nonprofits

Corporate philanthropy has obvious benefits for nonprofits. You receive support in some way, whether that’s financial, practical, or otherwise. The benefits for companies can be huge though, too.

Benefits for companies

Achieving a healthy bottom line and satisfying stakeholders is always a goal for business owners, whether they’re a major corporation or a local store. Giving back to the community means getting a lot back in different ways.

Strategic philanthropy opens the door to benefits like:

  • Better brand recognition and goodwill 😃 Paying it forward gives 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 talented employees 💪  According to a survey by Fidelity Charitable, 86% of employees consider it important to work for a company with aligning values. A visible commitment to corporate social responsibility helps attract the right talent.
  • Higher levels of employee engagement 📈 An investment in corporate philanthropy doesn’t just help attract talented people, it makes it more likely they’ll stay engaged too. 
  • More business opportunities 💰 On average, more than 50% of people are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies. Exposure to new audiences and businesses can lead to increased sales.
  • Ability to influence social change 🌎 Business owners can experience deep, personal satisfaction from making a tangible difference in an important cause. 

Benefits for nonprofits

The benefits of corporate philanthropy for nonprofits and other fundraisers seem more obvious, but they’re still worth highlighting.

Thanks to the generosity of corporate sponsors, nonprofits can enjoy benefits like:

  • Additional financial support 💲 Corporate sponsors can give generous donations, or you can attract lots of smaller donations from a wide range of local businesses.
  • Greater awareness of your campaign 🌎 One high-profile sponsor, or a long list of them, can attract media attention and social media interest, getting more eyes on your fundraising page and more donations and volunteers flowing in. 
  • Higher levels of community trust 🤝 Being affiliated with a reputable business can add legitimacy and build trust in your campaign or mission.
  • Access to a base of volunteers 📣 Tap into a large network of skilled employees and company partners to achieve even more volunteer hours and support.
  • Increased donations from other sources 💰 The majority of donors say they’re more likely to donate if they know a company will match it. And one-third will provide a larger gift to a nonprofit if it’s matched by their employer.
  • Ability to reach fundraising goals faster 🏃 Philanthropic efforts from companies give organizers the power to accomplish their fundraising goals sooner, often in exchange for something as simple as a mention on their website or event signage.

Examples of corporate philanthropy in action

The concept of corporate giving sounds ideal, but what does it look like in reality? Check out these examples where charitable organizations and personal fundraisers beat their financial goals with help from corporate partners.

1. Faces of Hope

🏆 Raised: $141,250

🤝 Type of corporate philanthropy: Sponsorship, prize donations

Through its Faces of Hope 2023 campaign, Cancer Services of Gaston County raised more than $140,000 through an elegant evening celebration. The team managed this with a mix of corporate giving methods—including corporate sponsorships and prize donations.

2. Step Up for Recovery

🏆 Raised: $80,413

🤝 Type of corporate philanthropy: Sponsorship

After smashing the fundraising goal for their virtual step-up event in 2020, PEER Services did it again through their 2023 Step Up for Recovery campaign. The team, with the help of more than corporate sponsors, raised more than $80,000 to prevent and treat substance abuse in Illinois.

3. Fine & Rare Wine Dinner

🏆 Raised: $98,785

🤝 Type of corporate philanthropy: In-kind donation, event partnership

The Roots Fund, a nonprofit created to empower BIPOC in the wine industry, knows exactly how to raise funds in a fun and meaningful way. The team regularly hosts events, dinner parties, and auctions to raise money—including this unique dinner with curated chefs that raised over $98,000.

4. L-CMD Research Foundation Gene Therapy Project

🏆 Raised: $1,798,290

🤝 Type of corporate philanthropy: Cash donations

Hannah created the L-CMD Research Foundation to fund a gene therapy project close to her heart and has raised more than $1.7M so far. As part of this fundraising drive, Hannah spoke to companies they’d worked with recently on their new home—from the construction team to the company they bought blinds from. Being proactive and asking for donations resulted in $5,000 from their home builders as their very first contribution.

How to get started with corporate giving

We’ve seen how corporate philanthropy can make a massive difference in fundraising campaigns. If you’re interested in prioritizing corporate giving strategies this year, here’s how to get started.

1. Use your relationships to find sponsors 👋

The easiest way to secure your first few corporate sponsors is by talking to your network. Speak to the people close to you about your charitable cause, and ask them directly if they can get involved and offer support.

Friends, family members, advisors, and your board of directors are all likely to know at least someone who can support your mission. Approach business owners, local community leaders, and any contacts you have at larger organizations to become a nonprofit partner. 

Decide what you want to ask for, then submit a sponsorship proposal. The worst they can do is politely decline. 

2. Promote matching gifts 🎁

A popular way to raise more funds is with matching gift programs. For eligible donors, their employers will match their charitable contributions up to a certain amount. It’s like an extra bonus donation on top of what you already received.

As you seek out new corporate partners for philanthropic activities, see if they’re interested in establishing a matching gift program. You can also get involved with companies that offer donation matching. These corporations already have programs set up for their employees to use.

⭐ Pro tip: Encourage your donors to take advantage of matching gifts by highlighting the option on your giving forms. Givebutter makes this easy with our built-in donation matching software and seamless Double the Donation integration.

3. Join existing corporate philanthropy programs 💰

Companies that offer workplace giving programs and similar corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are likely to offer charitable support in other ways. It’s worth exploring existing corporate philanthropy programs to see if your nonprofit is eligible.

Companies like State Farm and Whole Foods have charitable giving programs that offer financial contributions, while other organizations focus on volunteer support and in-kind donations. Explore our guide to the top corporate sponsors and build a list of who to reach out to with a donation request.

Maximize your donations with corporate philanthropy

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 makes a big difference to groups and causes that need them. These partnerships make social change a much more achievable reality.

Corporate giving may rely on companies to do their part, but as nonprofit leaders, our role is to help make the process feel easy. 

Sign up for a free Givebutter account to simplify the route to corporate philanthropy and introduce new ways businesses can support your charitable cause—and discover 100+ more ways to raise funds and engage donors

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