When the economy is good, corporations tend to be more generous with their donations to not-for-profit organizations, but competition can be tough and companies do not give away dollars hastily. Not-for-profits that make detailed, compelling 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 are 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. They also often choose a single theme or focus. For example, pharmaceutical giant, Merck, works with charities striving to reduce maternal mortality around the world. Additionally, as part of its commitment to boost economic activity, JP Morgan Chase pledged $100 million to help revitalize the city of Detroit. This assistance included deploying its “service corps” of employees to lend a hand to local not-for-profits.
Organizations that enable a corporate donor’s employees to get involved often have an advantage. For example, 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 participating in the repacking of fresh produce for distribution to the community.
Companies may also be receptive to charities whose mission matches that of key executives’ personal interests.
What will you need to prove?
However, it is not enough for not-for-profits to match the general interests of a company. Organizations also need to make a clear, compelling case on how corporate dollars will be spent. Companies want to align themselves with fiscally-responsible organizations that can prove they get results.
Additionally, it is important to to be prepared for potential questions from companies, such 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, administration and other costs? What other forms of financial support do you receive?
Although most businesses understand the public relations value of donating to or partnering with a charity, it does not hurt to remind them of the benefits, such as community goodwill, increased name recognition, tax breaks, and improved recruiting and employee retention. Emphasize that donations are investments and lead to greater return on investments.
Should you simply ask for money?
An organization should not just ask for a check. Some businesses may not be in the position to give generously at that moment, but they may be looking for a different kind of relationship with your charity. Instead, brainstorm ways that your not-for-profit and the business can work together for mutual benefit.
As mentioned above, some companies encourage their employees to volunteer for 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 not-for-profit tackles a major project. Or, ask local employers to consider implementing a matching program that makes financial grants to the not-for-profits where their employees contribute or volunteer.
Organizations also might want to inquire about donated services. Most people are familiar with pro bono legal services, but other professional firms (accounting, public relations, marketing, technology) may also be willing to lend your not-for-profit their expertise.
Not-for-profits should also 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 altruism, your organization needs to develop corporate relationships wisely and strategically.