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Get Corporate Donations in Four Easy Steps

For most nonprofits, corporate donations are only a small piece of the puzzle, accounting for just five percent of all U.S. donations in 2011. However, the benefits of corporate donors extend beyond their monetary contributions. They give your organization a publicity boost, which can spark an increase in donations from individuals and other companies.

If you are a fundraiser seeking corporate donations, here are four steps you can follow to align your nonprofit with a company’s brand, goals and mission and form an enduring alliance:

1. Know the Company’s Background

Corporations tend to donate to organizations whose goals intersect with their own. Educate yourself on the company’s background, including its mission, key achievements, future plans and recent history. An oil company implicated in a spill, for example, might donate to a nonprofit that advocates clean water in an effort to compensate for the destruction.

Partnerships between corporations and nonprofits arise because they share a common cause. Looking at the company’s donation history can help show you whether your nonprofit is a good match in terms of organization type, amounts given and employee participation levels. Savvy nonprofits can collect and organize this prior donation history within a fundraising platform then use this information to personalize their outreach in a future fundraising campaign.

2. Focus on Employees

You may have heard the phrase “employee focus”: it means corporate donations driven by the needs or interests of employees. Increasingly, companies are realizing that to attract and retain top talent, they need to be giving back in a meaningful way. This may mean donating to an organization where employees already volunteer, giving to a cause common among the employee population or organizing an off-site charitable event.

Habitat for Humanity St. Louis’ CEO, Kimberly McKinney, emphasizes how participating in a volunteer event with tangible results, such as building a house, can be a strong team-building activity for staff. This also encourages cross-departmental interaction and breaks down barriers between managers and employees, she adds.

The Home Depot Foundation, says Southern Division field manager Joe Wimberley, decided to focus on helping elderly and disabled veterans when it learned that more than 35,000 Home Depot employees were, in fact, veterans. As a result, he says, employees have taken a personal interest in the Foundation’s work to renovate veterans’ homes, and team unity has been strengthened.

3. Keep it Local

Corporations, just like individuals, are more likely to give to local organizations. A study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that, between 2000 and 2011, 60 percent of donations over $1 million went to organizations local to the donor’s geographic region.

Customers and employees alike want to help their community, says Amanda Ponzar, Communications Director for United Way Worldwide. Donating to local organizations shows customers that the corporation cares about the same issues they do. And when employees volunteer, special relationships are fostered between the company and the nonprofit: the company offers financial support and bodies for volunteer projects, and the nonprofit provides a positive image for the corporation, representation on the grassroots level of the local community and an outlet through which employees can give back.

4. Aim for Ongoing Collaboration

While every little bit helps, most organizations seek lasting partnerships with corporations over one-off donations. As a fundraiser, says Ponzar, you must understand the company’s long-term goals: not just for itself, but for the community, the country and even the world. Her organization pursues partnerships of mutual interest that engage employees and target the broader causes of both organizations.

For example, United Way has a partnership with Wells Fargo that aims to educate people about financial matters. This serves as a bridge between Wells Fargo’s goal of attracting more banking customers and United Way’s goal of propagating financially stable individuals and families. These kinds of partnerships allow the company and the nonprofit to work together, while utilizing the core strength of each.

By following these four tips, you, too, can increase corporate donations to your nonprofit organization and form partnerships that are long-lasting and mutually beneficial.

Research for the original report performed by Wes Eichenwald.

Holly ReganThe preceding is a guest post by Holly Regan, Managing Editor at Software Advice, where she blogs on a variety of topics related to small business and software products. Born and raised in Seattle, she has a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and Political Science from the University of Washington. She moved to Austin, Texas in 2009, and is here to stay. 

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice