There are many ways corporations give to good causes, and they fall into two broad categories: direct giving and corporate foundation grants.
Direct giving includes matching employee donations to select charities, running an automatic payroll deduction program for charitable giving, employee volunteer programs and much more.
However, the biggest trend in corporate giving today is the multiplicity of ways that businesses find to support charitable causes. Much of this has been driven by a young workforce that takes corporate social responsibility (CSR) very seriously.
Cone Communications, a firm that helps companies with CSR, has found that 88 percent of Millennials want their employers to help them engage with their communities. Cone has also found that 94 percent of Generation Z expect companies to be socially responsible.
Also, 63 percent of consumers now want companies to take responsibility for social and environmental change in an era where the government is deregulating these issues.
Given all of these changes in the business landscape, it's difficult to put corporate giving into neat boxes.
Corporate Foundation Grants
However, many companies, especially large ones, set up corporate foundations to channel grants to charities. They must follow the rules for charitable foundations. They have endowments but also receive money from the parent company to fund their grants.
Corporate foundation grants provide a way for a particular charity to apply for money to fund their projects and should be considered as part of the income pie for nonprofits.
Corporate foundations may be more generous when the economy is good, and the parent company has more profits to share. But, even in bad economic times, these foundations may be driven to keep up their grant programs because of the societal CSR pressure companies face.
For instance, GivingUSA found that corporate giving was up in 2017 by eight percent. Although corporate giving represented only five percent of total charitable giving, that still totals almost $21 billion.
Is Applying for a Corporate Foundation Grant the Same as With Other Foundations?
Often corporate foundations prefer a grant request in the form of a letter, rather than an elaborate proposal.
Check with the foundation you are considering to see what their submission preferences are. If they prefer a letter request, you can follow the guidelines for a letter of inquiry or LOI.
To seek funds from a corporate foundation, it is wise to be brief. In the Nonprofit Kit for Dummies, authors Stan Hutton and Frances Phillips suggest that you write a two-page proposal letter that covers these eight points:
- Ask for a specific contribution at the beginning of the letter. Mention whether or not your nonprofit has had experience with the funder before.
- Describe briefly the need or the problem you wish to address with the funder's contribution.
- Explain what your nonprofit will do should the grant be given.
- Inform the funder about your organization, including its strengths and accomplishments.
- Explain the budget for the project you propose. Make this short. If it runs more than a half-page, make it an attachment.
- Describe how you will finance your project in the future.
- Describe how your nonprofit will acknowledge the funder's gift publicly, providing visibility to the corporation.
- Close with a compelling statement that summarizes what you are requesting and what the results will be.
Keep in mind that corporations, although altruistic, use their charitable giving to build their reputations for corporate social responsibility. So they will be more receptive to your proposal if you include ways to publicize the corporation's involvement.
In the past, corporate foundations were not likely to fund long-term projects. Short commitments were more appealing so that more grants could be spread around.
Today, however, many companies have become interested in solving big social problems. To do that they sometimes seek out charitable partners who work on a particular issue.
Some corporations forge long-term relationships with specific charities, such as the partnership between Kmart and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
On the other hand, community giving is very popular with companies. In the Chronicle survey, thirty-one companies gave to local community projects.
Indeed, community giving is the most popular category for corporate giving, Many businesses have a presence in local communities, probably in yours. Working with that division, store, or affiliate could make a perfect entry point.
Many companies also provide "gifts-in-kind." These are goods and services. For instance, pharmaceuticals lead the way in this area of giving. But many businesses have items that they would be happy to share. Just think of diaper banks and food pantries. They have very reliable partners in the business community.
Corporate foundation giving is definitely on the upswing as companies become more interested in showing the public that they are socially responsible. It might be an excellent time for any nonprofit to include corporate foundations in their fundraising plans.
Don't depend, however, just on a letter. Getting to know someone at the foundation or corporation first will likely improve your success rate. That relationship could start with a simple phone call or through a contact one of your board members has. Networking first and then asking makes a powerful combination.