Foundation & Corporate Giving



Helping Corporate Sponsors Do Good … Better

If a corporate sponsor offered your organization $10,000 or 100 donors, which would you choose? Because you’re a sharp development person, of course you’re going to choose the donors. After all, you’ve worked hard on your retention rates and lifetime value, so you know that chances are your hundred donors are going to be of greater value to your organization over time. Not only will they be more valuable in measurable monetary terms, but they’ll also wield an impact in many other meaningful ways, like volunteering, spreading the word about your organization, taking actions and so on. (For an excellent lifetime value case study, check out this article from Fundraising Success Magazine.)


So if we savvy development people recognize the special significance of donors over dollars, why is it that our corporate fundraising pitches always tend to be about sponsoring stuff? You know – things like sponsoring events, buying tables at dinners, giving our organization a percentage of profits. Or they’re about donating goods or services (supply the wine for our gala and we’ll give you an ad in our program!).

Don’t get me wrong – all of these ways that corporations partner with nonprofits are incredibly helpful and deeply appreciated. And for some businesses, the sponsorship model really is the best type of corporate philanthropy.

But it’s not the only type. And in a year when corporate philanthropy (which represents only about 5% of all charitable giving according to the latest statistics from Giving USA) is especially challenged, perhaps we should give even more thought to other forms of corporate philanthropy.

So instead of asking corporations for dollars, how about asking for donors … in the form of meaningful introductions to their customers?

For instance, let’s say you’re an environmental organization. You identify a corporation that seems like your donors’ type of company, like a hybrid car manufacturer, outdoors equipment retailer or sports watch maker. Conversely your donors seem like this corporation’s type of customers. So …

… if this company communicates with its customers via a newsletter, perhaps they could include recurring features on your organization with a click-through option to allow their customers to learn more about your organization and/or donate.

… better yet, what if this company incorporated a tie-in membership offer to your organization with a discount offer for one of its products? (“When you join So-And-So Organization with a membership gift of $20, we’ll give you a $20 discount on your purchase with us.”)

… or what if you could secure a portion of this corporation’s home page with a link, for example, to a video showcasing your work, how this organization is making it possible and how the customer can help too?

… and if this particular corporation receives monthly dues/payments from its customers (gyms, cellular providers, weight loss programs, etc.), imagine if they could offer their customers the option of adding a small monthly contribution to their regular payment in support of your organization?

What’s in it for the corporation? For one, helping a nonprofit organization (yours) that is helping advance the corporation’s social mission. It’s also great marketing for the corporation. Not only does your partnership articulate the organization’s decent and appealing social mission, but the innovation of the partnership itself says something very compelling about how innovative and sustainability-minded the corporation is.

Have any experiences with or ideas for how corporations can make meaningful introductions between their customers and your organization? Share them here! And for more insights on what’s on the minds of the corporations you should be talking to, check out onPhilanthropy’s recap of the 2009 CECP Corporate Philanthropy Summit.