How to Attract More Corporate Support For Your Nonprofit

Earlier in August, iWave hosted a webinar by Claire Kerr of Fronstream called Serious Business: Digital Strategies to Boost Corporate Support.  In the spirit of that webinar, here are some organizational and fundraising intelligence strategies you can use to attract more financial help from corporations.  (And stay tuned — next time, we’ll discuss ways to identify potential donors who work at those companies.)

The Opportunity

At first glance, you might think a for-profit company wouldn’t be interested in donating to a non-profit organization.  However, many private and public companies take pride in supporting all kinds of education, healthcare, and nonprofit organizations.  Some companies even establish their own foundations to help the local, national, or international community.

In the recent Frontstream webinar, we learned that corporations consistently look for three themes in a charitable partnership:

  • Alignment with company mission/values
  • Opportunity for unique employee experiences
  • Your (the nonprofit’s) ability to show measurable results

The Challenge(s)

Just as in business, competition is a major challenge in nonprofit fundraising.  Due to a variety of factors, the need for philanthropy is growing.  But even as the demand for donors increases, the supply of donors remains about the same.  Companies are routinely solicited for donations from a wide range of nonprofits.  Standing out against “the other guys” is more important than ever.  But how do you do that?

You can identify a linkage between your organization’s cause and the company’s values, to start.  According to Claire, many companies turned down requests because there was no connection between the company’s mission and the organization’s cause.  Would a healthcare supply company support a local historic theatre?  Maybe, but companies are more likely to support causes directly related to their scope of business.

Another challenge facing fundraisers is a lack of contact information.  Who should you contact to even discuss donation opportunities?  That’s where fundraising intelligence platforms like iWave come into the picture (more on that later).

How to Find Philanthropic Companies

One of the best places to find corporate sponsors is iWave’s VeriGift database.  You can toggle the “Company” tab and type in any name you want.  Let’s try “Ford Motor Company.”

Within seconds, VeriGift pulls back all charitable donation results (about 2300 of them) related to the Ford Motor Company.  Several are from 2018 and 2017, so let’s start there first.  Some of the gifts are unspecified, while others range from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand.  There is also a wide range of causes supported, from women’s groups to food banks to education funds.

If you can’t find the company you’re looking for, remember that some corporations establish charitable arms that may have different names.  Try searching for records from corporate foundations like Kellogg’s Corporate Citizenship Fund, Dow Chemical Company Fund, the Maytag Corporation Foundation, and many more.

Affinity, Affinity, Affinity

We’ve written a lot about affinity on the iWave Blog.  The modern philanthropist donates to causes she cares about.  A corporation is no different.

Consider the opportunities and risks involved with corporate sponsorship.  Of course, a company’s donation helps the recipient organization do good work in the community.  This has a positive effect on the donating company’s brand.  The company may also experience a boost in morale because employees see the company is giving back to the community instead of simply looking to increase profits.  Corporate sponsorship may open more doors to individual giving from corporate directors, officers, and employees (more on that in next week’s post).

But now let’s consider the risks of sponsorship gone awry.  If a company’s donation is mismanaged by the recipient organization, this can reflect poorly on the company’s brand.  Alternatively, choosing the “wrong” recipient (meaning, one that does not reflect the company’s mission and values) could have a similar negative effect.  And since the company is often donating cash that would otherwise go toward growing the company itself, corporate sponsorship is serious business indeed.

You can learn about a company’s affinity by looking at their donations history.  What organizations and types of organizations do they support?  If you identify any trends, cross-reference them with information on the company’s website.  The company (or their foundation arm) may clearly outline the causes they support, eligibility guidelines, deadlines, etc.  Start with the VeriGift database to point you in the right direction.

Identifying the “Who” of Corporate Sponsorship

Okay, so you’ve identified a few companies who might be willing to donate to your organization.  But who is the best person to contact?

We learned in the Frontstream webinar that the “who” of corporate sponsorship often depends on the size of the company.  For some companies, the main point of contact could be the CEO.  At others, it’s the human resources manager.  For some of the larger Fortune 1000 companies, there is often a corporate social responsibility manager or team that handles donation requests.

All that is great to know, but we still don’t know who we can contact.  The best place to go is one of iWave’s corporate datasets: Thomson Reuters, Dun and Bradstreet, and DatabaseUSA.  You could also dive into biographic and relationship datasets like ZoomInfo and Relationship Science.

With these datasets, you can search for companies and view their current employee names, job titles, and locate some contact information.  Cross-reference this information with the company’s website or LinkedIn profiles.  You might gain additional insight into Jane’s sponsorship experience and what the company looks for in prospective sponsorship partners.

Start Today

One of the biggest findings from Claire’s webinar was that most researchers and fundraisers wish they had started developing corporate relationships sooner.  It can be tough and time-consuming to solicit corporate sponsors, especially when there is so much focus on individual donors these days.  But when you consider the potential payoff (not just for this year, but for many years to come), it’s well worth your time to start researching today.  And don’t worry — iWave’s data and features will allow you to find what you need in a fraction of the time!

Tune in next week when we explore fundraising opportunities relating to corporate employees and officers.


About the author: Ryan McCarvill is iWave’s Content Manager.  He joined the iWave team in 2016. Ryan enjoys meeting and learning from nonprofit professionals, researching trends in the nonprofit community, and offering strategies for development teams to use iWave’s solutions to meet and exceed their fundraising goals.    

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