Secure a Corporate Sponsor


These best practices could bolster your chances

Corporate giving has experienced solid growth in the last few years, according to recent editions of “Giving USA,” an annual report on philanthropy from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue. Even with the economic uncertainty associated with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many corporations will be digging into their pockets for charities this year and beyond. In the current environment, competition is likely to be tougher than ever.

Here are some suggestions and best practices for pursuing corporate dollars.

Target companies associated with your mission

Unless you have unlimited development resources, you’re 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 — and they often choose a single theme or focus. For example, pharmaceutical giant Merck works with charities fighting to reduce maternal mortality around the world.

Organizations that enable a corporate donor’s employees to get involved often have an advantage over nonprofits that don’t. If the charity is a food bank, for example, it might target a company with a volunteering program and enlist its employees to stock its shelves.

Companies also may be receptive to charities whose mission matches that of key executives’ personal interests. For instance, a company might donate to and raise money for a cancer charity if the child of a company executive suffers from a rare form of the disease.

Show off your fiscal responsibility

It’s not enough, however, for your nonprofit to match the general interests of a company or its CEO. You also need to make a clear, compelling case that their corporate dollars will be well spent. Companies want to align themselves with fiscally responsible organizations that can prove they get results. They’re likely to ask such questions 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 vs. administration and other costs? What other forms of financial support do you receive?

Although most businesses understand the PR value of donating to or partnering with a charity, it doesn’t hurt to remind them of the benefits — for instance, community goodwill, increased name recognition, tax breaks and improved recruiting. Emphasize that donations are investments and that the work that donations make possible is a corporate giver’s return on the investment.

Accept support beyond dollars

When you approach potential corporate supporters, don’t just ask for a check. Some businesses may not be in the position to give generously at this moment. Or they may be looking for a different kind of relationship with your charity. Instead, brainstorm ways your nonprofit and the business can work together for mutual benefit.

As mentioned earlier, some companies encourage their employees to contribute volunteer time to a nonprofit. Consider organizing a day of service with a company that enables the entire office to participate (and still get paid) while your nonprofit tackles a major project (such as repainting your facility). Or ask local employers to consider implementing a matching program that makes financial grants to the nonprofits where their employees contribute or volunteer.

You also might want to inquire about donated services. Most people are familiar with pro bono legal services, but other professional firms (accounting, PR, marketing, technology) also may be willing, even eager, to lend your nonprofit their expertise on a short- or long-term basis.

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 nonprofit clothing shop aimed at lower-income women re-entering the workforce. You could contact women’s retail clothing stores to indicate your interest in unsold items from last season or pieces of clothing missing a button or two.

Will your approach be strategic?

Competition for corporate dollars is often stiff and likely may increase in the months ahead. Organizations with thoughtful strategies for securing corporate backing have the best chance at succeeding.