Corporate philanthropy seems like the ultimate source of funding for a nonprofit; if a nonprofit can strike a corporate sponsorship deal, then it can rest easy. But for many nonprofits, corporate philanthropy is a difficult realm to break into, and it seems like large corporate support is reserved for a select few national charities.
However, because corporate philanthropy is not fully understood, huge sums of money are left undonated to worthy nonprofits each year.
The fact is, corporate philanthropy isn’t limited to large corporations donating massive amounts of money to a few lucky nonprofits. And, it’s not limited only to large corporations. Corporate philanthropy involves a business of any size striking a meaningful partnership with a nonprofit, in which the business uses numerous creative programs to donate dollars, skills, and volunteers to the organization.
What nonprofits commonly misunderstand is that, no matter how large or small their organizations are, they, too, can benefit from corporate philanthropy, and it’s worth the diligence and time put in to forming a strong partnership.
Take a look at these often-overlooked philanthropic initiatives that many businesses offer.
Many companies award volunteer grants, also known as Dollars for Doers, to the organizations where their employees volunteer. After corporate employees complete a certain number of volunteer hours, employers will donate a certain number of dollars per hour to the nonprofit. Grants range from $10-15 per hour for volunteers who serve regularly, meaning they volunteer at least 20 hours per year. Double the Donation provides a list of top companies who offer volunteer grants, but many smaller companies might offer something similar. Nonprofits should advertise this program to their volunteers, requesting that volunteers speak to their employers or human resources departments to see if they offer volunteer grants.
Paid Volunteer Release Time
Many companies give their employees paid time off to volunteer, and some of these companies will even combine volunteer days with volunteer grants. Not many people are aware of these benefits, so nonprofits would do well to raise awareness among their volunteers. As large-scale events approach, marketing efforts should emphasize the ways volunteers can maximize their impact by taking advantage of their employers’ benefits. Nonprofits can view Fortune’s ranking of 100 Best Companies to Work For and filter the list according to paid volunteer release time (“Volunteer PTO”). The list will reveal what companies pay employees to take time off to volunteer, and it also gives more information on added perks. Nonprofits might be surprised to find that some of their volunteers work for these companies, or they can begin recruiting employees to volunteer for them.
Most people have probably experienced a check-out charity before. For example, at Walmart, shoppers were recently asked to donate $1 to the Children’s Miracle Network. While the individual donations were small, they added up in the long-run. Last year alone, Walmart was one of the “charity checkout champions,” raising over $1 million for the Children’s Miracle Network. But, check-out charities aren’t limited only to large retail chains and large charities. Publix changes its check-out charity of choice each month, and Hawaii’s Foodland allows customers to donate to a charity of their choice, which Foodland will then match. If nonprofits are interested in exploring this method of corporate philanthropy, a good place to start would be the nonprofit’s board. If a board member is connected to a local or national retail store, he or she could begin discussions on how the nonprofit could benefit from the check-out charity program.
When it comes to corporate philanthropy, don’t discount the value of in-kind donations. Many businesses are able to donate surplus materials to nonprofits, sometimes on a regular basis. For example, food banks get much of their supplies from food manufacturers or food retailers, and Habitat for Humanity receives in-kind donations in the form of building materials from numerous corporate partners. Each year, nonprofits should think critically about what needs they anticipate. Will the office need new computers? What program materials can be donated instead of purchased? Once a wish list is created, nonprofits should advertise it to their regular supporters, volunteers, and the public, and offer generous advertising to donors in return. In-kind donations can alleviate enormous financial responsibilities, and they can lead to more lucrative forms of revenue if the donations turn into a lasting, meaningful partnership.
Other well known corporate philanthropy initiatives, such as matching gift programs and corporate sponsorships programs, tend to cast a shadow over the four initiatives described here. But, that doesn’t mean that these initiatives don’t have the potential to raise huge amounts of funds.
Nonprofits interested in exploring how these corporate philanthropy initiatives and others can benefit their organizations can start by investigating what corporate philanthropy programs are offered by their donors’ and volunteers’ employers. If this information isn’t readily available, a brief online survey could provide the answers.
Often, nonprofits view corporate philanthropy as a mountain to climb. While striking a lasting corporate partnership does require a lot of effort, nonprofits could take the first steps by reversing their perspective; that is, instead of looking at what work has to be done, consider what options are already available through the employers of volunteers and donors. Finding out the answers to this might reveal some avenues to significant funding, which could be the start of lasting partnerships.
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