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4 Ways Small Nonprofits Can Leverage Corporate Philanthropy

Author: Sayana Izmailova
April 22, 2020
🕑 7 min read

Many small nonprofits are getting worried about how the unpredictable economic climate is going to affect their organizations, and for good reason. You just want to do what you can to help others in your community. But you can’t do so without the generous contributions of your donors— who might also be struggling during this uncertain time.

In times like these, it’s important to get creative with your fundraising efforts and make sure you maximize the potential of every resource you have. What can that mean for smaller and growing nonprofits? For one thing, corporate philanthropy is a very underutilized source of funding that may be the key to ensuring stability and even growth during these difficult situations.

Corporate philanthropy, also known as corporate giving, is one aspect of overall corporate social responsibility — or a company’s efforts to improve society and strengthen their brand in the process. Oftentimes, companies do this by engaging with local nonprofit organizations (like yours!).

Here are 4 of the best ways to take advantage of corporate giving programs:

  1. Promote matching gift programs

  2. Make use of volunteer grants

  3. Seek corporate sponsorships

  4. Host community days

Relationship-building between your nonprofit, your donors, and local companies will be key to strengthening your base of support going forward. Ready to get started? Let’s jump in!

1. Promote Matching Gift Programs

Leveraging matching gift programs is an excellent way to increase your fundraising revenue with only a little extra action needed on the part of the donor and their employer.

These programs benefit every party involved— the nonprofit essentially gets a free donation, the donor has the joy of making a bigger impact, and the company improves their social image!

The matching gift process is simple, and goes through the following steps:

  • Embed a company search tool on your website. Be sure to find a database compiled of thousands of companies’ information that is constantly being updated. After all, it will only go to further frustrate donors if the process is too difficult to follow or uses broken links and misdirected web pages. The more comprehensive the search tool, the more likely your donors will be to find the answers they need.
  • Users check their eligibility. Donors input their employer’s name in the search box, and relevant information about that company is retrieved. This should include key information like types of eligible employees, minimum and maximum donations, match ratio, and deadlines. If a company is not listed in the database, the program may encourage users to contact their employer or their HR department.
  • Donors submit their gift online. If they haven’t already, the donor then moves forward with the online donation the same as they normally would, making sure to save a copy of the donation receipt or confirmation for match request purposes.
  • Eligible employees request a match. The database should provide insights into the donor’s next steps in the process of submitting a match. Nowadays, many employers streamline the request process by allowing everything to be completed online. In this case, the database may include links to the specific online forms required. Other employer searches may include names and contact information of the employee in charge of their matching gift program.
  • Employers confirm the employee’s donation and make their own. Once the match request has gone through, the employer will verify that a donation was actually made by the employee via detailed and accurate financial records. Then, the employer will make their own matching gift either online or through a check to your organization.

According to re:Charity’s matching gifts guide, the most common match rate is a simple 1:1 ratio, while some generous employers choose to match up to two or three times the original donation! The programs are a relatively low-effort way for your organization to shore up support amid disruption.

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2. Make Use of Volunteer Grants

Volunteer grants, in many ways, are very similar to matching gift programs. The supporter goes through a similar process to search and request the funding for your organization— the key difference being that instead of a donation being matched, the organization is financially compensated for a volunteer’s time.

Maybe you already have a solid group of supporters that are willing to help run your daily operations. After all, many small nonprofits do rely on dedicated volunteers to supplement a limited staff and budget.

Or, maybe you’re trying to attract new volunteers to get involved with your organization and the work you do in your community. Either way, promoting volunteer grants can be a great way to bring in new revenue for your organization. Inviting volunteers to support your digital efforts through serving as social media ambassadors, managing your blog, or other tasks is a great way to get started even whilst practicing social distancing!

The way you approach each of these two groups can differ greatly. For example, be sure to focus on:

  • Your current volunteers and the great work they already do for your nonprofit. Whether that’s helping out with event planning, answering phones and organizing files, or other key daily operations, it’s important that your volunteers know how much they are appreciated. Let them know that their assistance can go even farther when they take advantage of the volunteer grant programs offered by many employers!
  • Other supporters that have not yet taken the step to become volunteers. Volunteers and other key supporters like to know that their valuable time is being appreciated before they make any sort of commitment. Emphasize the value that can be derived from dedicated volunteers taking part in volunteer grant programs— in terms of both labor and grant funding.

Different companies put different policies in place concerning the eligibility of volunteer grants and how to acquire them. For instance, some may pay an hourly wage while others choose to offer a lump sum once a minimum hour threshold has been crossed. Check out Double the Donation’s comprehensive guide to volunteer grants for more information.

3. Seek Corporate Sponsorships

Another way to acquire funding via corporate philanthropy is by forming strengthened partnerships with local businesses and other corporations. The most typical example is that of an official corporate sponsorship.

In this case, it’s important that you do thorough research and prep work beforehand so you can be ready to go when it’s time to get in contact with any potential new sponsors. The process for finding a corporate sponsor goes like this:

  • Determine businesses with similar missions. You’re most likely to find willing sponsors when you seek companies that share your organization’s passion and drive. For example, you can find faith-based businesses to sponsor your church or religious organization, or environmentally-friendly corporations to sponsor your conservation charity.
  • Get in contact with the business. Send an email or physical letter to the businesses you’re most interested in partnering with. For several example templates and tips useful for reaching out to potential sponsors, click here. It’s important to keep your letter short and sweet, while still taking the time to lay out potential relationship benefits.
  • Explain what your organization has to offer. Sponsorships differ from other corporate donations based on the fact that it is a mutually beneficial relationship as opposed to a one-way act of kindness. You may be offering advertising space for a local business in return for funding for team uniforms or a table for selling a product at a big event.
  • Come to an agreement. Find what works for both parties involved in the sponsorship and come to some sort of official agreement. Make sure to lay out what funding will be switching hands, where that money will go, and what each side gets in return. This makes sure everyone is happy with the final terms of the partnership.

Once you have established a connection with a corporate sponsor, it’s important that you work to constantly nurture and maintain the relationship, even through worldwide economic ups and downs. In the best case scenario, this will be a lifelong partner supporting your organization for years to come.

4. Host Community Days

One final way to take advantage of corporate philanthropy is through the implementation of local community days. Community days are a great new fundraising trend that involves businesses encouraging their employees to go volunteer for a nonprofit organization together as a group.

For example, a group of employees may meet on a Saturday to help build, paint, or renovate a house, or another group could head to a soup kitchen one evening to help feed those in need. Sometimes, employers will even let participating employees take a day off to go help out during normal business hours.

This is a great way to promote:

  • Unity
  • Friendship
  • Generosity
  • Purpose
  • Satisfaction

With the current state of social distancing and self-quarantining to avoid furthering the health crisis, you might have to hold off on planning a community day. However, once daily operations start to get back to normal, it might be a great idea to start reaching out to local businesses for some team-bonding assistance. Best of all, sometimes a business partnering for a community day will choose to give you a grant as well!

Utilizing corporate philanthropy as a source of supplemental nonprofit funding may be exactly what you need to bolster your position amid the health and economic crisis that is COVID-19.

Best of all, once you have these best practices in place, they’ll be easy to carry on as a long-term fundraising strategy. With the right tips and tools in place, you can keep your operations running as smoothly as possible!


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