The Great Puzzle of Corporate Philanthropy

The Great Puzzle of Corporate Philanthropy

Corporate sponsorships – they are everywhere you look! From sports stadiums to 5K races and beyond. The concept seems simple: in exchange for advertising and branded materials at the event/location, the company financially sponsors the occasion. It has been the bread and butter of the corporate world for decades.

But if that is all you are asking for, you are only touching one piece of the big puzzle of corporate philanthropy. There is so much more to corporate fundraising than just sponsorships.

To name a few areas:  

  • corporate foundation grants
  • direct giving
  • cause marketing
  • matching gifts

These are just a few more puzzle pieces of the giant puzzle of corporate fundraising. Sometimes, it’s not apparent how a company gives and if there are differences between programs, such as their direct giving and foundation program priorities. Sometimes it’s difficult to find information about a company’s giving at all.

And of course, every company does it differently. One company may have a robust cause marketing program and a foundation, while another may leverage gifts in kind and matching gifts. So, it’s important to find as many, if not all, of the puzzle pieces to see the big picture of a company’s philanthropy.

On top of that, there are indications that corporate philanthropy is rising. The 2023 Giving USA report found that while individual giving went down by 6.4%, corporate giving grew 3.4% to $29.48B. There’s money out there for nonprofits to solicit from companies.

Alignment. Alignment. Alignment!

But just because there are many more ways that a company can give, that does not mean that companies are going to empty their boxes for every nonprofit who solicits them.

Alignment is critical. What does that mean? That means the mission of the nonprofit and the company complement and work together. For instance, bad alignment might include a sobriety organization and a whiskey company. A good example of alignment is burger joint Culver’s Restaurants and Future Farmers of America in the Thank You Farmers Project, which has raised $5M since it was established in 2013. Culvers uses agricultural products, like beef and milk, thanks to the agriculture industry.

But sometimes the alignment is not so obvious. Or it may be confusing to understand what a single company’s philanthropic outlook is or even how to apply.

Prospect research is key. At Aspire, we take a comprehensive look at a company’s giving — everything from corporate foundation, matching gifts, volunteerism, and even less obvious opportunities such as potential partnerships with scientists on research and development. We work to untangle how the company might want to partner and invest with our nonprofit clients.

For instance, we researched a multi-national travel company for a science-based organization. At first there did not seem to be any obvious alignment. But when we dug into the company’s areas of philanthropic interest, one area focused on environmental issues, working with young people, and communities.

 We found that the company had been making large gifts to similar nonprofits, which was another piece of promising news for our client. We learned how the company gave, usually through direct gifts, partnerships with higher education, and gifts in kind. We also made recommendations on how to approach and who to approach at the company.

So, when you start thinking about approaching a company for a donation to your nonprofit, think about the best approach to the giant puzzle that is corporate giving. Aspire Research Group can help your organization find those alignments and put the puzzle pieces in place to leverage your corporate philanthropy.

In Good Company: A Guide to Corporate Fundraising