How to Find Corporate Donations

December 15, 2014

As the holidays approach, not-for-profit organizations expect to top off their donations as corporations begin to gear up to make year-end gifts and get the tax breaks that go with them.¬†Here are ten techniques — some less traditional than others — on on how to find corporate donations.

1. Corporate grants:

Typically, these are monetary gifts sanctioned by corporate headquarters, a regional office or a company-sponsored foundation. It generally requires the not-for-profit to apply for a grant from the company. These grants are usually made by Fortune 500 companies and can be the lifeblood of a charity’s revenue stream. These relationships, which are rare, must be cherished and nurtured, but charities can find numerous other opportunities for funding in the corporate sector.

2. Matching gift programs:

With this type of program, the employees — not the corporation — are essentially calling the shots. Employees choose the charities to be the recipients of donations and the corporation agrees to match the amount in whole or in part. If the corporation provides a 100 percent match, this doubles the contributions. While employees can support their favorite causes, the corporation provides a valuable fringe benefit and secures a tax deduction. Although approximately 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies have matching gift programs, this idea isn’t restricted to corporate giants; it can appeal to companies of all sizes.

3. Volunteer services:

If a lack of manpower is an issue at your not-for-profit, you might have to look no further than the companies located down the block. Local business entities can provide a ready, willing and able pool of workers from all walks of life. For instance, you might use a technology-savvy person to help update your website, or a personable volunteer to answer phones. And it never hurts to have someone handy with a hammer to make minor repairs. Don’t overlook the value of these pro bono services.

4. Volunteer grant programs:

These “dollar-for-doer-programs,” encourage employees to volunteer at your nonprofit. While not as prevalent as gift matching programs, about 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies participate. The details vary from company to company, but guidelines may specify the types of eligible organizations; the minimum number of volunteer hours required to be eligible for a grant; grant amounts per volunteer hour, and eligibility of employees (e.g., limited to full-time workers). When an employee volunteers with an eligible nonprofit, the company matches their volunteer hours with financial donations to that nonprofit. The typical formula is $10 for each eligible hour spent volunteering, although according to the CECP it is not uncommon to see corporate matches of $20 an hour or more.

5. Paid release time:

An employer may offer “paid release time” to employees to attend to personal needs. In this case, the need is to volunteer at your charity. It allows the employee to spend a few days helping out during regular business hours without any reduction in pay. This can be valuable to not-for-profits who are facing an upcoming event — say, its largest fundraiser like a 5K run/walk — and it’s all hands on deck. Search for companies in your area that would be willing to participate in such a program.

6. Company-wide days of service:

Your not-for-profit doesn’t have to limit volunteer services to just the events you already have on your agenda. Consider joining with a local business for a company-wide day of service. As an example, you can organize efforts to clean up an area that is heavily littered. Concentrate on tasks that can be accomplished within a day by a hard-working group of volunteers. Added bonus: The company will often cover the costs associated with the project (e.g., meals and beverages at the site).

7. Community fundraisers:

Have you ever been asked by an usher at a movie theater or checkout person at a supermarket to donate to a worthy cause? Although these programs typically reflect partnerships with chains, a not-for-profit can seize similar opportunities within its own community. One suggestion: Contact a prominent business associate who is on your board of directors or is a longtime supporter. This go-between may help facilitate a community fundraiser that boosts donations while raising your local profile.

8. Donations of goods:

A corporation doesn’t have to donate cash to your charity to make its presence felt. For instance, a manufacturing firm can contribute the products it makes or a supplier in the food industry can furnish items to food pantries, soup kitchens and food banks. But the goods don’t have to be directly related to the company’s business. Classic example: A corporation that is updating its computer system may donate older PCs to your organization. Make sure you share your needs with board members who have connections within the community.

9. Use of facilities:

As with a donation of inventory, a corporation can provide a valuable benefit by opening its doors for the charity’s use. This could be combined with a company-wide day of service or another gift-giving technique discussed above. In some communities, a sponsoring corporation with a campus might allow your group to hold its walk/run event on the grounds. Even if the corporation does nothing else, the contribution is significant.

10. Professional services:

Finally, companies may have professionals on their board with unique skills they can offer your group. These individuals may provide a wide range of professional services, such as tax and financial planning, organizational development, graphic arts, editorial services and legal guidance. If you know experts who would be willing to help out, don’t hesitate to call on them.

These are just ten ways your not-for-profit may benefit from various types of corporate donations. Don’t be tied down to just the traditional methods. Thinking outside the box can lead to a multitude of benefits.


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