Fundraising is far more than mailing an annual request for donations to a list of potential supporters. Like for-profit businesses, nonprofits need to look for multiple revenue streams to raise money for their missions.
Corporate support is one stream with untapped potential. In 2017, corporate giving increased about 8 percent, to $20.77 billion. That is evidence that there is room to grow this area of philanthropic support, which represents about 5 percent of all charitable giving currently.
Like individual donors, corporate supporters usually have an interest in a charitable organization’s mission. The company’s business might somehow be tied to the nonprofits’ target audience–for example, it would be quite fitting if a pet food company decided to become a financial supporter of an animal rescue organization. Sometimes, company leaders have personal ties to a cause. Perhaps the president of a software company has a child with Down syndrome and is a generous supporter of the National Association for Down Syndrome.
Corporate gifts have two traits that make them particularly valuable for nonprofits. Generally, a corporation can afford to give more than an average individual donor.
Corporate support is also worth pursuing because when a charitable organization takes the time to develop a partnership, support can grow beyond an annual check. Corporate support can encompass matching gift programs, in-kind donations, event sponsorships, and point-of-sale partnerships. When a nonprofit builds a strong relationship with a corporation that believes in what it does, funding opportunities can go far beyond an annual monetary gift.
Take action: Focus on building a relationship with corporate/business donors. First, show your appreciation. In addition to a thank-you from the organization’s executive director, have several board members send handwritten notes on thank-you cards custom designed for your organization. Use photos of the families that use the after-school program you nonprofit created or use artwork made by senior citizens who attend classes your nonprofit arts group offers. Invite these corporate leaders to your events; perhaps nominate them to serve on your board of directors. Give a shout-out on social media to businesses and corporations for the support they give.
Matching gift monies can double employee gifts
Corporate support sometimes comes indirectly, through a company’s employees. Many companies, including hundreds of Fortune 500 firms–have matching gift programs, which means they match some charitable gifts that their employees make. If you aren’t reminding individual donors to take advantage of their employers’ matching gift programs, you are missing a very big boat. Matching gifts can drastically increase–sometime double–the size of an individual’s gift. Consider this. Some 18 million people work for companies that have matching gift programs, according to Double the Donation and as much as $7 billion in potential matching gifts go unclaimed each year. Remember too that some corporations make donations based on the hours that their employees volunteer for a nonprofit.
Take action: Make it clear that your organization wants and needs every possible monetary match. Include reminders of the power of corporate matches on every channel — your website, donation forms, letters to donors. Compile stats and create an infographic that shows how much your organization has benefitted from matching gifts.
Create win-win sponsorship opportunities
Corporate sponsors can help underwrite the cost of fundraisers and other events. Look for companies and businesses that align with the aim of your nonprofit. Create different levels for monetary support as well as options for in-kind contributions. For example, a local media company might be willing to provide MCs and audio/visual support for your annual volunteer recognition luncheon or a local caterer might donate part or all of the food served. Or, a local restaurant might be willing to donate gift certificates to be used as awards, prizes, for raffles or silent auctions.
Take action: Send a letter to potential corporate sponsors that outlines the various ways they could become a sponsor. Make it clear that sponsorship opportunities are flexible, and that your goal is to partner with the company to come up with a sponsorship plan that benefits them as well as your organization. Follow up with personal phone calls and in-person meetings for those that express interest.
In-store promotions raise quick cash for nonprofits
Many companies, from convenience store chains to local brewpubs have in-store promotions that either ask customers to donate to a charitable cause (it can be as simple as putting change in a donation jar at checkout) or offer to give a percentage of a day’s sales to a nonprofit they support. For example, the gas station/convenience store chain Speedway has for years supported the 170 hospitals in the Children’s Miracle Network. It has raised millions, in part by asking customers to throw in their extra nickels and dimes at in-store donation boxes. Breweries and restaurants often announce “dining for a cause” days, where a percentage of a day’s sales are donated to a charity.
Take action: For in-store donation programs, get more visibility for your nonprofit by supplying the retailer or restaurant with brochures that can be distributed to customers who donate or who dine-in on “cause” days. Work with the corporate partner to design posters and placards that promote the in-store giving program.
Let corporations know you need more than money
A lot of nonprofits, especially small, bootstrap organizations, benefit from the gently used hand-me-downs of others. It might be a three-year-old computer that replaces an 8-year-old model or a board room table and chairs that a corporation no longer needs. Corporations are happy to find good new homes for equipment and furnishings they no longer need.
Take action: Your supporters aren’t mind readers. Let them know what your organization needs. Publish a wish list in a print or in an e-newsletter. Odds are good some of those wishes will come true if you just make others aware of things your nonprofit could use. And, if you have a desperate need–for example, if the office copier suddenly dies, send the word out through social media like Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and other channels.
I’ll have ideas about other “revenue” streams like grants, lapsed donors, new donors, merchandise sales and fundraising events in my next blog.
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