Employee-Centered Giving: How to Harness Corporate Philanthropy Today

Nonprofit | March 8, 2018 | Holtzman Partners

Corporate philanthropy is changing. Teams within companies that manage corporate giving are growing, and nearly a third report deepening engagement with top management. This reflects decisions by companies to incorporate philanthropy as a business priority.

Meanwhile, corporate boards are continuing their shift from direct grants to employee-linked giving. Rather than view a company as a one-stop-shop for big donations, nonprofits must orient their fundraising to the company’s preferred methods of supporting its employees’ charitable goals.

Corporate giving is also increasing, although it’s still modest compared to gifts from individuals and foundations. But the glass is half-full for savvy nonprofits that approach corporate fundraising effectively. The advantages of doing so include increased contributions, more reliable long-term sources of funding and new openings to reach many more people.

Guiding Principles

To be successful, you need to proceed from two key principles about corporate giving.

The first is alignment, especially given today’s demands for measurable results. Understanding which companies’ values and goals fit with your nonprofit’s mission is fundamental — failing to do so can have reputational consequences. A group fighting adolescent obesity, for example, might want to skip donations from a donut chain.

The second is focusing on small or local businesses in the beginning. These are typically more easily approachable than large corporations and generally more open to the case for community improvement. A review of your current donor list should turn up some likely opportunities along these lines.

How Corporations Give Today

The employee-centered giving model involves a range of programs, including the following:

Matching gifts. Many companies will match employee donations to any eligible nonprofit, up to a limit. Some will even double donations.

In-kind donations. These gifts of materials or services— think office space or computer supplies — can be ongoing. They’re especially well-suited to big events, where they can offset costs significantly. Venue rental, food and refreshments, and entertainment are all valuable, as is the prestige that underwriting them brings a corporate sponsor.

Talent-based contributions. A form of in-kind donation, these contributions involve “lending” an employee to a nonprofit for a specified period of time. A week or more of help from a lawyer, accountant or IT specialist can have a major impact.

Fundraising matches. These continue to grow in popularity, especially for healthcare-related organizations. With these programs, a company co-sponsors an active event, like a walk-a-thon or fun run – usually matching not only contributions from employees, but also any raised from friends and family.

Volunteer grants. Companies link these grants to the time their employees spend volunteering. They usually require a minimum number of hours, and sometimes they allow the work to be performed on company time.

Related to these are a “day of service.” Here, a company turns out as many employees as possible to help with a project — for example, a Saturday spent packing holiday packages for the needy — and supplements the work with a grant. Days of service come with a bonus of team-building morale.

Community and challenge grants. These are grants linked to specific community initiatives. Sometimes they’re made dependent on the nonprofit meeting a challenge, like raising a specified amount of money.

Payroll deductions. This is an easy and largely painless way for employees to contribute automatically.

Employee fundraising. This usually takes place on a company’s own initiative — the company sets up a fund over a defined period of time to benefit a cause. Learn which companies in your area do this and determine if your nonprofit is a logical recipient.

Annual stipends. Though less common, some companies earmark a specific amount of money for each employee to donate to a chosen organization.

Help Them Help You

Corporate fundraising poses some special challenges for nonprofits, such as measurement. A company that gives back to its community wants to be certain its generosity is having the desired impact. You must provide clear metrics about their work.

It’s also important to create a smooth and easy process for employee-linked giving. Too many nonprofits take this for granted, assuming that donors will contact their employers and move the paperwork to obtain any available corporate matches.

A wiser course is to put this option front and center with volunteers and contributors, not only in communications but also with technology. A prominent button on every web page, for example, can let online donors check their own company’s programs and make a matched donation in one seamless step.

If your nonprofit can get in front of the corporate shift to employee-centered giving programs, you can open new doors and increase your funding.

Our firm knows corporations and nonprofits. To learn more, please give us a call at 512.610.7200 or send us a message via our Contact page.

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