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Tips from Corporate Funders

by Judith Rothbaum

Recently I attended an interesting forum that included presentations by corporate funders. I thought I'd share some fundraising tips related to corporate giving. Building relationships with large and small businesses should be an integral part of your fundraising plan.

Corporations support nonprofits through company-sponsored foundations and corporate giving programs. Keep the following tips in mind when you approach corporate funders.

  1. Corporate philanthropy is a business decision.

    Corporations support nonprofits in order to:

    • Achieve brand recognition.
    • Attract customers.
    • Obtain good will in the community.
    • Help provide a solution to community issues that impact their business activities.

    When approaching a corporation (or a small business for that matter), keep two key questions in mind:

    Does your request help the business meet its philanthropic goals?

    In what specific ways will the business benefit from contributing to your organization?

  2. "Doing good" is not enough.

    All nonprofits exist to make a difference. But in order to attract corporate funding, you must also demonstrate that you are a mission-focused, results-oriented organization.

    You should:

    • Demonstrate that what you are proposing is consistent with your mission and values.
    • Present a well-developed plan for implementing and evaluating your activities.
    • Be able to show that 100% of your board members financially support your organization.
    • Demonstrate that you will be able to sustain your proposed activities.

  3. Timing is everything.

    Corporate giving programs are part of the corporation's annual budget. Make sure that your request can be reviewed as part of the budgeting cycle and then become a budgeted item either for the current year or future years.

  4. Email gets attention.

    Corporate staff members receive many requests for funding. Email is often a more effective way of getting their attention than phone calls. Email allows you to tailor what you want to say and gives the staff member more time to review your funding ideas and respond in a more thoughtful way.

  5. Collaboration pays off.

    Corporate funders receive many more requests than they are able to fund. They are keenly aware of the duplication that is prevalent in the nonprofit sector and the large number of nonprofits requesting funds to address related issues.

    Corporate foundations and corporate giving programs are more likely to fund requests (and to give higher amounts) if the work plan demonstrates a true partnership among several organizations. Working through turf and other issues is difficult, but it is worth the effort in demonstrating effective use of resources and achieving more sustainable support.

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    About the Author:

    Judith Rothbaum helps talented nonprofit professionals and volunteers grown their business and think more boldly about who they are and the changes they create in their communities.

    She has worked with, and in, nonprofits for over 20 years. She is a foundation trustee and is a resource development instructor for the APHA Maternal and Child Health Institute.

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