Nonprofit Fundraising Essentials for Corporate Gifts

Most any time I’m doing nonprofit fundraising brainstorms with a nonprofit Board of Directors, the topic

quickly turns to corporate philanthropy. A member will mention how they were at the zoo the other day and noticed all kinds of corporate sponsors, so why can’t this organization accomplish the same feat? Another will chime in on a recent newspaper article they read on how company XYZ just hit new heights with a product launch, and so they probably have some extra money to invest in the community.

From the outside, these seem like plausible observations.

However, fundraising from corporate partners is, for most nonprofits, the most difficult road to success. The proof is in the numbers: of the more than $373 Billion donated last year, corporate giving accounted for only 5%. To put that in perspective, individuals donated more than 14 times this amount, and foundations were more than triple the output.

So in many instances, valuable time and bandwidth is consumed by small nonprofits for the holy grail that simply doesn’t exist in ideal form. As I’m fond of saying, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze in most of these efforts.

In order to have success in the realm of corporate philanthropy, your nonprofit needs to meet a few prerequisite conditions. Here’s some things you can control to maximize your odds of corporate support:

  • 1
    Provide volunteer opportunities that can be accomplished in groups. You can envision a photo on the corporate office wall of the leadership team wearing hardhats and holding hammers for a house they helped build. Or a work team spending an afternoon cooking and serving meals, giving tutoring sessions, or cleaning up the park. You get the idea: companies are much more likely to invest their philanthropic dollars in causes that can transform a day at the office into a day of community service.
  • 2
    Provide maximum visibility. Remember the zoo example at the beginning of this piece? It’s not an accident that corporate sponsors were splashed all over the signage. Rather, it’s because more than a million people walk by that space each year. That’s a lot of opportunity to connect with a potential market segment – while maximizing the tax deductible value. Most nonprofits do not have this ubiquitous presence, so think about alternate ways to shine a spotlight on your organization and its valuable supporters.
  • 3
    Provide sponsor opportunities. I’m convinced that the reason fundraising galas are not yet extinct is because of the disproportionate amount of appeal to corporate donors. For some reason, spending a few thousand dollars to get a table, banners, and maybe a mention from the stage to an audience of a couple hundred is just too delicious for corporations to pass up. If you’re not in the special event game, you’ll be at a disadvantage on this avenue, but put some thought into what might be a valuable sponsorship package for the program work you do in the community.

One of the biggest mistakes I see nonprofits make is dedicating inordinate time to cold calling companies hoping to speak to a decision maker receptive to their elevator speech. With only a 5% share of the philanthropic market, you should be diligent in allocating resources to these over pursued efforts. I don’t advise ignoring this segment, but rather consider the prerequisite recommendations detailed here and how you can focus your efforts to maximize ROI.

Take a corporate approach to this process: strengthen your core in these 3 areas, do your market research, and pitch to an audience that seems most receptive, all the while keeping an eye on your “billable hours” and your high priority items.

About Perry Jowsey

Perry Jowsey, CFRE is a professional fundraiser and featured speaker who has been leading financial turnarounds for more than a decade, 

where he has generated more than $20 million in Jowsey_Headshot-1-1.jpgrevenue specializing in small and financially distressed budgets. Perry has worked with local and international media, foreign government delegations, and philanthropists on the Forbes 400. In unparalleled acts of fundraising success, he has cut costs while producing ROI’s as large as 4000%, leading to features in national trade publications and special invitations to present to groups around the United States. Here is the link to Perry's LinkedIn profile