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Seeking corporate support: Are you ready?

Has your board given you a directive to get more corporate support for your organization? “Look at all the big companies in the metro area,” they might say. “Can’t we get money from The Home Depot, The Coca‑Cola Company, or Georgia Pacific? We should be talking to them.” But should you really?

Let’s put this into perspective. Year over year, on average, corporations make up about 5 percent of the dollars given to charitable causes. According to the annual Giving USA survey, the vast majority of charitable donations are given by individuals. In the past several years, the percentage of individual donations has hovered around 72 percent of all donation dollars. When you add bequests and money from family foundations, that percentile rises to the mid-to-high 80s. So what does this tell you about where you, as executive director or development director, should be spending the majority of your time? Do your board members know this?

Once that groundwork is established, you’ll want to approach your local corporations to fill out your development strategy. Yes, corporate America is interested in supporting community causes, which they recognize as good business practice. Companies know that community involvement is important not only to their customers, but also to their employees. In one 2015 survey of Prudential employees, 98 percent of respondents said that the company’s community involvement was important to them. When employees are proud to work for a company, they stay. Community involvement can strengthen employee retention, saving the high costs of employee turnover and helping the bottom line.

However, you must know that companies are not sitting around waiting for you to knock on their doors and present them with the opportunity to give to you. Most large corporations approach charitable giving the same way they do the other facets of their business: with strategies and targets, focusing on what is important to their customers and how their business and community strategy aligns with their customers’ interests. To successfully garner support from corporations, you need to understand what their philanthropic focus areas are, how you either do or do not fit into them, and the qualities you possess – like reach, values, and impact – that can help those corporations reach their customers and their philanthropic goals.

To successfully garner support from corporations, you need to understand what their philanthropic focus areas are, how you either do or do not fit into them, and the qualities you possess – like reach, values, and impact – that can help those corporations reach their customers and their philanthropic goals.

Have you mapped out a strategy that takes these factors into consideration? Join me for the Master Class in Corporate Relations. This small-group, hands-on course, designed especially for EDs and development directors with at least three years of experience, provides an opportunity for participants to develop a strategy or project tied directly to their organizations, and get feedback from me and fellow class participants. As the facilitator, I will share my experience working in corporate philanthropy, and bring in guest speakers who are also working in corporate philanthropy. At the conclusion of the series, participants will make a formal presentation of their project, giving them the chance to incorporate lessons learned, receive feedback from their peers, and ready themselves to share their strategic approach to corporate relations with board members.

Cathy Ramos has managed a multi-million dollar portfolio of grants for The Coca‑Cola Company, including the company’s major annual campaigns for United Way, as well as multiple corporate sponsorship relationships. She has a passion for helping others as a teacher, community leader, and volunteer, currently serving on the Advisory Board of the Foundation Center Atlanta and as Chair, Board of Governors, for St. John Children’s Center in Sandy Springs.

 

 

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