Corporate giving, when not separated into a distinct corporate foundation, typically takes the form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. CSR programs can include a variety of support types such as employee volunteer time, sponsorship, grants, or even socially responsible supply chains.
Corporations are not obligated to give, however they may be motivated to fund NGOs for:
- Improving public image
- Increasing employee and customer satisfaction
- Developing future markets
Companies typically are not high prospects for most NGOs. In 2016, corporate giving totaled $19.5 billion in the United States, or just 5% of the total giving. Most corporates do not have a specific application process, and can be very in-transparent with regards to their application processes and past giving history. Companies are also very careful to avoid risks to their brand, business, and political connections. Thus, companies rarely fund issues such as human rights, government reform, etc. What corporations are interested in funding typically depends on what they specialize in. For example, a bank might fund financial literacy while a food supplier might fund agriculture. But regardless of the company type, education and children are popular choices. Corporations usually fund in areas where their employees live and work.
There are some risks to working with corporations. Receiving funding from a company generally requires a lot of time networking and negotiating. This can take up a lot of your time without guarantee of success. Additionally, taking money from a company means also taking on some of their reputation. If the company has a great reputation, this is a plus. But if the company has a poor reputation, this may negatively impact your NGO. Before soliciting or accepting a grant from a corporation, do some research on the company’s history and business practices.
Tips for Approaching Corporate Donors
- Consider how to partner in a way which is good for you and for the company. List the benefits the company could receive: i.e. increased branding, good PR, access to future potential customers or employees, etc.
- Remember that small local companies can also be a good partner and are typically easier to network with.
- Make sure to consider your organization’s reputational risk.
- Unless it is a very small company, do not make a cold inquiry to the CEO. Good people to approach first tend to be involved with CSR, PR, or communications.