Launching a Corporate Development Program
Nonprofit organizations must focus on obtaining time, talent and treasure for their organization. One area that impacts volunteerism, board engagement and resources is the corporate sector. To a degree, every nonprofit should focus here.
Corporations can supply personnel with time to help the organization expand its presence in the community. They can infuse talent through involvement as volunteers or as board members. Finally, they have the resources to give outright monetary gifts, workplace giving or in-kind gifts.
Corporate giving totaled $29.48 billion, or 6% of total giving, according to Giving USA’s 2022 tally. This included cash and in-kind contributions made through corporate giving programs, plus grants and gifts supplied by corporate foundations. Corporations give back for a variety of reasons, but, simply put, it is good business for a company to support a nonprofit.
When creating and sustaining a corporate development program, understanding corporate development is only one sector of your overall fundraising strategy. For instance, Giving USA found that corporate giving increased 3.4% from 2021 to 2022, but it didn’t keep up with inflation. When adjusted for inflation, corporate giving declined by 4.2%.
Companies that engage with nonprofits can obtain benefits, such as charitable tax deductions, good publicity and improved employee morale, but the perks go both ways. Corporate leaders can open the nonprofit to their personal connections, while nonprofits seek to promote their corporate partnerships to their connections. It is all about enhancing relationships and educating others on the value and impact the nonprofit and corporation has in the communities they serve.
One additional goal of corporate-nonprofit relationships is exposing their respective brands to each other’s audiences to increase visibility. Having a corporate development program can take your development program to greater heights, if promoted well.
How to Get Started
To establish the program from scratch, make sure you have the organizational commitment to begin a corporate development program. The CEO and board must be aware of this new endeavor and be willing to support it.
Henry Rosso, in his book, “Achieving Excellence in Fundraising,” states that the mechanics of approaching a corporation for a gift are like those that generate funds from individuals and foundations. You must develop an effective and persuasive case for support plus conduct extensive research to determine your targeted companies.
He noted that you must develop and implement a cultivation program that attracts corporate support, initiative and completes a successful solicitation strategy. The right stewardship process that encourages future giving is necessary.
Do Your Research
You need to evaluate best-of-class corporate development programs at nonprofits for your cause. Additionally, you’ll need to find potential corporations that would make great partners.
Spend time reviewing your donor base to create a corporate prospect base that features a wide array of comprehensive data. Obtain lists of the major employers in your geographical area, or join your local chamber of commerce to secure its list. You need to find out what companies are philanthropic and where you can secure early wins to promote the program.
Create Your Case for Support
Start by creating corporate development materials for your organization. Make sure you include the benefits for both the corporation and your nonprofit.
On your board, establish a corporate subcommittee and populate it with individuals who can give, get and consistently support your organization. Make sure you have a corporate fundraising component for your fundraising initiatives, so you are constantly looking for corporate engagement opportunities in the communities you serve.
Research key companies you’ve found to see if they already have foundations that handle their giving. Rosso suggests trying to connect directly with funders. To do so, understand your targeted corporations, their giving histories and areas of focus so you can match their corporate philanthropic focus with your focus.
Encourage potential corporate funders to visit your organization to see the priorities for which you are seeking funding firsthand. Conversely, when they give, thank and report to them on the donation impact in a timely manner.
I established a corporate development program for my organization three years ago. Here are a few examples of success at The Salvation Army:
- Secured 30-plus companies to underwrite a golf event for children.
- Asked more than 100 companies to provide cash gifts.
- Obtained in-kind gifts for a children’s holiday program.
- Gained the support of 40 companies for an annual radiothon event where proceeds are given to families in need.
- Had companies provide matching gifts for The Salvation Army's red kettle campaign that funds annual operations.
In addition, an Indiana company with 66 stores across the state promoted our nonprofit twice a year while another company promoted us to 60 stores across multiple states. For years, Kroger and Walmart have permitted our bell ringers to raise money for our red kettle campaign outside of their stores during the holiday season. All of these engagements require identification, cultivation, solicitation and constant stewardship.
To be successful at securing corporate partnerships, constantly evaluate your funding priorities and case for support. Remember to expand and adapt your research as needed, as you may need to seek new businesses to build your portfolio. Your goal is to promote the concept of incremental basing, which builds your fundraising program incrementally each year. Strive for corporate engagement that incorporates time, talent and treasure.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.