Sunday, May 25, 2008

Helpful Tips To Raise Corporate Grants

There are many different kinds of foundations; corporate, family, community, private, etc.

Corporate foundations are typically the community or charity arm of a corporation. Many corporations have them such as Home Depot, Coke a Cola, Microsoft, and others. Usually, if a corporation has a foundation you can locate information about it on the company's website, under maybe their "About Us", "Community Involvement", "Corporate Information", "Foundation", or another similar heading.

Companies provide grants and in kind donations (donations that are items rather than dollars) to contribute to the communities they do business in, to further their employees' volunteer work in the community, to address a need that exists in tandem with or is similar to the company's own work or mission statement, etc. While it's easy to cynically typify all corporations as only providing community assistance to simply increase their bottom line; it isn't always the case. Yes, companies who provide donations improve their brand recognition and corporate image, they receive sponsor recognition such as having their name and/or logo placed on materials associated with whatever they donated towards, and they ingratiate themselves to the communities they serve through their foundations. I do not see how these are negatives, in response to the cynicism, and in fact, it is good for nonprofits that corporations benefit in this way. Corporations' motivation is their financial bottom line, and if they can benefit in these ways to better their revenue, it only ensures that corporations will continue to give to nonprofits in the future. As long as no ethical, legal, or ratified rules, bylaws, or laws are broken by the nonprofit or the donor - it is good that the donor 'wins' from donating, just as the community does.

If you understand and accept that corporations give for some altruistic reasons and also for some fiscal motivations, you begin to up the chances and amounts you can raise from corporate foundations because you begin to understand what they want in order to give.

Here are ten tips to help you raise corporate foundations' support:

10. Approach a corporate foundation as you would a family or community foundation; do your research to be sure that the corporate foundation you're applying to gives to the cause your nonprofit serves, be sure that they give to organizations that serve the geographic location that your agency serves, and be sure that they give to whichever program, project, item, etc. that your organization needs money for. You can find all of this out by looking at the foundation's giving guidelines. If you don't know what giving guidelines are, click on the link.

9. Follow the corporate foundation's giving guidelines. If, for instance, they state in their giving guidelines that they only donate grants to nonprofits who submit their application to their corporation's local stores' managers; then follow this direction and only submit your application to the manager at your local outlet of their store.

8. Corporate foundations like to give to nonprofits where their employees (or retirees) volunteer. So, track who each of your volunteers are by not simply asking them for their contact information. Be proactive for your nonprofit's fundraising by requesting the employer's name and human resources department contact information from each of your volunteers. Some of your employees will be retired - that's OK! Ask them which organization they retired from, and if it's a corporation that has a foundation (or granting program), you'll probably find that the retiree's former employer's foundation will honor its retirees volunteerism as they do their current employees.

7. Check your volunteers' employers' human resources policies and look into whether they match employees' (and retirees') volunteer hours and/or donations with a matching donation. Many do! Often the only way to get the matching donation is to submit the corporation's form (found at human resources) indicating that you received a donation from their employee/retiree.

6. Check whether your volunteers' employers (or retirees' employers) offer their employees/retirees regular giving fund deductions from payroll (or benefits). For instance, large employers, such as Boeing, offer their employees the opportunity to donate some regular amount of their choice (that is deducted from the employee's paycheck, regularly) to the charity of their choice, as often as they'd like. If you aren't sure if your nonprofit is on one of your volunteer's employer's giving program nonprofits list; call the employer's human resources department and ask how you can add your nonprofit (official 501(c)(3)) to their list (so that any one of their employees, not just the ones volunteering with you, can choose to give to your organization regularly, on an ongoing basis). If it is the case, be sure to share that you have employees or former employees volunteering with your organization.

5. Corporations will often only give in the communities where they have stores, or where their employees live, or only where they do business. Be sure you check their giving guidelines and understand to whom, where, and what kinds of organizations and funding goals they give to.

4. When you apply to a corporate foundation, let them know (succinctly, honestly, and in total) how many of their employees volunteer with your organization; or if you serve some of their employees, state how many; or if their local store has a strong history with your organization and you must submit your grant application to a national office address - tell the corporate office about this existing relationship. Always let a corporation know how they have ties to your organization, if any recent ties exist. Never give names unless a volunteer or any person has given authorization to do so.

3. Your nonprofit may have many connections to any given corporation. If you don't create a protocol where each of your nonprofits volunteers are asked to provide their employer or the employer's name that they retired from (and to keep that info up to date with you), how can you know what ties your organization has? You need to manage this information because it leads to different kinds of assistance, including grants (it's well worth taking the time to do this administrative work). You may have board members who work for or who retired from a given corporation. You may have regular volunteers who drive clients around, or do office work, or you may have a regular group of local retirees who builds wheelchair ramps for your organization's clients, etc. Really scour all of your affiliations, connections, contacts, etc. and think about who all works for your organization on a volunteer basis. Then...ask who employs/employed them.

2. Track volunteers' work hours by asking them to do so, always, on the honor system. Create a form or easy online form and help them get into the habit of always reporting their volunteer hours. When you write a grant proposal, you want to be able to say, for instance, to the Coke A Cola Corporation, we have 25 Coke A Cola employees who regularly volunteer with us. In the previous fiscal year, the 25 Coke employees donated 2,400 hours, total, to (and then list which projects and programs). It is very powerful for the corporation to understand its ties to your nonprofit but it's equally as powerful for them to see that your nonprofit values its volunteers' contributions enough to track even this kind of donation (time and energy).

1. Think of any approach to a corporate foundation as an opportunity to create a 'strategic alliance' in your community, or a partner. It's also always a public relations opportunity. If someone at a corporation in your community hasn't heard of your organization, or doesn't know what you folks do - at the very least, a grant application is an opportunity to tell them! Tell them what your organization does, but also share your successes, your track record, and demonstrate the quality, not just successes of your nonprofit.

If you go about raising grants from corporate foundations by understanding and accepting their needs; while stating your organization's own; the relationship could be long lasting and very powerful for your cause.

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