Posted , by Wendy McGrady, vice president. Topic: Funds and Funders.

Last week Lauren and I attended the AFP-Hampton Roads luncheon presentation titled, “Building Strategic Relationships with Corporations and Foundations.” Amy Nisenson, Executive Director of the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, and Victor Branch, SVP/Market Manager for Richmond & Hampton Roads, Global Corporate Responsibility Office for Bank of America, were the two presenters.

They began their discussion with what we refer to at The Curtis Group as “the pie chart.” This is the visual breakdown of giving sources in our country, as published by Giving USA, which is a study produced by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University in partnership with the Giving Institute. (The Curtis Group is a member.) The chart clearly demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of philanthropic dollars in our country comes from individuals (over 73% in 2011), as compared to foundations (14%) and corporations (5%).

That said, Victor explained there are some trends in corporate giving that nonprofits should be aware of when approaching companies for dollars. He cited a group of 55 leading CEOs and chairpersons, convened by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), who explored ways in which companies can provide long-term support to the communities where they do business. Victor noted that shrinking profits and a continued sentiment of economic uncertainty, means companies must:

-Refocus contributions to causes central to business strategy
-Refocus contributions to areas of greatest need
-Fulfill existing philanthropic commitments before exploring new ones
-Leverage resources creatively (e.g. product donations, pro-bono services, volunteerism, etc.)

Victor stressed the importance of research before submitting a request. Nonprofits must demonstrate alignment in a few areas:

-geographic location (most corporations are looking for nonprofits that are located in the areas where they operate)
-cause match (most corporations identify specific causes such as health, education, or environment)
-dollar amount (most corporations note how much they have given to various nonprofits in the past; check the amount to ensure you are in the same range)

In his remarks Victor also discussed the difference between sponsorship dollars and charitable gifts and how the former comes with significantly more expectations for the nonprofit to deliver a return on investment. Particularly with marketing dollars, corporations are looking for the maximum amount of visibility and impact at the least cost.

And finally, he shared some of the questions a corporation uses to evaluate a proposal for funding. Nonprofits should be sure the proposal is:

-mission driven
-clarity of vision and purpose
-specific and realistic plan
-measureable progress reports and final results
-sustainable programming

The bottom line is nonprofits must be strategic with thorough research and clearly outlined benefits to the corporation in order to continue receiving funding from this sector.
For more information on the topic, check out our president, Keith Curtis’ June 2012 article on trends in corporate philanthropy in The Virginian-Pilot’s “Inside Business.”

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