Posted , by Keith Curtis. Topic: Funds and Funders.

This past Saturday I was interviewed on a Maryland radio station about the state of corporate philanthropy. In reviewing the latest data beforehand, I came across two blog-worthy points.

The first is the growing trend of companies seeking alternatives to cash giving to support charitable activities, such as promoting employee volunteerism or offering staffers paid time off to do pro-bono work. In a recent survey by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 54 percent of businesses said they are encouraging employees to volunteer more.

Some that are giving cash are tying those gifts to in-kind giving. One example is GE Foundation, which has awarded cash grants of $250,000 to nonprofit health clinics, along with help from GE employees in strategic planning, marketing, and other skills.

Wise nonprofit staff realize that those corporate volunteers comprise a new group of potential donors who can be cultivated. And recent studies show that volunteers tend to give more than non-volunteers. Also, finding ways for those employees to volunteer can help a nonprofit form a long-lasting relationship with the company, which could result in more exposure through the company’s communications and social media outlets, or even a larger corporate gift.

The second point is that many businesses have become strategic in their giving, either by aligning it with their brand, such as Walmart’s new $2 billion, five-year commitment to fighting hunger, or by cutting back on the number of charities they support in order to have more of an impact on each. Nonprofits can take a lesson from this approach by being equally strategic in how they solicit corporate support.

For example, today a foodbank would obviously consider Walmart rather than Target, whose philanthropy has become focused on ensuring that third-graders can read proficiently. Aligning your brand with a corporate brand may result in a nice win/win.

But don’t expect it to be the answer to all your funding needs. As we’ve noted here recently, in 2009, corporate giving was only 4 percent of all charitable giving, and half of that was in-kind. Your main fundraising focus must always be on individuals.

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