3 Corporate Giving Strategies Every Nonprofit Should Use

USACE Donates Office Furniture to Nonprofit (Photo by USACE Europe District)

I just finished my third book, Fundraising with Businesses: 40 New (and Improved!) Strategies for Nonprofits. It will be out this fall. I love writing books because I learn so much. While writing this one, I had to become an expert on corporate giving–a strategy that’s different from the cause marketing I specialize in. I got a lot of help from experts like Curt Weeden and Adam Weinger.

Here are three corporate giving strategies that should be on every nonprofit’s radar.

1. Cash Donations

I’d wager that cash is probably the first thing that comes to mind when I say “fundraising with businesses.” It’s what every nonprofit wants from a business: cold, hard cash. Unfortunately, it’s a siren’s song that has led many a nonprofit to despair.

The problem is that cash donations from companies have been drying up for two decades. You can read all about it in one of my favorite books, Curt Weeden’s Smart Giving is Good Business.

America’s private sector has cut its charitable giving as a percentage of its profits by half. A bright spot has been smaller businesses that employ one or more workers. They increased their giving during the Great Recession, but not enough to offset the decline in giving from some of America’s biggest companies.

How to cash in on cash donations: Go where you are loved. Don’t waste everyone’s time applying for money for which you’re not qualified. If the company only supports schools and your nonprofit is a food pantry, don’t bother. You’re just clogging up the process and setting yourself up for disappointment. Also, quickly size up the company. Do they or do they not give cash to nonprofits? If they don’t, it’s unlikely you’ll be the first. Move on.

2. Product Donations

Nonprofits want cash from businesses. But what they usually get is product. That’s one of the conclusions you can draw from the donations of 105 companies that were tallied by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Of the $12.1 billion donated by these businesses, only about a third was cash.

There are many reasons why companies prefer donating product instead of cash, but there is one reason that stands out from the rest. Companies can deduct up to two times the cost on their return. So, if a company donates $10,000 of disposable razors and it cost the company $1,000 to make them, they can deduct two times the cost or $2,000 on their corporate return.

How to get companies to be kind with in-kind: Ask companies to produce a bit more for the sole purpose of donating them to you. As Curt explains in his book, this option sounds easier than it is, as it requires cooperation from many people within the company. Still, think about the benefits. If a bakery extends production for even a short time they’ll produce extra inventory that can be shared with nonprofits–and put to a variety of uses.

3. Payroll Deduction

Payroll deduction is one of the oldest and more popular forms of business giving. Employees’ sign up for payroll deductions, choose a charity and a percentage or portion of their pre-tax wages is regularly deducted and given to the charity.

The challenge with payroll deduction isn’t getting the money. It’s getting on the company’s list of eligible nonprofits.

As Adam Weinger of Double the Donation, a web site that helps nonprofits maximize corporative giving opportunities, explains: “Unfortunately the charitable options for employees may be limited to a preset list of eligible nonprofits that varies by company. The challenge for each nonprofit is figuring out how to be included on those lists of eligible nonprofits.”

Getting listed is difficult but not impossible, and, according to Adam, well worth it.

“Automatic payroll deductions are one of the few opportunities for your organization to secure an ongoing, predictable source of revenue.”

How to get paid with payroll deduction: When you say payroll deduction, everyone thinks of the United Way. But you have other options. Join one or all the organization that sets up giving campaigns at corporations. Here is a list of possibilities:

  • America’s Charities
  • Earth Share
  • Community Shares USA
  • Community Health Charities
  • Combined Federal Campaign

If a company doesn’t have a payroll deduction program, encourage employees to set up their own weekly donation program using what else: Mightycause!