How Do I Request Money From a Corporate Foundation?

Meeting about a grant from a corporate foundation.
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How Can My Nonprofit Get a Grant from a Corporate Foundation?

There are many ways corporations give to good causes. But they fall into two broad categories: direct giving and corporate foundation grants.

Direct giving includes matching employee donations to select charities, running an automatic payroll deduction program for charitable giving, employee volunteer programs and much more. For examples, read 7 Types of Corporate Giving Programs.

Direct giving can also include marketing focused activities such as sponsorships and cause marketing programs.

But many companies, especially large ones, set up corporate foundations to channel grants to charities. They must follow the rules for charitable foundations. They have endowments but also receive money from the parent company to fund their grants.

Corporate foundations may be more generous when the economy is good, and the parent company has more profits to share.  Today looks very promising for corporate giving.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that 68 corporations covered by a survey increased their charitable giving by two percent in 2015. Top givers included Walmart, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and ExxonMobil.

GivingUSA also found that corporate giving was up in 2015 by 3.9 percent.

Is Applying for a Corporate Foundation Grant the Same as with Other Foundations?

Often corporate foundations prefer a grant request in the form of a letter, rather than an elaborate proposal.

Check with the foundation you are considering to see what their submission preferences are. If they prefer a letter request, you can follow the guidelines for a letter of inquiry or LOI

To seek funds from a corporate foundation, it is wise to be brief. In the Nonprofit Kit for Dummies, authors Stan Hutton and Frances Phillips suggest that you write a two-page proposal letter that covers these eight points:

  1. Ask for a specific contribution at the beginning of the letter. Mention whether or not your nonprofit has had experience with the funder before.
  2. Describe briefly the need or the problem you wish to address with the funder's contribution.
  3. Explain what your nonprofit will do should the grant be given.
  4. Inform the funder about your organization, including its strengths and accomplishments.
  5. Explain the budget for the project you propose. Make this short. If it runs more than a half-page, make it an attachment.
  6. Describe how you will finance your project in the future.
  7. Describe how your nonprofit will acknowledge the funder's gift publicly, providing visibility to the corporation.
  8. Close with a compelling statement that summarizes what you are requesting and what the results will be.

Keep in mind that corporations, although altruistic, use their charitable giving to build their reputations for corporate social responsibility. So they will be more receptive to your proposal if you include ways to publicize the corporation's involvement.

In the past, corporate foundations were not likely to fund long-term projects. Short commitments were more appealing so that more grants could be spread around.

Today, however, many companies have become interested in solving big social problems. To do that they sometimes seek out charitable partners who work on a particular issue. 

Some corporations forge long-term relationships with specific charities, such as the partnership between Kmart and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

On the other hand, community giving is very popular with companies. In the Chronicle survey, thirty-one companies gave to local community projects. 

Indeed, community giving is the most popular category for corporate giving, Many businesses have a presence in local communities, probably in yours. Working with that division, store, or affiliate could make a perfect entry point. 

Many companies also provide “gifts-in-kind.” These are goods and services. For instance, pharmaceuticals lead the way in this area of giving.

But many businesses have items that they would be happy to share.  Just think of diaper banks and food pantries. They have very reliable partners in the business community.

Corporate foundation giving is definitely on the upswing as companies become more interested in showing the public that they are socially responsible. It might be an excellent time for any nonprofit to include corporate foundations in their fundraising plans.

Don't depend, however, just on a letter. Getting to know someone at the foundation or corporation first will likely improve your success rate. That relationship could start with a simple phone call or through a contact one of your board members has. Networking first and then asking makes a powerful combination.