Five ways to build your corporate giving

You won’t be surprised to hear that The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s recent Giving USA report predicts that corporate charitable giving is unlikely to increase in the U.S. this year. There, as here in Canada, existing budgets are moving away from the arts to other sectors – and the U.S. philanthropic world is accelerating their move towards bigger gifts to fewer organizations.

Stats Can’s 2010 Performing Arts figures, summarized by Hill Strategies Research in the September Arts Research Monitor, show an overall picture that doesn’t look bad. 2010 saw an 8.8% increase in revenues for nonprofit performing arts organizations from 2009 (to $752 million), with earned revenues accounting for one-half of operating revenues, followed by public sector grants (27%), private sector contributions (22%) and other revenues (2%). Of the $152 million in private sector revenues, individual donations led the way ($52 million, or 34%), followed by corporate sponsorships ($33 million, or 22%), fundraising events ($31 million, or 20%), foundations ($17 million, or 11%), corporate donations ($10 million, or 6%), and other private revenues ($9 million, or 6%).

(By the way, we’re huge contributors to the community economy and local employment: salaries, wages and benefits (excluding fees paid to contract workers) accounted for 35% of our expenses.)

What if you want to raise that rather low corporate donations total for your company?

Marisa Muller set out five ways the arts can combat flat corporate giving in a recent ARTSblog. These are mostly from Getting Support From Big Companies: 8 Tips for Fundraisers by Maria Di Mento and Raymund Flandez, with a few of her own suggestions added in. Thanks to Marisa, Maria and Raymund for these reminders:

1.  Do your homework: Nearly all corporate executives in the study shared the very basic fundraising advice: do your homework. It is extremely important to be aware of the corporation’s mission and what kind of causes and programs they fund. “Strategic alignment” remains the zeitgeist, so it is important to see how your work fits in with a business’s causes. The better a match, the more likely you are to secure funding.

2.  Partnerships are key: Businesses don’t want to just give money away; they want a reciprocal relationship with their partnering organization. Americans for the Arts has developed The pARTnership Movement to provide both businesses and arts organizations with tools and resources to create mutually beneficial relationships. (*Here in Canada, Business for the Arts’ ArtsVest program is doing much the same good work.)

3.  Volunteers provide a foot in the door: By involving employees as volunteers, corporations have the opportunity to “try out” a nonprofit before committing to a cash donation. “If an organization comes to us with three things, but maybe not everything is thought out, they may not be ready…when we meet them,” says Nicole Robinson of Kraft Foods. “But if we see an advocacy opportunity and an opportunity to engage our employees, we can build from there.”

4.  Make connections: For example, Animating Democracy lays out some of the ways the arts can be linked to community, civic, and social change. Making connections also refers to partnering up with other organizations so you can better accomplish your goals. “We need to leave our collective organizational egos at the door and solve the problem at hand,” says Mr. Robinson, of the Fluor Foundation.

5.  Talk the talk and walk the walk: It’s one thing to do great work, but unless you’re able to effectively tell to people about it, your efforts often go unrecognized. Nonprofits should be able to demonstrate how they plan to help their communities, and why a corporation’s support for a program will benefit both the company and the people the charity helps. Check out how with these Eight Reasons to Partner with the Arts.

And don’t forget Metasoft’s Relationship Building for Successful Fundraising Series, now underway. You’ve missed the session on getting board members more actively involved in fundraising, but there’s more good information to come.



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