Blog / Nonprofits

How to Promote Philanthropy to Your Corporate Partners

by Aly Sterling
How to Promote Philanthropy to Your Corporate Partners
This article is part 1 in our series on corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility from our partners in the field.

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In recent years, corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility (CSR) have exploded in popularity. According to America’s Charities Snapshot Employer Research (2017), 70% of employers believe that their employees expect them to be a socially responsible company. In addition, 92% of companies believe that their customers expect them to be good corporate citizens.

Corporate philanthropy and CSR programs are a major untapped resource for organizations on both the nonprofit and for-profit sides. As a nonprofit professional, you know that corporate philanthropy brings in essential funding in the form of sponsorships, matching gifts, and more.

However, you might find that you struggle to communicate the importance of having dedicated philanthropy programs to your organization’s corporate partners. Or, you might have had corporate partners ask you about corporate philanthropy in the past and not have a strong answer to give them about the importance of this giving avenue.

By promoting philanthropy to your nonprofit’s corporate partners, you can fulfill their desire to get involved with community service and better engage their employees while giving your organization an effective boost in support.

“… fulfill [your corporate partners’] desire to get involved with community service and better engage their employees while giving your organization an effective boost in support.”

Before you can influence corporate sponsors to start their own philanthropy programs, you have to create a dedicated strategy for building trust with these supporters. If you’re working to convince a business to make a longer-term, more formal commitment to you and your community, here’s what you should do:

  • Promote the benefits of corporate philanthropy for businesses.
  • Explain how philanthropy impacts your organization specifically.
  • Provide information on how partners can start their own philanthropy programs.
  • Highlight your organization’s involvement opportunities.

Being a corporate partner by sponsoring nonprofit events or marketing materials is a great first step for many businesses. But adopting a well-rounded, comprehensive corporate philanthropy program of their own allows businesses to fully realize their brand’s potential, exceed customer expectations, and boost employee morale.

Let’s take a look at how you can boost your nonprofit’s strategic plan for this year by getting your corporate partners on board with philanthropy.

Promote the benefits of corporate philanthropy for businesses.

When encouraging corporate partners to form internal corporate philanthropy programs, it’s effective to keep the main focus of your outreach messages on the benefits that each business will receive from adopting this type of program.

When corporations understand the different ways that a corporate philanthropy program can help them meet their business goals, they’ll be much more likely to actually adopt such an initiative. These benefits include the ability to:

  • Better engage with current employees. Participating in philanthropic activities, such as volunteering and donating, comes with real health benefits (Cleveland Clinic, 2020). From lower blood pressure and stress levels to an increase in self-esteem and general happiness, employees benefit in many tangible ways when their businesses implement philanthropic programs. And, in turn, businesses can benefit from this increased engagement. According to a Gallup employee engagement survey, businesses in the highest quartile of employee engagement significantly outperformed those at lower levels in categories such as customer ratings, profitability, and productivity (Sorenson, 2013).

  • Attract philanthropically-minded new employees. As employers, your nonprofit’s corporate partners probably focus on connecting with a millennial audience because this generation is the largest segment of the American workforce. With that in mind, 64% of surveyed millennials reported that they wouldn’t take a job if a company doesn’t have strong CSR values (Cone Communications, 2016). That means that by offering a comprehensive corporate philanthropy program, your corporate sponsors can appeal to this important audience of prospective employees.

  • Earn a positive reputation boost. According to Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s corporate philanthropy guide, our economy right now is a purpose-driven one. 64% of consumers around the world will purchase from or boycott a brand exclusively because of its position on a social or political issue (Edelman, 2018). This gives businesses that prioritize philanthropy in addition to pursuing profits a chance to thrive.

As you slowly introduce corporate partners to the idea of starting a philanthropy program, weave these benefits into your communication strategy. For instance, you might send partners an email series highlighting case studies of how different businesses have optimized their corporate philanthropy programs.

From Cisco to the Gap, plenty of businesses have successfully aligned their strategies and interests with philanthropic principles. For example, the Gap has devoted its energy to creating development opportunities for communities for nearly 50 years. This has led to a powerful giving culture where employees are just as invested in corporate philanthropy as top leaders.

Use email, direct mail, social media, and phone outreach to promote these CSR benefits to your corporate partners.

Explain how philanthropy impacts your organization specifically.

Use specific examples and impact stories about how corporate philanthropy has helped your nonprofit. Sharing hard data and real stories will help your corporate partners visualize the palpable difference their support can make for your important cause.

“Sharing hard data and real stories will help your corporate partners visualize the palpable difference their support can make for your important cause.”

Share information about the impacts of the following corporate philanthropy programs:

  • Matching gifts. In matching gift programs, businesses match donations that their employees make to nonprofits. Perhaps your organization has been able to double its annual Giving Tuesday goals with the help of matching gifts. Or, maybe matching gift funds have helped expand your after-school kids’ program to include 50 more children.

  • Volunteer grants. Volunteer grants, also known as dollars-for-doers programs, are initiatives that involve businesses contributing donations to nonprofits where their employees regularly volunteer. Tell corporate partners how volunteer grants enabled your organization to purchase necessary gardening supplies for community volunteers or pay transportation costs for volunteers traveling door-to-door to share voter registration information.

  • In-kind donations. Rather than monetary contributions, in-kind donations involve businesses donating goods or services to nonprofits. Your organization may accept in-kind donations such as pet care supplies, office equipment, or pro-bono public relations consulting. Describe how these contributions give your nonprofit direct access to necessary supplies, equipment, and expert advice. Encourage corporate partners to consider the types of in-kind donations they might be able to provide.

Review your organization’s fundraising plans from previous years to identify key examples where corporate philanthropy provided an impactful boost to your projects or programs. This can appeal to the altruistic side of your corporate partners’ business objectives. Plus, your partners will rest assured that any philanthropic contributions they make to your organization will be put to good use.

Provide information on how partners can start their own philanthropy programs.

There are plenty of different models that corporate partners can reference when developing their own philanthropy programs.

First, partners must look into any relevant local, state, or federal regulatory requirements for getting into philanthropy. Your organization should also review relevant guidelines to ensure that you aren’t suggesting anything that goes against regulations.

Then, provide information and examples of how these businesses might choose to create and structure their own programs. You can base your recommendations on the successful corporate philanthropy programs of other businesses. Here are a few examples you might highlight:

  • ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil offers a matching gift program wherein they match donations that their employees or their spouses make to higher education institutions. They match at a ratio of 2:1 for employees, with a maximum initial donation amount of $7,500. Exxon also offers a volunteer grant program that contributes $500 to a nonprofit after an employee has volunteered there for at least 20 hours within a year.

    Exxon’s corporate philanthropy program effectively maintains focus on one core area of philanthropy — education — while also allowing employees to involve their loved ones in philanthropic giving. This can lead to greater employee satisfaction and appreciation.

  • Microsoft. As a technology company, Microsoft is devoted to pursuing technical developments to benefit customers. This aligns with the company’s philanthropic initiatives to help close the digital divide.

    Microsoft has organized its corporate philanthropy initiatives around four main initiatives: becoming carbon negative, closing the broadband gap, facilitating employee giving, and fighting malware.

    Your nonprofit’s corporate partners can similarly organize their philanthropy programs around a few guiding pillars or central projects.

  • Verizon. Verizon offers a matching gift program with two options for employees to participate in: individual matching grants and a team program.

    With the individual matching gift program, Verizon matches employee donations of up to $5,000 to higher education institutions and $1,000 to nonprofits. With the team program, employees can form groups of 10 or more to raise funds together for educational or nonprofit causes. Verizon matches funds collected by each team up to $10,000 per team and event.

    By adopting this model of matching gift program, your own nonprofit’s corporate partners can not only encourage employees to support charitable causes but also do so in groups. This helps build team camaraderie and grow personal relationships among employees.

    Review Double the Donation’s corporate philanthropy overview for additional CSR program examples to highlight.

Highlight your organization’s involvement opportunities.

Your organization likely has plenty of opportunities happening year-round that your corporate partners can get involved with to jumpstart their philanthropy programs. These initiatives might include:

  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Major events like festivals or races
  • Auctions
  • Peer to peer fundraising challenges
  • Matching gift drives

You may even need sponsors for certain ongoing communications, such as your email newsletters.

Highlighting these engagement opportunities helps corporate sponsors kick off their philanthropy programs with immediate ways for their employees to get involved. Plus, you can ensure that your corporate partners turn their philanthropic gaze onto your organization first rather than other similar organizations. This can ensure that your organization is the beneficiary of more matching gift and volunteer grant funds, event sponsorships, and in-kind contributions.

Connecting the Dots

Corporate philanthropy offers plenty of mutual benefits for nonprofits and businesses alike. As a nonprofit professional, it’s in your best interest to promote philanthropy to your corporate partners to create new fundraising and support channels. But your corporate sponsors won’t leave the partnership empty-handed — they’ll have a new way to engage employees, customers, and the wider community in charitable activities.

Connect the dots for your corporate partners with a strong communication strategy that emphasizes the benefits, impact, and potential structures of corporate philanthropy programs.

Aly Sterling
President, Aly Sterling Philanthropy
Aly Sterling is the founder and president of Aly Sterling Philanthropy, a partnership-driven consulting firm powering fundraising, strategic planning and board leadership solutions for the well-positioned nonprofit.


America’s Charities. (2017). Snapshot Employee Research: What Employees Think about Workplace Giving, Volunteering, and CSR.

Cleveland Clinic. (2020, October 28). Why Giving Is Good for Your Health. Healthessentials.

Cone Communications. (2016, November 2). 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study.

Edelman. (2018, October 2). Two-Thirds of Consumers Worldwide Now Buy on Beliefs. News & Awards.

Sorenson, S. (2013, June 20). How Employee Engagement Drives Growth. Gallup.