Prospecting for Funds: Corporate Giving

In developing your fundraising strategy, corporate giving is an often misunderstood opportunity. Your book does a good job explaining how to research nonprofit foundations. It does a little with government grants (but their instructions are much more complete—and complex—so the major rule there is: Follow the instructions!). But it does not do much with corporate giving. Corporations often do not issue RFPs, the request is often as simple as a 2-page letter, and the funds often come with few strings attached (although the larger corporate giving programs are becoming more formalized). On the other hand, the granting of those funds is often based on personal relationships (which take a lot of time and many contacts to nurture). It is a lot harder than it looks from the outside, but it has possiblities.


How do you research corporate giving? Blackbaud, a company that sells fundraising software, has an excellent website with information about corporate and business-related fundraising (oh, and they also will sell you their products—which are pretty good, by the way, if you can afford them). You should look at their white paper on “Fundraisers’ Guide to Data Sources,” as well as “Prospect Research for the Non-Researcher.”


The basic process for researching corporate giving is as follows:


Note that the process begins with networking and personal contact. Your contact people have to be completely briefed—you only get one shot at making a good first impression—but once you have established that you have common interests, they will frequently help you craft the simple letter of interest that you will submit. In other words, for a non-profit foundation or a government grant, after your prospect research you develop your proposal and then contact the organization (okay, you make an initial inquiry—but nothing really gets going until the staff have a written proposal in hand). With corporate giving, after you research potential givers you work out in great detail what you want to propose, but then you develop the contact before you write the proposal. The proposal is, in effect, a statement of the verbal understanding you have already developed with them.



2011 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 15 January 2011