Online Fundraising Academy: Corporate Outreach and Relationship Building

ingridThis Tuesday, Ingrid Embree, GlobalGiving’s Director of Strategic Partnerships joined us for the seventh session of the Online Fundraising Academy to discuss how she identifies and builds relationships with prospective corporate partners. Ingrid has helped more than 60 different companies achieve their philanthropic objectives with GlobalGiving. She has a history of helping organizations meet their operational objectives, develop fundraising capacity, and achieve legislative victories. Check out the session summary below!

Session recording:

Session notes:

Tips on how to get recommended to corporate partners on GG

  • The higher you partner reward status, the better – GG recommends Superstars to corporate partners first
  • Make sure you have a compelling project – have appropriate title and themes

Corporate Giving Trends – Good news!

  • 86% of U.S. companies plan to maintain or increase their international giving budget in the next fiscal year.
  • Local communities’ needs were the most influential factor for giving.
  • Younger workers prefer companies that engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and are pushing companies to change their traditional giving
  • 90% of people expect companies to support social or environmental issues.
  • CEOs are getting more involved in community involvement

Social-ResponsibilityCorporate Giving – What’s Important?

  • Corporations make investments when they intersect with the community, employees and company – the more categories your organization fits into, the better
  • You are the barometer of community needs – corporations like that they can hear what’s going on in your community
  • You are the subject matter expert – they want to hear the details, updates

Use trust indicators – this is a high trust relationship, so use as many trust indicators you have to prove you can be trusted

  • GlobalGiving – rigorous vetting process
  • Charity Navigator, Great Nonprofits, BBB Accredited Charity
  • Memberships, endorsements – anything that shows you’re legitimate
  • Memberships to professional associations
  • Local registered organizations that recognize your work
  • Quotes from donors, beneficiaries

“Development” is a lot like sales. It just takes longer, but you can use some of the same tools.

1. Research – target your list of people to reach out to

  • Wikipedia search “list of companies in [city]” – look at companies based there, have a strong presence; then expand search to the metropolitan, county, state, and country level
  • Google search “Company Name + Community Affairs” “+ CSR” “+ Philanthropy” “+ Giving” “+ Citizenship” etc. – get as much information about what they do, what they fund, who are the decision makers
  • Google News search their general financials – How is their stock? Any big layoffs? It’s a good time to reach out if their reputation took a hit
  • Search LinkedIn to see if your board, major donors, similar nonprofits, former classmates, etc. might know anyone at the company

2. Commitment to outreach

  • Create an annual strategy with a monthly focus
  • Weekly goals
  • Track interactions – plan for a number of interactions a week; interactions can be calls, emails, meetings
  • Make yourself accountable – send how many interactions you had throughout the week to your team
  • Be ready to pivot as necessary – be flexible

3. Referrals

  • Cold outreach is harder than warm outreach
  • Better to have a connections from a board member, donor, friend, former classmates, even stakeholders and community members
  • You need to reach out to others to find those connections

4. Personalization and layering

  • Short, tailored introduction – include something that would get them interested
  • Personalized news (I know this subject is important to you…)
  • Give some information that shows you know what you’re talking about. You’re the expert!
  • Good news from stakeholders – have a great quote
  • “I’ll be in your area…” even if you aren’t, but could if they want to meet
  • Layering – being in continuous touch that’s not obnoxious. Build up relationship over time so you’ll always be in the back of their mind
  • Corporations love easy to explain statistics so they can remember your issue and personal stories of individuals overcoming hardship because of your program

5. Cultivation of volunteers

  • Volunteerism growing – more engaged employees do better
  • Volunteer coordinators would most likely choose the most heartwarming activity
  • Post it on volunteer sites that corporations use (VolunteerMatch, Points of Light, YourCause)
  • Many companies have “Dollars for Doers” or their grants require that employees volunteer with the nonprofit
  • Dollars for Doers program – once an employee has volunteered for a certain amount of hours, the nonprofit is eligible for a grant or automatically gets a grant. Some corporations only give to nonprofits employees are volunteering at

How to prioritize – figure out what not to do

  • Cause marketing is great, but they are generally not enduring or recurring revenue. Most likely they’ll be a one-time thing
  • Don’t spend tons of time on “cold” proposals – make proposal short and sweet, corporations can’t go through every single proposal
  • If someone says no, don’t spend too much time trying to convince them. But keep them on your layering list if the fit is good.

Be patient but tenacious – don’t give up hope!

Your integrity will be appreciated – don’t force it if it doesn’t fit, refer other organizations if they’re a better fit.

Contact Ingrid at

Q: What does “development” mean?

A: Non-profit fundraising – creating a relationship with people so they can eventually contribute to your organization

Q: Do you have advice for a smaller organization with limited time and staff? Or for a rural organization?

A: Engage a volunteer as a development volunteer. It could be a virtual volunteer that has connections to potential corporate partner. Take your subject area and make the case that you are an established and vetted organization.

Q: How can you get employee volunteers in limited numbers and on your terms?

A: Some corporations have nonprofit partners where they get a certain number of volunteers with certain skills after getting a grant.

Q: How do you combat a negative perspective of the geographic area you are focused on?

A: Appeal to the kindness of people, point out that the corporation has a presence in the community but hasn’t made any investments there. And you can be their safe investment!

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