Seven steps to corporate philanthropy

Mark Trupp

2) Rely on your board of directors. Talk with your board about their companies’ contribution policies. Ask them to also introduce you to representatives of companies with which they do business and that might be interested in your mission.

3) Research prospective donors. Check corporate websites. Find out the contribution policies, applications and forms required for donation requests, as well as application deadlines. Determine each company’s focus areas and identify the local decision-makers.

If the information is not on the web, make some phone calls. Ask the company if it has specific community relations objectives and what kind of grant requests it supports. Address your proposal to an individual whenever possible and make sure the names and addresses of the individual and the company are spelled correctly and are current.

4) Follow the guidelines. Most companies receive hundreds or even thousands of proposals annually. Follow each one’s submission guidelines precisely. If you have specific questions, call first. Keep your proposal brief, simple and free of fancy packaging. Use bullets. Control your sentence and paragraph length, and use active verbs to describe your request. Ask others to proofread your proposal. Triple-check that you’re enclosed all required elements.

5) Seek a connection. A company will often link its decisions about corporate gifts to its mission. Seek out grants from companies whose mission is similar to yours. For instance, if your group is education-oriented, target companies with missions either tied to education or that list education as a priority. Identify where the nonprofit’s and the corporate donor’s interests intersect. When a connection is established, a relationship can evolve.

6) More than just dollars. Companies are increasingly interested in contributing more than just dollars. They are marshalling their expertise, employees, products and services to improve their communities.

Corporations and nonprofits are discovering that greater community impact is achieved when corporate dollars are augmented by employee volunteerism. Many corporations, including Wells Fargo, allow employees to perform volunteer work on company time. Some even provide compensation and incentives for employees who volunteer for community service.

When you approach a company, ask about the types of in-kind support it can provide. You might not get money, but you might get volunteers for your next fundraising event, or some used computers, office furniture or fixtures.

7) Report results. Provide your donors a report of how their donation was used, how your projects are progressing, and your organization’s future goals and plans. This vital element of fundraising is the key to maintaining a strong, long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

Based in Vancouver, Mark Trupp is Wells Fargo’s community banking district manager for Southwest Washington. Trupp can be reached at 503.739.6179 or

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