If you’re used to pursuing large federal grants, corporate grants can feel like a breath of fresh air. There’s usually less red tape involved, and corporate awards usually offer more flexibility.
With the right strategy and tools, finding corporate grants for your nonprofit can be an effective way to diversify your grant strategy.
This post will cover:
What corporate grants are and why they’re important funding avenues for your nonprofit.
How to efficiently find corporate grants and prioritize which ones are a good fit.
Practical advice on securing corporate grants.
What Are Corporate Grants?
Corporate grants come from businesses or corporations, distinguishing them from grants provided by government agencies, foundations, or wealthy individuals.
As companies grow, there’s pressure to generate positive social change, not just profit.
For that reason, many corporations form philanthropic arms to support positive efforts. These efforts support causes that align with their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals.
Corporate philanthropy is a lucrative opportunity for nonprofits.
Corporate grants are financial contributions that corporations award to nonprofit organizations that operate in their local regions or serve similar missions.
Corporations often use their philanthropic activities as part of their branding and public relations efforts.
Here are four key things to know about corporate grants:
Nature of Grants: Unlike loans, corporate grants do not need to be repaid. They are a form of corporate philanthropy aimed at benefiting the community or society at large.
Purpose of Grants: Corporate grants often support initiatives related to the environment, education, healthcare, and community development. However, the focus can vary widely based on the corporation's CSR policies.
Eligibility: While corporate grants are generally available to non-profit organizations, certain corporations may also extend these grants to startups, entrepreneurs, and individuals.
Application Process: Applying for corporate grants typically involves submitting a detailed proposal outlining the intended use of the funds, projected outcomes, and benefits to the community or area of focus.
Understanding the nature and purpose of corporate grants is the first step in finding them. Let’s unpack why they’re important compared to other types of grants.
Why Are Corporate Grants Important?
Corporate grants can be a reliable way to diversify your funding sources. You can use corporate grants for specific programs or projects, but they can also be flexible enough for general operating funds, or cover capital projects.
Additionally, many corporate funders offer a range of benefits beyond grant funding, such as:
In-kind donations: Corporations often offer valuable goods and services at discounted rates or even for free. For instance, Microsoft's program provides certain free Office365 subscriptions to nonprofit organizations.
Discounts on goods and services: Corporate funders can offer goods or services at a reduced cost, which can significantly offset operational expenses.
Employee and partner volunteer support: Small to medium-sized corporations tend to encourage their employees and partners to volunteer for nonprofit organizations. Notable examples include BASF, LinkedIn, and Intel.
Matching programs: These initiatives allow corporations to match the donations made by their employees to a nonprofit. This effectively doubles the amount donated by the employee.
Percentage of purchases donated: Some corporations like Amazon Smile donate a percentage of the purchases made by their customers to nonprofits.
According to Instrumentl’s database of grant opportunities and funders, there are over 2,000 corporate grants available in the United States right now.
The average grant size is $5,000
65 grants are specifically for general operating expenses
Over 1,000 grants support specific projects or programs
That’s a lot of grants to sift through, and undoubtedly, not all will be a perfect fit for your nonprofit. In the next section, we’ll show you how to find more of these corporate grants and narrow them down to the best-fit funders you should pursue for your next grant.
Let’s dive in!
Click to find the best grants for your nonprofit from 12,000+ active opportunities.
There are over 400,000 funders on Instrumentl, and we match you with the ones that are relevant to your nonprofit.
Instrumentl simplifies finding corporate grants because we have the most comprehensive database of active funding opportunities in the U.S.
This section will guide you through the simple process of finding grants using Instrumentl because it really is the easiest way to find more grants faster.
Step 1: Set Up Your Nonprofit Within Instrumentl
To begin your journey towards finding corporate grants for your organization, you'll first need to create a free trial account with Instrumentl. This trial gives you the opportunity to explore and familiarize yourself with the platform and its features.
Note: Instrumentl’s free trial has no strings attached. You don’t have to enter a credit card, but can start finding grants for free.
After you’re in Instrumentl, you will need to start creating a new project. You’ll have three steps to complete:
Share details on where you’re located.
Create a project name.
Set up your grant search.
You will start by entering your organization’s information.
Fill In Details On Your Organization
In the “1.Organization” section, you’ll fill in details on your nonprofit, such as your location and fiscal year. This will help filter out grants that aren’t relevant to the area you serve.
Provide An Overview Of Your Project
In the next section, “2. Overview,” you’ll create a project. Think of a project on Instrumentl as similar to a “saved search.”
A “Matches & Tracking” project will provide you with both a tracker and funding opportunity matches. You'd select this type of project if you are seeking out new funding opportunities.
Once done, click “Save and Continue.”
Specify The Types of Grants You’re Looking For
In the last section, you’ll specify the types of grants you want to get matched with.
In the section, “3. Matches Setup,” you’ll specify several things.
First, you’ll need to identify the type of nonprofit you are (most commonly, just “Nonprofit” rather than “College/ University” or “Zoo”). Then, if you’re a faith-based nonprofit and only want to see grants specifically for that.
You’ll also need to identify the geographical areas you serve. You’ll narrow it down to a county level.
Next, specifying your fields of work will make sure Instrumentl only matches you with corporate grants that align with your mission.
When clicking “+Select Field of Work,” you should search for the cause you support (in our case, food security), and select 2-3 keywords from the drop-down that fits your mission.
You’re almost there. Then, prioritize the grant sizes you’re looking for and specify what you intend to use the funding for (projects, programs, operating expenses, etc.)
Finally, specify that you only want to get matched with corporate grants. This will filter out more challenging grant opportunities like federal or state grants.
When you fill out all the relevant fields, click “Save and Exit.”
Invite Your Team Members
Grant management isn’t done in isolation. Invite your team members who will help manage your grants within Instrumentl.
After you’ve completed these steps, we’ll show you all the best matches.
Step 2: Narrow Your Grant Search To Only Corporate Grants
When you first start reviewing your matches, you’ll notice that Instrumentl resembles an email inbox. The matches are on the left, and when you click on one, the details will show on the right.
The left side shows all your matches:
“Funding Opportunity Matches” are individual active grants.
“Funder Matches” are funders who match your search criteria.
We have a lot of grant matches, so if we want to narrow it down even further we can use the “Filters” dropdown.
We can narrow down our search results based on geography, funding amount, the specific field of work we support, and the funding use (whether project, operating support, or other uses).
Step 3: Prioritize Your Grant Opportunities
After you have a list of your top-matched opportunities, you can dig deeper into each potential corporate grant for your nonprofit.
By clicking on each profile, you can quickly review the relevant information in the "FUNDER OPPORTUNITY" and "FUNDER 990 REPORT" tabs.
These sections contain crucial details that will help you assess the alignment of a grant opportunity with your nonprofit objectives.
The “FUNDER OPPORTUNITY” tab provides a snapshot of the organization. Here, you’ll see relevant information, such as the grant’s focus area, type of support, and priority funding areas. You can even write notes about these opportunities when you save them.
The “FUNDER 990 REPORT” tab provides a summary of data from the foundation's 990 filings with the IRS. This data offers invaluable insights, such as:
the foundation's average giving,
the number of grants they have awarded,
the organizations it has previously funded,
its geographical focus,
its openness to new grantees
the causes it supports.
Leveraging the insights that Instrumentl provides on funders will make it much more efficient to see if they’re a good fit or not.
Reviewing the 990 insights ensures funders align with your mission and strategic goals before you start the application process.
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Step 4: Save The Grants That You Want To Pursue Further
Once you’ve gone through the grant matches thoroughly, save the ones that catch your attention. By doing so, you can easily revisit the grants at a later time in your Grant Tracker, where you can keep track of which you’ve decided to pursue with a letter of intent or full proposal.
To save your grants, you can simply click on the big red "Save" button located at the bottom of the screen.
Once you click on it, a pop-up window will appear where you can write any notes about the grant that you would like to revisit later.
Using Instrumentl you can organize your saved grants by marking them as "Researching." This segments your grant opportunities according to your progress, making it easier to stay on top of everything while you manage your grants.
Step 5: Store Saved Grants In Your Tracker For Future Reference
The Instrumentl Grant Tracker serves as a reliable and efficient tool for managing your pool of saved grants.
The Grant Tracker functions as a personal database for your prospective corporate grants, keeping all your selected opportunities in one place for easy access and organization.
Moreover, the Tracker allows you to update and monitor the status of your grant applications.
Each grant saved in your Tracker can have its status updated as you progress through the application process. To change a grant's status, simply click on the grant within your Tracker.
You'll find a "Status" dropdown where you can select the appropriate status for your grant. You can choose from various status options, including "Researching," "Planned," and "Submitted.”
This feature allows you to have real-time updates on your tasks and helps you efficiently manage your grant application pipeline. With Instrumentl’s Tracker, navigating the world of corporate grants for nonprofits becomes more streamlined and organized.
FAQ on Corporate Government Grants
Below, we address the common questions surrounding corporate grants, so you have everything you need to feel confident pursuing corporate funders.
Are corporate grants only for large nonprofits?
No, corporate grants are available to nonprofits of all sizes. Corporations often support organizations that align with their mission, regardless of their size.
Are there compliance and reporting requirements associated with corporate grants?
Yes, corporations often require nonprofits to provide regular grant reports showing how you’re using the funds and the impact it’s having. One benefit of corporate grants is that they’re much more flexible than federal grants. This is great for smaller nonprofits who may not have the capacity to generate lengthy reports.
Can corporate grants be used for operational costs?
Yes, corporate grants can often be applied towards operational costs. Unlike some other types of grants, corporate grants frequently provide funding for general operating support in addition to specific projects or initiatives.
This can include day-to-day expenses such as:
However, it's essential to thoroughly read the grant guidelines as some corporations may restrict the use of funds for operational costs.
What are some common challenges when seeking corporate grants?
Although corporate grants are usually sought out over other types of grants, they still have their challenges. Common challenges include intense competition, changing corporate priorities, strict eligibility criteria, limited grant cycles, and the need for alignment with the corporation's specific philanthropic goals.
To mitigate these risks, prioritize your corporate funders to only the best-fit opportunities. Spending your best energy pursuing grants that will be a good fit will save you many headaches down the road.
How do I approach a corporation for a grant?
The process of approaching a corporation for a grant typically begins with research.
Identify corporations that align with your nonprofit's mission and have a history of giving grants in your field.
Learn about their grant application process, which may involve submitting a letter of inquiry or a full grant proposal.
Tailor your proposal to fit their giving priorities, demonstrating how your project or services align with their corporate social responsibility goals.
Deciphering if a corporate funder is a good fit for your nonprofit will save you a lot of time. You don’t want to spend time crafting a proposal if you’re not a good fit.
To learn more about prioritizing funders, we have an in-depth article on how to read their 990 forms in a way that pulls out the most important information you’ll need to decide whether or not to pursue them.
Wrapping Up: How to Find Corporate Grants Fast
Finding and applying for corporate grants for nonprofits involves strategic research, careful alignment of your organization's mission with the corporate donor's priorities, and a well-crafted proposal. Remember, corporate grants contribute to specific projects and often support operational costs, providing a significant boost to nonprofits.
If you're looking to step up your grant-seeking strategy, understanding the nuances of corporate grants is a game-changer. For more insights on crafting compelling grant proposals, check out our comprehensive guide on writing grants.