How to Make a Compelling Case to Corporate Funders

For many nonprofits, securing corporate funding may seem like a long shot. But with over $16 billion annually in funding from corporations , it could be worth it to make your case for support to corporate funders.

In this article, we share how to make a compelling case to corporate funders and increase your chances of winning corporate funds.

How to Learn About Corporate Donors

The first step to learning about corporate donors is much like securing funding from other types of donors: research, research, research.

The funding priorities of corporations vary depending on where they operate and what programs align with their business. The good news is, with so many corporate philanthropic programs, you can find corporate funding opportunities that are a good fit for your organization.

As the most comprehensive source of grant and funder data in the world, Instrumentl offers great tools for funder research and can help you learn about corporate donors and find funding opportunities that are a good fit for your organization’s needs.

Instrumentl helps nonprofits and development teams of all sizes improve their grant prospecting, tracking, and management in order to make the best use of their valuable time and energy.

The best way to build a list of corporate donors that could be a match is to focus on one or more of the following search filters:

  1. Geographic area served
  2. Program areas they fund
  3. Grant sizes

Many corporate funders only award grants to nonprofits operating in the geographical area in which their headquarters are located. This allows the company to give back to the community where many of their employees live. 

In addition, corporations will often focus on a few key issues or program areas to direct their funding. The program areas may also be connected to the company’s industry. For example, a large corporate funder such as Bank of America awards grants to nonprofits working on financial literacy. 

Here is an example of how Instrumentl’s Matching tool can help you find a corporate donor that aligns with your project and organize your research:

Lastly, you will want to make sure that the opportunity matches the grant size you are looking for. If your organization is seeking grant funding for around $25,000 or $50,000, then it may not make sense for you to spend time on an application for $1,000 or $5,000. Depending on the size of your staff, you may want to prioritize your time accordingly.

Once you have spent some time with different search criteria and filters, then you will want to determine whether your organization is a good fit.

One of the best ways to learn about what a corporate funder is looking for is through their history of giving. Oftentimes, corporate foundations will list their grantees on their website. If not, you can locate information about the grants they have made in the past using Instrumentl’s 990 Snapshot feature.

If you see one or even many organizations that do similar work as your organization, that can be a good sign. If you look through the corporation’s list of grantees and don’t see any organizations of similar size or program area, then the funder may not be a good fit.

So far, the process for learning about corporate funders may seem a lot like prospect research for other types of funders. But there’s a catch.

Unlike other types of donors, though, you may want to consider filtering your corporate prospect list based on reputation.

Right now you may be asking yourself: under what circumstances should I screen out a corporate donor? The answer is if the corporation does not align with your organization’s values.

For example, if you are an environmental nonprofit focused on climate change, you may consider screening out any corporations that do not prioritize sustainability.

Once you have screened your list of corporate funders and feel good about applying, you’ll probably be wondering who to start with first.

That could be a good time to determine which companies have the closest proximity to your organization. For example, are there any companies that your organization already does business with? Vendors that you use?

What about your Board of Directors? What companies do your Board members work for or are involved with? Also, look within your community. Are there small businesses or companies committed to your community or to your cause?

You could also consider looking for grant opportunities from national corporations, like those on this source list from Fundraiser Help: Corporate Grants For Nonprofits Source List.

Once you have narrowed down your list of prospects, now you are ready to engage with the prospective funders and make a compelling case for support.

Below are a few ways to consider engaging with corporate funders, especially if your organization has not done so already.

3 Steps to Engaging with Corporate Funders

1. Understand the corporate funding process. 

Before proceeding with a corporate funding opportunity, make sure that you understand their process. Read through all of the procedures listed on their website or in their RFP to know how the company prefers to engage with prospective nonprofit partners.

For example, some corporate foundations start with a one-page Letter of Intent (LOI). Some companies will list a mailing address or email for you to send a case for support. Others may require that you have an employee sponsor your application. Which leads us to step #2...

2. Find an insider to advocate for you.

Knowing an employee of the company, preferably someone with influence, goes a long way. As stated above, some corporate funders require you to have an employee sponsor your application. In other cases, corporate foundations invite employee volunteers to serve on their application review committee. 

An employee on the inside can potentially put in a good word for your organization or introduce you to a decision maker which will help you to stand out among the many other applicants. 

In the least, you can reach out to any contact listed for the company to make an initial connection. Send them an email or see if you can schedule a phone call. Come to the conversation with a list of questions you have about their grantmaking or what they’re looking for throughout the funding process. 

3. Offer ways to partner up.

Corporate funders are looking for nonprofit partners who offer the best ROI for their funding. One of the ways to make a compelling case for your organization is to offer opportunities to partner with the company. 

Partnerships with corporate funders could include offering a brand sponsorship at your next charity event. Providing ways for corporations to advertise with their corporate logo in prominent places for your constituents and supporters to see could be compelling to a corporate funder.

Similarly, nonprofits with a large social media following may want to offer to post about the corporation and their partnership online. 

Other partnerships appealing to corporate funders? Volunteer opportunities.

If there are ways to engage corporate employees with your mission, invite them to volunteer with your program. For example, if you run a youth scholarship program, invite corporate employees to share about their career paths with your youth participants. But only if it makes sense for your organization and is not too disruptive or too much work for your team.

For corporations, funding nonprofits doing good in the community is good citizenship and it is good for business. Think about it. As consumers, who doesn’t feel better when the product you are buying is made by a company that is also supporting causes you care about?

Now you may be asking yourself, “Sounds great, but how do I make our application stand out from the others?”

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How to Build Your Case for Corporate Funding

A nonprofit case for support tells prospective donors what your organization hopes to accomplish with their philanthropic investments. This document can be a comprehensive way to share why the company should care about your nonprofit.

A case for support, or case statement, can vary in length and format, but should always be tailored to your prospective donor. Use the case to explain why your work is needed and to show off your organization’s strengths and impact. 

Although they don’t all look the same, a case for support will contain some of these common elements:

  • Cover Letter
  • Executive Summary
  • Statement of Need
  • Goals
  • Plan of Action
  • Evaluation Method
  • Budget
  • Community References
  • Organizational Information
  • Appendix

As we mentioned above, a strong case statement will be customized for your donor audience. After doing all of that research, you should have an idea of what the prospective funder cares about and what will interest them.

Tailor your case statement to your target funder by sharing more about the community you serve in the Statement of Need, sharing relevant examples in your Plan of Action, or using local leaders who the funder may recognize in your Community References.

5 Tips for Writing Compelling Case Statements

Tailoring your case for support to each corporate funder will help you make a connection to the company. With that in mind, there are a few guidelines to help you as you build a compelling case for corporate funding.

Here are a few tips for making the strongest case for support:

1. Keep it simple. 

The reader of your application does not need to know everything about your organization or everything you do. But you do want them to clearly understand your mission and be inspired by your vision. 

2. Tell a good story. 

This may seem obvious, but people relate to stories about other people. So even if it seems like the application is asking a pretty straight forward question, find a way to tell a story about who you are and why your work is important to make a connection with the reader. 

3. Connect it to their business. 

Whenever possible, describe how your organization connects back to the service or product that the corporation provides. For example, an after-school program is applying for a grant from Google and explains how all of their youth participants use Google Apps at their site. If you can connect your program to their core business, people who use their product, or even employees of the company, your case for support will be that much more compelling. 

4. Use data. 

Corporate funders love data, and it can be helpful to speak their language. Whenever possible, share the relevant statistics or measurable outcomes for your program. Be sure to include your reach (# of clients served) and your impact over time to demonstrate the funder’s return on investment. Corporate funders will want to know how much it costs to run your program and how you plan to be efficient with their funds. 

5. Dazzle the reader. 

For any case for support to be compelling, it needs to be easy to read. The format of your case should be clean, simple, and pleasing to the eye. Consider adding photos to your case statement, especially if there are captivating photos of your mission in action. Infographics are another way to convey complicated information in a digestible format.

One way to give your case for support a test run is to share it with someone outside of your organization. Ask a friend or colleague who is not as familiar with your nonprofit to read the case for support and ask them if they felt it was compelling enough to give you money.

Wrapping Things Up: How to Make Compelling Cases to Corporate Funders

With this information, hopefully you will find it easier to learn about corporate funders, develop a compelling case for support, and be ready to win corporate funding!

If you are looking for additional help, you can search online for examples by using search terms such as, “nonprofit case statement” or “case for support to corporate funders.” 

The good news is that once you have a case for support written and finalized, you can use it as a template for future prospective corporate funders, or even for other purposes in your donor marketing materials.

If you still need help finding the corporate funders that are the best fit for your organization’s programs and projects, check out Instrumentl. We bring grant prospecting, tracking and management to one place and curate grant matches to help you save time in applying to grants you actually stand a chance in receiving. You can create a 14-day free account by using this link here.

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