According to the Giving USA 2013 Highlights, corporate philanthropy totaled $18.15 billion in 2012. As compared to individual giving and bequests, which totaled $252.34 billion, corporate donations only represent 6 percent of the total given during 2012 ($316.23 billion).

Why the Big Difference in Contributions

Between Individuals and Corporate Giving? 

Development professionals cater to corporate goals with sometimes only a blurry focus on the employees involved within the organization. Perhaps it’s possible to engender more loyalty toward corporate philanthropic goals through the very same people that are giving their time and money? The answer is “yes” and therefore, to grow corporate philanthropy we should increase individual outreach concurrent with corporate social mission.  

amy's clockHere’s how we might embrace both the individual and the company in corporate giving campaigns.

A two-prong goal: alignment of corporate social mission and individual benefits

Ideally the best corporate philanthropic program is one aligned with a company’s social mission. In other words, there is a logical reason that the company has chosen a specific nonprofit.  Consider Home Depot’s commitment in 2012 of $80 million over five years, for housing, on behalf of veterans. Ms. Banaszynski, who oversees the program for Volunteers of America explains: “This (Home Depot’s focus) seems like a deep company-wide commitment, not just a philanthropic gift… the hearts and souls of their associates have become involved.” Further, Home Depot estimates that at least 35,000 of its employees are veterans. The first goal of every corporate philanthropic program is to find the synergy between company and the cause.

 But, let’s set a concurrent goal focused on individuals, the people participating in the campaign. As mentioned in a previous  blog, a recent study by True Impact of 28,000 employee volunteers, 87 percent reported feeling extremely satisfied and 94 percent believed that their volunteerism was a ‘core component or positive influence on job satisfaction.”

This second, concurrent goal defines the benefits of employee involvement in giving programs.  How will employees benefit by donating and or participating in a corporate campaign? 

In Home Depot’s efforts employees “don’t sit there and eat doughnuts and drink coffee, rather, they show up at 7 in the morning and go all day”, feeling very satisfied and enthusiastic about the difference they can make. In addition, Home Depot employees who have also been veterans are able to demonstrate to the clients that’s it possible to “make it” in a traditional workplace environment. Who wouldn’t benefit from Home Depot’s campaign?

Never have too much cache

When planning how to engage employees, there can never be too much recognition, education and celebration: 

  • Consider how to make your campaign materials stand out and feel personal to the employee.

  • Use videos and strong visuals to communicate messages.

  • Celebrate corporate leaders who are leading the charge — just like any other peer-to-peer event.

  • Set up contests, morning treats, evening “wind-down” events —whatever makes sense for the culture and corporate environment.

  • Make sure there’s a clear plan for thanking each donor and, if possible, hand-write notes.


Junior Achievement reported last year that it spent “$5 million over the past seven years documenting the effectiveness of its programs – something that companies are increasingly looking for,” according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy article, “With Cash Giving Flat, Companies Offer Other Aid.”  Make plans to follow up with employees on how their donations made an impact. Hopefully it’s not necessary to spend millions. Rather chose a few key metrics to demonstrate success.

Cultivation events

Cultivation events offer the chance for individuals to become familiar with your nonprofit.  Create “Lunch & Learns”, “Coffee Chats”, “Pep Rallies” with a fun hook, a clear presentation about who you are and why your cause should matter. Offer some prizes and yummy snacks for extra incentive. Provide additional volunteer opportunities and survey attendees at the end of the event to gauge interest. Make sure the presentation is well orchestrated, to the point and leaves time for Q & A. An event is only as good as the follow-up so reach out afterwards to employees who expressed interest.

What else besides the check?

Junior Achievement of Colorado proposes that its corporate volunteers can “unlock youth’s potential.” In other words, it’s not just money that makes a difference but they, the employees, who can make an impact through volunteering! 

Sometimes there’s a logical way to involve employees in a cause.  For example CWEE, the Center for Work Education and Employment, offers a myriad of ways for involvement:

1.  Attend our Professional Connections Networking Event…

2.  Host a Tour for Participants at Your Company…

3.  Assist participants in Informational Interviews…

4.  Volunteer to be a Mock Interviewer…

5.  Become a Guest speaker about your organization or industry…

6.  List a current Job Opening with us…

7.  Host a Hiring Event.

When there is not a logical fit, capacity-building projects are another way to involve employees. The key, as described by Alexander Shermansong, principal at Civic Consulting Alliance, is to be an outstanding “matchmaker”. In other words, outline the project and its components and define what type of help is needed. Here’s more information on how to be the right matchmaker.

Just as we value individuals and their impact on philanthropy, we need to remember that concurrent with a company’s social mission are the benefits for employees when participating in a campaign.  While employee-giving campaigns continue to raise funds, it’s worth cultivating stronger ties with the individual employees through events, capacity building and volunteering opportunities. Just like individual solicitations for an annual fund, we want to create long-standing relationships and loyalty with the employee. In the end, as always, it’s about the relationships we create. Relationships will sustain and grow corporate philanthropy.