This month, we’ll elaborate on a topic we touched on in the September VolunteerHub Brief: corporate giving. USA Today recently reported, not surprisingly, that corporate donations as a whole have declined along with the weak economy. We’ll uncover, however, which segment of nonprofit organizations has actually seen a boost in funding — and what alternative companies are offering as a supplement to dollars. Our article will also provide a couple tips for increasing your chance of submitting a winning grant proposal.

Identifying the Greatest Need

Lately, many corporations have taken a close look at the charitable funds they have available and have been equally discerning in determining how their dollars will create the biggest impact. The result has been an investment in basic necessities. For example, USA Today states that Wal-mart launched a $2 billion hunger relief initiative, which allows for $250 million in grant allocations.

Finding the Right Fit

How can you maximize your organization’s chance at receiving grant funding while corporations’ purse strings are being pulled tighter? One of the most important things to look at is the compatibility between your mission and the initiatives supported by the prospective grant maker. We’ve taken some of the top corporate givers in 2009 as ranked by USA Today, along with their charitable priorities, and listed them here. Each link goes directly to the company’s philanthropic information.

  • Wal-Mart: education; employment and training; environment and conservation; health; hunger
  • Bank of America: arts and culture; community and economic development; education; human services; nonprofit development
  • Wells Fargo & Company: community development; education; human services
  • J.P. Morgan Chase & Company: community development; education; arts and culture
  • Coca Cola Company: water stewardship; health; community recycling; education
  • Kroger Company: hunger; education; grassroots service organizations; women’s health
  • Ford Motor Company: education; auto-related safety education; community development
  • American Express Company: cultural heritage; leadership; community service
  • CVS Caremark Corporation: children and youths; disabilities; education; health

For a USA Today‘s complete listing, click here. Hover your pointer over a company’s name to see the initiatives it supports.

The New Jersey State Library’s website offers another important pointer for approaching corporations, one that is applicable not just to libraries but to most nonprofit organizations. The site explains that, in general, companies practice the idea of “profitable philanthropy.” (In other words: what’s in it for them?) Because of this, be sure to specifically demonstrate in your grant application the benefits the corporation will realize by granting your request (advertisement, prestige, a boost in employee morale, et cetera).

One final tip: be sure to thoroughly read the instructions for grant applications. Some requests are never even considered if specifications are not followed to the letter.

It’s more competitive than ever, but there are still millions of philanthropic dollars out there, so grant seeking is definitely worth a try. Of course, grant writing does take time, but recruiting a qualified volunteer to draft proposals for your review can lighten the load.

Mobilizing EVPs

To supplement monetary donations, another trend in corporate philanthropy has emerged. Companies are now leaning harder on their employee volunteer programs (EVPs). According to Reuters, in the past three years, employee participation in Alcoa’s “Month of Service” initiative has increased to 37 percent; Bank of America employees gave in excess of 800,000 volunteer hours last year; and Walmart has seen its employees add 250,000 volunteer hours to its 2008 number, resulting in over 1.5 million service hours contributed in 2009. The bottom line: if you haven’t yet approached one or more local companies about a volunteer partnership, this may be a good time to do so.

Read more about EVPs in our blog archives:

America’s Big Companies Make Big Difference

Creating a Successful Employee Volunteer Program