National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Right on the Money: The Corporate View of Charitable Giving

Photograph of money falling from a skyscraper.

“Corporate giving” is the kind of term that intimidates many nonprofits, particularly small or new ones. But with a little research and preparation, you might find that businesses can become some of your most dependable and valuable partners. 

For-profits include huge, multinational businesses as well as smaller regional and local companies. Many of them have some form of charitable foundation under their umbrella. To give our readers an introduction to corporate giving, NCFY recently spoke with two prolific donors, and they offered some perspective on their approaches to philanthropy. 

Clear Priorities

Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the nation’s largest financial company, donates hundreds of millions of dollars a year to causes like education, neighborhood development and youth health. The foundation also has longstanding partnerships with national organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, through which it targets its giving to specific missions.

The foundation advertises its priorities on its website and in its literature, and has specific reasons for holding them. “We look at economic drivers in a community,” says Senior Vice President Kristy Teskey. “When our communities are stronger, we do better.”

As a grant seeker, recognizing the values that businesses hold can help you explain how your organization’s work can forward their goals. It can also prevent you from applying for grants from companies that don’t fund the kind of work you do. 

Local Giving

Though much smaller than Bank of America, the Waterford Group, which operates and builds hotels, restaurants and casinos, funded over 200 organizations and causes in 2010. Melissa Gillette, Waterford’s public relations coordinator, explains that their efforts are mostly limited to the company’s regional footprint of Connecticut and New Hampshire, including the Connecticut Children’s Hospital and the states’ March of Dimes chapters. 

That’s largely because a significant chunk of Waterford’s charitable dollars come from voluntary payroll deductions by employees. “Regional giving helps our employees see where their money’s going,” says Gillette. 

Similarly, Bank of America Foundation relies on individual branches for charitable guidance. In the past few years, for example, much of Bank of America’s initiative promoting community development and neighborhood preservation has focused on helping families prevent home foreclosure in those neighborhoods hit hardest by the housing crisis. 

The message for youth-serving nonprofits: When making first contact with a corporation, try looking for a local or regional branch in your community, county or state. 

“Our local bank leaders tell us where the need is,” Teskey explains. “It’s a national company, but it’s also quite regional.”