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Higher Education’s Path to Corporate Donations

The Philanthropy Outlook 2018 & 2019 reports that recent tax-reforms have made the corporate giving scene a bit uncertain in the upcoming years, in spite of this, however, it remains an important source of annual giving donations. So in preparation for the upcoming year of corporate outreach, we’ve reviewed the different ways you can encourage companies to give to your institution.

Where to Start?

First things first, come up with a list of companies or corporations that are most likely to donate to your school. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. The percentage of alumni working in each company.  Having hundreds of alumni working at a company like Microsoft may seem substantial at first glance, however, in reality, these alumni account for just a small percentage of this company’s total workforce. Chances are they don’t have a whole lot of influence. A smaller local company where your alumni employees account for 90% of the workforce may be more likely to be a sponsor. When evaluating corporate donors, be sure to pay attention to the ratio of alumni to company size.

  2. Choose companies with interests that align with your goals. Companies with similar targets and objectives are much more likely to get involved. Take into consideration their product or service, their industry and who they serve. Additionally – look at their website for more information – do they have a mission statement or past philanthropic activities listed? 

  3. What do you hope to gain? Apart from a numerical figure – think outside the box – perhaps you are in need of a product or service from a company rather than just financial funding. A great example – last year Ohio University received $30 million worth of property from Welltower, a local real estate agency.

  4. Local or Corporate? Both are ideal, but in many cases, local businesses are a favorite for school sponsorship. However, the modern-day corporate donors do take interest in local appeals. Don’t be afraid to dream big, and the results may surprise you. Here is a list of corporate donors who give to nonprofits to get you started.

How to Solicit Donations from a Company

  1. Know the details of your ask. What do you hope to receive? What can you offer in return?

  2. Communications should be sweet and concise. Chances are these companies have many requests and limited time to dedicate to each one. The best communications get right to the point.

  3. Ask who the decision-maker is. It’s an easy and direct way for you know where you should focus your time and efforts.

  4. Have a written explanation of your intended impact. Explain your goals and your plan for implementing them. As with any donor, individual or corporate, they want assurance that their money will be well spent.

Benefits for Both Parties

While it’s nice to think that companies and corporations’ primary goal is philanthropy, the truth is that they are likely looking for something in return. Make sure you ask what they hope to gain – chances are it will be one of the following:

  1. PR – companies want their good deeds to be public knowledge. You can recognize their contribution on your website, in communications, etc.

  2. Profit – Exposure to their brand, in the long run, means more clients and more profit. Consider publicly displaying their logo.

  3. Graduate Recruitment – If they are looking for future employees, offer a meet and greet with students.

  4. Employee Engagement & Morale – Their interest may be more for internal reasons. A new poll suggests that Millenials prefer to work for companies who are philanthropic.

  5. Tax Deductions

Matching Gifts Programs

As we covered in a recent blog, another way companies give back is through matching gift programs. In order for these programs to work, the employees must take the first step to donate and then, companies match, triple or even quadruple donations. Don’t underestimate these smaller gifts, around $2-3 billion is donated through matching gift programs annually.

As you begin your search for corporate donors, keep in mind that relationships with companies and corporations are similar in many ways to relationships with individual donors -the goal is to create long-lasting donor relationships. They may take time to cultivate, but with the right strategies and tools, there is a lot to be gained for both parties.


[1] The Philanthropy Outlook 2018 & 2019,


[4] How to Land a Corporate Donation for Your School,


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