On the heels of the recession, companies like Navarro are recognizing that giving can look different than just donating cash. “It can be about giving the talent of employees, products, access to media…there are so many assets companies have that can be powerful,” said Margaret Coady, director of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy. Indeed, nationally, only 46 percent of total corporate giving is direct cash.
One of the big trends in corporate giving is a new emphasis on volunteerism — donating employee time to charity work. Nationally, company-organized volunteerism rose 63 percent in 2011 from 53 percent two years prior. Encouraging employees to give their time to a charity is a win-win for both, fundraisers say. “Companies have been paying a lot of attention to crafting employee engagement volunteer programs that are meaningful and can be seen as an employee benefit,” Coady said.
During its Power to Care week, FPL gives employees paid time off to volunteer for the charity of their choice. This past year, 1,000 FPL employees from across the state volunteered for 21 different community projects.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society benefits from both corporate volunteers who donate their time as well as corporate sponsors who donate funds. The nonprofit has been successful at tapping into a creative form of corporate giving now in vogue: corporations matching employee charitable contributions. Anna Maria Gentile, regional director of the Southern Florida Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, said her organization felt the brunt of corporate cutbacks in 2008 and 2009. But it does see an increase in giving through employer/employee partnerships.
Each year, the Society holds a Light the Night Walk — both in Miami-Dade and Broward counties — in which teams of families, friends, co-workers and local and national corporations come together to raise funds and participate in the evening event. Gentile says dozens of South Florida companies match employee contributions. “Companies like the fact that these programs encourage their employees to be involved in their communities,” says Gentile.
Gentile has discovered that increasingly, luring corporate donations is about who you know and whether they believe in your cause. “It requires a stronger emphasis on relationship building. People give to people.”
Corporate giving also has become more marketing-driven, with companies looking to sponsor events where they reach their target audience. They also look for synergy between a nonprofit’s mission and the company’s philanthropic or business objectives. For instance, health care firms continued to give predominately to health, information technology continued to concentrate on K-12 education; and financial companies remained focused on community and economic development.
University of Miami, one of South Florida’s most successful fundraising institutions, has raised $1 billion over the last three years. Of that, $160 million came from corporate donations. “We’ve been able to build relationships and help businesses that want to give back to the community by investing in something they are interested in,” said Sergio Gonzalez, senior vice president for university advancement and external affairs. “They might be interested in funding scholarships that prepare the future labor force or funding specific research or conferences. We listen a lot and try to find partnerships that will be mutually beneficial.”