#Philanthropy: How to Find and Solicit the Biggest Corporate Donors

Corporate-Responsibility CommunityIn the midst of the present economic crisis, the debate about whether corporations should have social responsibility to give to philanthropic causes has grown heated. Some argue that CR (Corporate Responsibility) departments actually diffuse problems rather than solve them and corporations should put their resources to better, profit-driven, uses for the betterment of all. Others counter that without a role for institutionalized CR, innovation and economic dynamism are often replaced with market suppression and cronyism.

But the present fact is a number of corporations give a good deal of financial and/or goods-in-kind support for social causes (broadly defined). A list of the top 50 (as of July 2011) can be found at The Foundation Center‘s website. What are some of the ways they give? And how might your organization benefit from their philanthropic programs? Over the next few weeks, we’ll present some of the research pursued to see what can be learned about a number of these 50 programs.

We begin with the top 5.

Sanofi-Aventis Drug Company LogoFirst place, weighing in at $321,376,881 (through 2009), goes to Sanofi-Aventis, based in Bridgewater, NJ. Sanofi-Aventis develops, produces, and markets cutting-edghe therapies in cardiology, oncology and internal medicine, as well as metabolic diseases, central nervous system disorders, ophthalmology and vaccines. Much of their giving is in-kind, with therapies and medicines distributed to low-income families. The general guidelines are here, and include ways to contact the company about developing partnerships with nonprofits.

Many of us might love to hate Wal-Mart, but almost $205 million in grants to US projects is difficult to sneer at. Information about the various state and local grants can be reviewed here. Wal-Mart also gives to a surprising breadth of organizations working on issues like hunger, primary and higher education, natural-disaster relief, and support to military families. We are compelled to point out how easily Wal-Mart’s website makes application forms available.

Bank Of America is listed on The Foundation Center‘s list as having given $190,668,042 in 2009. Meanwhile, the bank’s own philanthropic site claims it gave $200 million. Not sure where the extra $10 million came from, but such ’rounding errors’ might be why B of A is being sued for its securitized mortgage sales. But I digress…

The focus of Bank of America‘s efforts is on neighborhood stabilization and local environmental improvement . Working with student leaders on local projects seems especially important to the bank, and again we should note the ease with which Bank of America presents links to its various applications.

The fourth corporation on this list mostly gives in-kind donations like Sanofi-Aventis, for Novaritis also provides medicines to low-income individuals and families – to the tune of just over $177 million a year. “Novartis is committed to providing access to our medications for those most in need through the Novartis Patient Assistance Foundation, Inc., an affiliate of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. (PAF).” One enrolls for support depending on the drugs needed rather than applies for a grant.

The final one on our list (and the last to clear the $100 million threshold) is GE ($103,573,293 in 2009). Education and healthcare programs are their focus, as noted on their fact-sheet. GE’s website on its CR projects is certainly extensive (moving one to subdomains on ‘citizenship’ and ‘public policy’), but finding nuts-and-bolts information remains exasperating. On its so-called ‘Contact Us’ page, GE stresses its tendency to reach out to already-proven programs, and admits it rarely accepts unsolicited proposals.

Periodically over the next few weeks we’ll report further research pursued on some of the top 50 corporate donors, their projects, and how your organization might benefit from starting a relationship with them. Corporate Social Responsibility might remain a hot theoretical issue, but many companies do take it seriously and nonprofits should be ready to engage them in that effort.


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