Corporate Responsibility Fundraising

Beyond the cardboard check: 2 ways to increase corporate giving

on August 10, 2017

When thinking about your corporate foundation’s giving strategy, you may conjure up images of stacks of grant applications, or nice photo ops of someone handing over a huge cardboard check. Who doesn’t love those awkward ‘photograph handshakes’ with the Costco sheet cake in the background (I’m guessing white frosting with marble cake) that everyone will enjoy at the post-cardboard-check-handoff-celebration? We call that the PCCHC.

Obviously, this is a generalization. And it’s probably (hopefully) also over-simplifying everything your company is doing to give back.  Last year, corporations contributed over $18 Billion in charitable giving, investing in everything from large scale systems change to hyper-local community-based NGOs.

Kicking it up a notch

This is good news -- for the nonprofits that rely on private grants, as well as for every company with a clear social impact strategy.  Corporate giving is good for the bottom line. And as millennials prefer to work for and buy from companies that give, corporations and corporate foundations are right to want to impact more causes, reach more customers, and better align your brand with doing good.

By sharing with the world what’s  important to your company and employees, you create a unique opportunity to leverage the crowd and make a huge impact on the causes that are important to you and your business. Peer-to-peer fundraising is a  key giving strategy that nonprofits have relied on pretty much forever, but it’s taken on a new shape in the last ten years with the arrival of social media. And In a world where point-of-sale and other cause marketing campaigns dominate corporate giving, still relatively few companies have harnessed the potential of social fundraising.

The companies I’ve worked with have realized that they want their giving to go further, drive more impact, create more buzz, and help their benefitting organizations build capacity.  They want something we call ‘creative leverage.’ It’s the idea that you can harness the power of social fundraising to help you go beyond the donation, allowing you to create greater overall impact, without having to budget for greater philanthropic gifts. Here’s how it all shakes out...

At its most basic, traditional grantmaking might look something like this: 

  1. Make a commitment to a cause or cause space
  2. Select, vet and partner with a charity or charities and provide financial support to through grants or direct donations
  3. Tell your customers about it

Maybe you hand over a poster-sized check and take a nice picture for social media, get your company logo on the nonprofit’s website, and add a paragraph to the quarterly impact report.

But what if you  could do more, all without having to give more? We like to call it ‘creative leverage’ and it can be done through social fundraising.  In my work with companies, I’ve found the greatest leverage comes when you create urgency, pair it with incentives, and help your charity partners take the greatest advantage of your charitable gift.  My two favorite examples are the CrowdRise Charity Challenge and the  branded  match campaign. Not only do you get at least a 2x increase on your giving dollars, but through social fundraising, you also create a bunch of other benefits that add value to the equation and go beyond just donations. But let’s start with the numbers.


CrowdRise Charity Challenges: 7x leverage on your charitable dollars. Yeah, you read that right. 7x.

WHAT IS IT?: No plot twist here. A CrowdRise Charity Challenge is exactly what it sounds like. Your company or corporate foundation repurposes funds already budgeted and earmarked as charitable donations. These funds are put up as a series of donation prizes and then you  “Challenge” charities to raise as much money as they can in a 4 to 6 week period. At the end, those that raise the most win the prize money as a donation made to their cause, and every charity has the chance to win mini prizes throughout.

Organizations who participate in Challenges rally their supporters to give, fundraise, and share. Not only does that increase your exposure, it takes your charitable contribution much farther than that old-school cardboard check model. You can host a CrowdRise Charity Challenge for all non-profits, limit it to certain cause spaces that align with your mission, or set whatever kind of requirements you want based on your CSR mission. And, even the charities that don’t win any prize money get to keep the money they raise. Compare that to traditional voting or ‘most likes’ campaigns.

WHY DO IT? Did you catch that 7x leverage stat? That’s a pretty compelling enough reason right there. On CrowdRise, corporate foundations that host Challenges on average see their donation turn into seven times the support. That means with a corporate gift of just under $150,000,  total funds raised could end up as over a million dollars in support for non-profits. Mind blown. And that’s just the financial side of it. Because all of this is done under the umbrella of social fundraising, the awareness and press generated by these campaigns is multiplied by a lot. Added bonus: CrowdRise Charity Challenge campaigns help spread the wealth. It's not just one or two charities that are benefiting from the foundation's gift; it’s hundreds. Even those that don’t win a slice of the cash prize still come out on top: They end up raising a lot more funds - not to mention exposure - than they would have gotten through traditional fundraising efforts.

THE PROOF:  Again, the numbers speak for themselves.. Here are a few examples:

  • Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge: $675k in seed money, $3.7million raised, 5.6x leverage, 200 participating charities
  • Quicken Loans Charity Challenge: $100k seed money, $700k raised, 7.7x leverage, 92% of charities won some prize money
  • Michelson Found Animals Saving Pets Challenge: $150k seed money, $1.3million raised, 9x leverage
  • OceanFirst Charity Challenge: $35k seed money, $450k raised, 13x leverage

HOW DO I LAUNCH A CHALLENGE? To run a successful Challenge, you’ll want to partner with a platform that delivers the functionality needed to run a seamless campaign. CrowdRise Challenges don’t start and end with the seed money. Various components from legal (rules, eligibility, and prize money distribution,) to team functionality (leaderboard, social sharing, updates,) and general oversight (best practices, seamless branding, webinars, toolkits, data management,) need to be considered. CrowdRise provides all of this and even includes world-class sharing functionality that is designed to increase the shareability of a donation to your donor’s own personal narrative.

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MATCHES: 2x leverage. That’s twice as nice.

WHAT IS IT?: We’re not winning any prizes for cool campaign names with this one - this is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of just handing over a check, foundations can encourage charities to raise more with the promise of matching the money they raise up to a certain amount. Matches can be designed many different ways. You can set a match goal and match everything raised up until that point such as “We’ll match every dollar up to $10,000.” Or, you can do more individual matches like “For every $25 raised, we’ll match $25.” So the amount they raise is equal to the amount they get.  All you gotta do is set the amount you’re going to match, choose  what nonprofits are eligible and you’re good to go. When the match amount is hit by all the charities, the program ends.

WHY DO IT?: The simple answer is the double leverage. For every dollar a foundation gives away, another dollar is being raised to support a cause. Just like Challenges, everything is amplified. That means cause awareness, press exposure, and money raised.

THE PROOF: The 2x leverage is just a starting point. What often ends up happening is matches push past that number. That’s because donors are motivated to give more, since their dollar is worth more.

  • Star Wars Force For Change: $1 million in seed money, $2.2 million raised, 4300+ participating donors
  • Newman’s Own: $200,000 in seed money, $300,000 raised, all raised by 20 small budget nonprofits
  • Maroon 5/UNICEF: $25,000 seed money, o $57,000 raised, in just one weekend
  • Revelmode: $200,000 seed money, $1.3 million raised, matches from YouTube and the Gates Foundation

HOW DO I LAUNCH A MATCH CAMPAIGN?: Again, it’s all about choosing the right platform that can take you from start to finish while managing all of the messy rules, match distribution, communication with participating charities, social sharing optimization, etc. Once you settle on a platform and date, running a match campaign can get up and running in no time. CrowdRise has been the platform for many successful and recurring match campaigns throughout the years and has proven that when you take a passionate sponsor, a group of like-minded supporters, and an already-vibrant social community, successful match campaigns can drive more than double the dollars and infinitely more impact.   

The world and social fundraising

At CrowdRise we believe that social media has forever created a fundamental shift in the way we engage, have conversations, share our beliefs, etc. and that it is never going back. Corporate giving has the ability to harness this shift and become a fundraising powerhouse in order to further the missions of the causes they feel connected to and provide the passionate supporters who are rallying for those causes, a way to blend their story with your story and the charity's story.

By combining the power of social fundraising with the leverage of a Challenge or match, you’re able to connect with your audience at a deeper level. Charities want to be heard and spread their mission. Donors want to go beyond the donation and give back via sharing, fundraising, and intertwining their personal narrative with that of your brand and your cause space.

So the real question comes down to, are you able to help connect your nonprofits and their supporters in a way that embraces this social behavior? That harnesses the true power of spreading the mission, heightening awareness, and raising money for the causes that your corporation feels strongly about. Go beyond the cardboard check. Go beyond the donation. Embrace creative leverage with a match campaign or by hosting a Challenge.

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Emily Hawkins

Emily Hawkins is the VP of Strategic Partnerships and Business Development for CrowdRise. She spends her days forging partnerships and developing creative campaigns with forward-thinking corporations and foundations. Emily has spent the last ten years working with nonprofits and political campaigns. In her free time, she's training to be the best chalkboard artist in the three-block radius of her Brooklyn neighborhood.