​Understanding the Differences in Corporate Giving

Why is it possible to find 990 information on some corporations’ giving programs and not others? Why is it easy to find giving guidelines for certain businesses and virtually none for others? The answers to these questions and others may lie in what type of giving program a particular corporation maintains. Do they have a company sponsored foundation or a corporate direct giving program? If your responsibilities include researching and securing corporate support, it is important to understand the differences. Foundation Center’s GrantSpace blog highlights the key points – including the differences –of each type of program. Wisconsin Philanthropy Network found the list of features of corporate foundations and corporate giving programs informative and hopes you will too.

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What is the difference between a company-sponsored foundation and a corporate direct giving program?

by GrantSpace

Corporations provide support to nonprofits through direct-giving programs, private foundations, and/or public charities. This can sometimes be a source of confusion for grantseekers. Here are some of the elements that may help to distinguish between the two types of corporate giving:

Company-Sponsored Foundations:
  • are separate legal entities, maintain close ties with the parent company, and their giving usually reflects company interests.
  • can be private foundations or public charities.
  • generally maintain small endowments and rely on regular contributions from the parent company and/or subsidiaries to support their giving programs.
  • often grow their endowments in profitable years and tap them in leaner years.
  • must follow the appropriate laws governing private foundations or public charities, including public disclosure requirements.
Corporate Direct Giving Programs:
  • are not separate legal entities, so they are not subject to laws governing exempt organizations, including public disclosure requirements.
  • do not have an endowment.
  • often include employee matching gifts and in-kind gifts as part of their grantmaking activities.
  • are often used to support programs that do not fall within the guidelines of the company-sponsored foundation.

Keep in mind that corporate giving, regardless of its form, is closely tied to the corporation's business interests. Thus, their programs often are designed to benefit employees, their families, or communities where the company conducts business.

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