Corporate giving after Brexit – Where to now?

In our webinar on Brexit, Graham-Pelton consultants discussed what might happen now in light of the vote to leave the EU, and how Development Offices should respond.

One of the questions that arose was around Corporate Giving and what to do now.

When I was Director of Development at the University of Reading, it was not uncommon for us to gain around 60% of our annual fundraising target from corporate sources. If you look at the Ross-CASE Survey, the figure is more usually 20% or considerably lower. So what were we doing that could transfer to other organisations?

Well firstly, let’s look at the evidence. The Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report tells us that Corporate Giving doubled in 2014. It now accounts for around 20% of overall giving, and that figure remained constant in 2015. The amounts given by individuals actually halved over that period. It may well be that individuals were simply giving through their companies, but either way, it shows the growing potential.

The Corporate Giving Report by the Charities Aid Foundation showed that overall £2.5bn was given by companies in 2014. That figure had doubled over the previous five years. So corporate giving is definitely on the way up, but how do you access it?

Firstly, you have to identify what your strengths are. Reading were so successful because we targeted Real Estate and Planning – the University turned out 90% of the Chartered Surveyors for the Property Industry every year, so someone from Reading was always on the Board of the big companies, and was often the CEO. Also, the companies wanted Reading graduates, so starting the conversation was easier. Although your examples may not be so extreme, you need to know where your advantage lies. Is your organisation disproportionately good at producing financiers, lawyers, those in the creative industries, actors, and so on? Identify your advantage.

Secondly, identify the right individual to speak to. This might not be the CEO; it might be a well-placed alumnus who can help you navigate or make introductions. That is always better than a cold letter to an overworked CEO.

And lastly, look at it like any other relationship. Understand their concerns and challenges, and lay out a long-term plan of engagement that will not only show them how you can help to solve their issues, but also ignite their passions. Don’t make the mistake of thinking corporate decisions will be dispassionate – the decisions are made by people, and you have to give them exciting reasons to say yes.

It is quite possible that companies may look sympathetically at projects that seem to tackle the key issues society is dealing with – and, post Brexit, a project on social cohesion and diversity may well appeal. See these links below for some recent gifts in the USA that follow this thinking:

Diversity Deja vu: Another Gift to Boost Inclusion on Campus

PwC gives Bryant Record $1.35 Million Gift to Support Diversity Initiatives

So, does Brexit change any of the above? Our feedback is that some companies are being more focused in their giving to make absolutely sure it is tied to their longer-term strategies, but actually most are in “wait and see” mode. This is your chance to engage them now so that they can say yes when the time is right.

And I can assure you of this: if you don’t engage them, someone else will.

-Shaun Horan, Managing Director

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