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Research
3/26/2015 12:00 AM

Experts say companies can help nonprofit partners increase impact by supporting strategies to maximize electronic communications with existing and potential donors.

When selecting which nonprofit organizations to support and the specific types of support to give—be it for programs or operations, in-kind or cash, one-off employee volunteer events or year-round skills-based service—corporate giving officers have an almost limitless choice. There are, after all, over 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States alone, and each offers a multitude of programs and focus areas that could use some corporate cash, product and employee muscle. Yet, according to some experts, the area of operations most urgently in need of funding is nonprofit communications—and more specifically, electronic communications, an area that could benefit not just from companies’ cash but also the tech-savvy workers they employ.

According to a recent survey conducted by GiveCentral, a Web-based donation tool, the nation’s charities continue to lag when it comes to maximizing their electronic communications. For example:

  • Only 3 percent of nonprofits send monthly text messages to donors.
  • Just 10 percent of nonprofits send donor e-mails weekly, and only 22 percent send them monthly.
  • More than a quarter of nonprofits (27 percent) have no structured e-mail schedule in place.
  • Some 89 percent of nonprofits have no organized text messaging communication program at all.

Taken together, these findings “indicate that nonprofits are not taking full advantage of the ability to measure the impact of online donor communication and improve the level of engagement with their donors,” the organization said in the report.

Providing funding specifically for an expanded e-communications campaign accomplishes a lot, according to Patrick Coleman, CEO of GiveCentral.

“The greatest benefit to increased communications is ultimately an increase in overall donor engagement,” Coleman said. “In today’s information-rich environment, you have to really get your message out there and remind people that they are connected to a cause. Simply receiving messages of news and success, even without an ‘ask’ for a donation, reminds donors not only that they cared enough to donate to your organization, but why they should consider donating again.”

While many companies have provided support to traditional communication strategies in the past—telephone campaigns and print mailings, namely—e-communications is a fast-moving field, and new technologies hit the scene and become adopted by the donor public quickly. If nonprofits are to keep up, they need to stay informed of emerging communication trends and be able to adapt their strategies, incorporating the new communication channels quickly and seamlessly.

Security requirements make it even more complicated, as nonprofits that collect donations via the Web, e-mail or text must make sure their systems are compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, Coleman said. These standards apply to any business or organization that accepts credit cards and ensure they maintain a secure environment, whether online or offline. And ensuring the security of general donor data, such as phone numbers and physical and e-mail addresses, is equally important, he said.

According to Coleman, developing an effective e-communications strategy will take an investment of time and staff that many nonprofits—especially smaller ones with tighter budgets—might be hard-pressed to come up with.

But companies with employees whose skills touch upon this area—those involved in information technology, communications, marketing and even sales—can help their nonprofit partners put in place the necessary software, hardware and other resources needed to leverage the many different communications and donor channels in use today, and be prepared for what comes tomorrow as well. Doing so—with or without accompanying cash grant support—is likely to keep paying dividends down the road, as the enhanced communication leads to better donor acquisition and retention in the years ahead.

For more information, visit www.givecentral.org.

3/19/2015 12:00 AM

Swift Transportation focuses its charity on efforts to aid the well-being of its employees, and benefit children and families in Arizona, where Swift has operations.

OVERVIEW

Swift Transportation is a leading long-haul trucking company that carries freight throughout North America. Swift operates a fleet of about 18,000 trucks and more than 58,000 trailers via a network of 35 main terminals. In addition to standard dry trailers, Swift offers flatbed, refrigerated and other specialty trailers, as well as nearly 9,000 intermodal containers to expand its reach. In 2013, the company reported sales of $4.13 billion and employed about 19,600 workers.

GIVING

Swift conducts its charitable giving mainly through two affiliated grantmaking organizations, Swift Charities and Swift Kids, which together support a range of groups and programs that benefit its employees and the communities where they live and work.

As the company’s primary charitable arm, Swift Charities is funded by voluntary payroll contributions from Swift employees, coupled with dollar-for-dollar company matches. Swift Charities uses these funds to assist Swift Transportation employees in hardship situations, provide scholarships for the children of Swift employees continuing their education after high school and provide cash grants to nonprofit community groups in the areas where Swift employees live and work.

Meanwhile, Swift Charities for Children—or Swift Kids, for short—raises money for programs that benefit children and their families in Swift communities in Arizona. The organization partners with other nonprofit organizations devoted to child advocacy, in the firm belief that a concerted effort toward this end will benefit the entire community.

The organization develops and administers several fundraising programs that benefit children’s groups, including a program that takes clothing and other items from employee collection drives and cleans and/or refurbishes them for resale.

The company also provides cash and in-kind contributions to relief agencies in response to major natural disasters.

For more information, visit the company’s website.

3/3/2015 12:00 AM

The Guardian Life Insurance Company provides cash donations and employee volunteerism to nonprofits working in the areas of education and community services.

OVERVIEW

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, or Guardian for short, is a leading mutual insurance firm, offering a full line of life insurance, disability income insurance, and vision and dental coverage to individuals, business owners and their employees. The company’s dental network is one of the largest in the United States and protects more than eight million employees and their families at 115,000 companies. The company also offers funding vehicles for 401(k) plans, annuities and other financial products through its Guardian Investor Services unit. As a mutual company, the firm is owned by its policyholders.

GIVING

Guardian’s charitable giving is directed to groups and initiatives that benefit the communities in which its employees live and work. Through cash donations and employee volunteerism, the company supports a range of charitable initiatives, mostly in the areas of education and community services.

With regard to education, Guardian focuses on financial literacy and responsibility. In 2013, the company founded a course, Money Management for Life, at select community colleges in the New York tri-state area. This class is designed to complement a school’s core curriculum with a for-credit course that equips students with the practical, real-world financial education they need to make sound money management decisions throughout their lives. Designed by education professionals, the course gives Guardian and its employees the opportunity to share their knowledge of disciplined money management, emphasizing protection and wealth accumulation. Guardian provides full financial support for Money Management for Life, covering all students’ tuition costs and instructors’ fees.

Guardian also supports higher education through a matching gift program, which provides a dollar-for-dollar match to contributions made by eligible employees and field associates to qualifying colleges and universities.

Guardian’s support for community services comes largely in the form of employee volunteerism, which is often coupled with cash grants to nonprofits that Guardian employees serve with. Some organizations the company and its employees support include:

  • The American Red Cross. Guardian volunteers traveled to the Gerritsen Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., to help rebuild homes severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Guardian worked with the American Red Cross to organize the event along with volunteers from New York Cares. Together these volunteers worked on a total of four homes in the neighborhood, removing debris, sweeping up dirt and tearing out rotted floorboards, ceilings and walls, among other tasks.
  • The American Heart Association. In 2013, Guardian showed its support for living a heart-healthy lifestyle in the New York tri-state area, walking and running in the AHA’s Heart Walk to raise funds for heart illness and stroke research. Heart Walk is an annual noncompetitive race for runners and walkers organized to raise research funds for cardiovascular-related illnesses, such as heart disease and stroke, and promoting healthy, preventative lifestyle practices like eating a proper diet and exercising. Guardian also sponsored a CPR booth at the event where several volunteers taught attendees resuscitation techniques that can be used to help save lives during health-related emergencies.
  • Rebuilding Together. Guardian recently partnered with Rebuilding Together to revitalize the home of an elderly veteran in the Appleton, Wis., area. Teaming up with the local Rebuilding Together affiliate, Guardian volunteers from the local area revitalized the home of an Army and Air Force war veteran who, at age 85, had trouble maintaining repairs to his home on his own. This was the fifth year that Guardian’s Appleton office has participated in a Rebuilding Together event.
  • Habitat for Humanity. Guardian teamed up with Habitat for Humanity in Pittsfield, Mass., building a new home for a local mother and daughter in need. The Guardian volunteers moved building materials, dug post holes, installed fencing, pulled gravel away from the foundation, spray-painted rusty gas pipes and did yard work, all to build a new home for a local mother and her 8-year-old daughter.

Additional information is available on the company’s website.

News Briefs
3/10/2015 12:00 AM

Mars Inc. has pledged $40 million over 10 years to support the Innovation Institute for Food and Health, part of the World Food Center at the University of California, Davis.

Candy maker Mars Inc. has pledged $40 million over 10 years to support the Innovation Institute for Food and Health, part of the World Food Center at the University of California, Davis, which will seek to advance new discoveries in sustainable food, agriculture and health. The Innovation Institute, which will receive some $20 million from UC Davis, will host leading scientists working on challenges relating to improving global food security, sustainable agriculture and health for a growing world population. According to the university, the Institute will serve as a hub to bring together the “right expertise, capabilities and teams to generate innovations linking agriculture, food, nutrition and health.” This is just the latest in a series of collaborations between the company and the university, which have included projects focused on sequencing the cacao genome in 2010 and founding the African Orphan Crops Consortium, both of which aimed at improving yield, productivity and climatic adaptability of key crops.

News Briefs
2/24/2015 12:00 AM

AT&T awarded $2.25 million to Khan Academy to support the development of a mobile education app.

Telecommunications company AT&T has awarded a $2.25 million grant to online education resource provider Khan Academy to support the group’s enhanced mobile platform that includes a new, interactive mobile app. According to the company, the Khan Academy app will help students learn math and more by enabling them to access more than 150,000 interactive, common core–aligned exercises with instant feedback and step-by-step hints for each question. The app adjusts to provide interactive exercise recommendations that are just right—not too hard, not too easy—and a friendly guide through the world of math, the company said. The app also harnesses the power of showing and stepping through the student’s work with an expansive scratchpad, and a student’s work automatically syncs between the tablet and khanacademy.org, so progress and recommendations are always up-to-date, the company said.

News Briefs
2/12/2015 12:00 AM

Western Union has launched a campaign to raise money for efforts to address the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Western Union and the Western Union Foundation have launched a million-dollar global business challenge to help fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa, including a multifaceted program in support of community relief efforts. To ensure adequate resources to fight the disease’s spread, the company is urging Western Union agents, Western Union Business Solutions clients and the entire global business community to drive donations toward Ebola relief efforts by providing a dollar-for-dollar match to all charitable donations supporting the International Medical Corps and Save the Children, to reach a total of $1 million in support. In the United States, Western Union also has set up a no-fee contribution account benefiting the American Red Cross to support Ebola relief efforts in West Africa. Donors in the United States can contribute by making a no-fee transaction at participating Western Union locations, up to $5,000 each, the company said.

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  • Meet the Editor

    Nicholas King
    Editor

    Nicholas King has served as editor of Corporate Philanthropy Report since 2007, and he continues to be impressed with the philanthropic efforts of the nation’s business sector.

    Drawing on an educational background in English and environmental policy, Nicholas began his journalism career in 2000 when he was brought on as editor of Environmental Laboratory Washington Report, a niche-market subscription-based newsletter serving the environmental testing industry. After seven years of honing his craft, Nicholas expanded his writing/editing portfolio to an entirely new field of interest - corporate philanthropy. As editor of Corporate Philanthropy Report, he stays abreast of the latest developments affecting corporate giving—and the charitable/nonprofit sector more broadly—providing his readers the “need to know” information vital for making the best use of their limited charitable dollars.

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