3 Tips for a Successful Corporate Giving Program 

As your brand considers end-of-year giving plans and looks ahead to 2018 budgeting, the industry’s biggest grant administrator—Outdoor Foundation—shares how you can put your money where your values are and make a real difference.

By Ryan Lauer March 14, 2017

Giving money away is easy—it feels good, it’s a great story, and it makes the world a better place. (And, oh, by the way, it has some nice tax advantages.) Administering a giving program, however, isn’t so easy—it takes time, it’s hard to determine worthy recipients, and you have to say “no” a lot. Few outdoor industry companies have the time or resources to create and implement a giving program, despite their desire to do so. As your brand looks to create, grow or streamline a giving program, consider outsourcing the administrative and logistical work to someone who does grant administration full time.

Since 2010, the Outdoor Foundation, on behalf of its partners, has invested more than $5 million into 500 nonprofit projects that have connected 300,000 young people with the outdoors. We start by getting to know your company and your goals, and we work closely with you to ensure your desired outcomes. Then, we help create your grant and develop criteria for recipients and we manage application, selection and reporting. By coordinating the establishment and operation of the program, we make it easy for you to invest in places and people you care about. Ultimately, we can minimize your administrative expenses while maximizing the impact of your giving program, and you can focus on your business.

Whether you’re starting a giving program from scratch or need a hand fine-tuning your existing grants, the Outdoor Foundation can help. Here are three tips for getting started and how Outdoor Foundation can help you build a successful giving program.

1. Narrow your giving 

If you care about a specific place, activity or demographic, let your partners know. It’s easy to cast a wide net and try to help everyone and everything. But, as experience has shown us, giving programs that are too broad can be spread thin. Focus your program on one cause.

A focused giving program will be more impactful. A great way to start dialing in your giving area is to look for common themes from past partners. Do you invest in one-time experiences or week-long adventures? Do you like to invest in capital projects or specific gear needs? You’re probably closer to a narrow giving area then you think.

2. Vet your grant recipient 

You can start the search for your perfect match on Guidestar—the online dating tool for grant givers. The site will give you a solid overview of different nonprofits, so you can find one or several that align with your mission. You probably don’t go out to eat, buy gear or book a vacation without first reading a review. Why would you invest hundreds or thousands of dollars without doing significant research on your prospective recipient? Outdoor Foundation can help you verify the worthiness of prospective grantees. Before you partner with a nonprofit, we’ll pull their IRS Form 990 and help you understand it. It won’t tell you all the nitty gritty, but it’s a great overview into the health and effectiveness of an organization, and we can help you distill the key performance indicators.

3. After you give, ask for a summary report that’s right for your audience 

You’ll likely want to share the story of your investment with both your internal team and your brand followers. These different audiences will want different reports. Your internal team—including your staff and board—may want a detailed budget and recap that covers the pros and cons of the funded project, and key learnings from the nonprofit. Your brand followers want to hear about your investment too, but not in a lengthy Word doc or Powerpoint. Present your report to them with a video and photos that sum up how the organization made an impact with your investment. Whomever you share your results with, make sure you have the resources needed to craft a report that resonates with them.

Working with partners of all sizes and levels in the outdoor and health industries, the Outdoor Foundation designs targeted giving programs that engage and activate communities in the outdoors. Want to learn more or get started? Please contact Ivan Levin for additional information.