Engaging Corporations - Some suggestions on how to engage corporations based on stories of network members

How to Engage Corporations

There are a number of basic considerations for grantmaker associations and support organisations in pursuit of partnerships with corporations or in promotional activities on corporate giving.

This section discusses the preparatory stage, engagement proper, and sustaining the relationship.

  1. Preparing for Engagement

    What do you need to know before approaching a corporation? How do you move from co-existence to active communication with corporations?

    There is quite an extensive preparation to increase the likelihood of success in this effort. The basic requirements include: determining the needs of a community (macro or micro) or sector; identifying what corporations to approach and how to approach them; how to present your association or organisation; and defining the benefits ("what‘s in it for me” propositions) for both the association and corporation.

    1. Some research

      You will find useful at least two research outputs: an environmental scan and a profile of the corporations you are approaching and their industries.

      1. Doing an Environmental Scan
      2. Corporate Philanthropy for Education

        Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) has been implementing a Public Private Partnership (3Ps) project envisaging improvement of physical infrastructure (in primary schools and middle schools) and enhancing access to and quality of primary education in Pakistan. The overall goal is to harness the potential of corporate philanthropy for improvement of educational services for marginalised and underserved communities using the 3Ps model where corporate sector organisations undertaking business activity in particular districts are motivated and enabled to adopt neglected government-run primary schools in those areas. PCP has been actively engaged in service delivery, strengthening systems and policy level support for 3Ps. The outcome of the project was not only been limited to tapping corporate philanthropy for school improvement and raising awareness within the business sector but also includes building awareness of operational strategies and mechanisms of 3Ps at all tiers of government.

        As part of the project activities, a series of workshops and business forums are conducted across Pakistan to encourage the corporate sector to make social investments in the public education sector. After seeking concurrence of the corporate entity to invest in primary education in a specific geographical area, PCP conducts a comprehensive survey of schools to ascertain their needs. On the basis of the findings of the need assessment survey, a project proposal for the school improvement plan is presented to the corporate partner.

        Under the 3Ps project for education, Petronas Carigali was invited to participate in a school adoption programme. Petronas Carigali was implementing its "Petroleum Concession Agreement” and looking for how to fulfil its obligatory social responsibility in its exploration area in Sindh province. After the identification of the geographical area by the corporate partner, PCP undertook a needs assessment of primary girls and boys schools in District Ghotki. The corporate adopters were motivated to adopt the schools. The issues relating to each school were discussed and strategies to reactivate the schools were implemented. As a result, in June 2004, Petronas Carigali Pakistan Ltd adopted 12 schools which included 7 defunct schools in Ghotki.

        PCP’s partnership with Petronas was a great success for it did not only reactivate 7 non-functional schools but also played a signal role in bringing 482 children back to the classrooms. Moreover, 12 new school teachers were appointed and it was a source of job opportunity for the unemployed youth of the local community. The School Management Committees were also able to mobilize influential and educated people of the area. All the adopted schools were equipped with facilities like potable water, bathrooms, furniture, teaching aids and boundary walls. The role of the District Education Department was encouraging and facilitative during the implementation of the project.

        • The environmental scan allows you to gain understanding or updates on the following:
          • socio-economic situation and cultural context /issues
          • business landscape and business systems and markets
          • map of relationships of corporations
          • the landscape of corporate giving practice
          • relevant business leaders in CSR
          • the legal environment for corporate philanthropy in the country where the association is located
        • Socio-economic situation and cultural context/issues

          The environmental scan can either be on the general socio-economic situation or issue of a sector or it can be a micro or macro level environmental scan, depending on the needs of the association. In the case of Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy, a sector-specific and micro-level environmental scan was undertaken because of its specific thrust on education. The environmental scan was used to identify the needs of their target sector and the data utilized in the preparation of a project proposal for the corporation.

        • The business landscape includes:
          • what businesses exist in the country where the association operates
          • types of businesses, goods and services produced
          • markets and market reach
          • what corporations are doing well, business leaders, etc.

            Obtain this information from the Trade and Industry Agency of government, Stock Exchange, government listing of Registered Corporations and Holding Companies (or Securities and Exchange Commission) and listing of Top 100 or 1000 Corporations and Business Associations/Chambers like the American Chamber of Commerce, European Union Chamber of Commerce and others that exist in the country where the association is located. Their websites should have a wealth of information you could use. Some corporations engage consultancy firms to do Risk Assessments in specific locations where they plan to operate, but information from these studies might not be publicly available.

      3. Knowing the Industry and the Corporation

        • Research first on the industry to which the corporation belongs. This basic information should be available in the government regulatory agency systems and researches/surveys about business. There may also be information about corporate giving practices of the industry and who the CSR champions are. Surveys are very useful for getting in-depth information.
        • Then research the corporation to gain understanding of:

          • Products, services and operation of the business
          • Corporate strategy, culture and values
          • Its CSR framework and involvement (if any), what issues and activities the corporation might be interested in; and,
          • Important contacts that will facilitate the ‘how to’ of approaching the corporation.

          Collecting basic information about the corporation provides insight on how to approach the corporation and helps saves time and resources.

        • Research as well on the legal environment for corporate philanthropy in the country where the association is located (see the study on the Current Landscape of Corporate Social Responsibility, Annex 4iii).

        A number of countries, especially Europe, have passed laws on CSR and have required companies to include reporting of CSR. A number of international reporting guidelines or standardsiv have also been developed to serve as frameworks for social accounting, auditing and reporting. These include:

    2. About Your Association: Telling your Story

      To prepare for communicating to corporations, put together an introduction about your association. It should highlight its solid reputation in the community. Include the association’s:

      • Vision, Mission and Goals and its programs and services
      • Brief history
      • Framework on CSR
      • Programs and track record on corporate involvement in philanthropy, how the association’s members have benefitted from involvement in CSR and the services that the association provides to corporations; and,
      • Other useful information like statistics on the socio-economic situation, the association’s particular advocacies, etc.

      It is important for the association to be clear about its CSR framework and the reasons for engaging corporations because it determines the choice of corporations to engage with. The reasons could vary from increasing corporate membership and corporate giving to mainstreaming strategic corporate philanthropy and advocacies. Whatever the reasons are, it is important to identify what the association deems important. For example, an association with a strong environmental concern may decide not engage corporations which produce products and services that can harm the environment.

      Prepare to make a business case for your association by listing down the following: (this will be needed in the next section)

      • Prospecting activities an association can develop
      • Services an association can provide to corporations

      Key messagesv [See Communication Toolbox] from the above information should be developed and packaged into appropriate communication tools that are familiar to those in the corporate world. It would be helpful to craft a distinct image brand that will communicate, promote and project the unique brand identity [See Branding Toolbox].

      Case Study:


      Philanthropy Solutions: Promising Practices in Corporate Giving

      Get connected. Be Informed. Set the Standard.

      In 2008, the Council on Foundations launched Philanthropy Solutions, a program that placed a unifying umbrella over all the services to corporate members and the field. It was responsive to members’ expressed needs for consolidated efforts of support organisations such as the Council. More importantly, it positioned the Council as the "go to” resource for promising practices and knowledge share in corporate philanthropy.

      Six broad topics were undertaken for the first year program:

      1. Employee engagement
      2. Diversity
      3. Strategic philanthropy
      4. Communications
      5. Technology
      6. International grantmaking

      Activities included in-depth discussions of these 6 topics during the regional roundtables; consolidation of the promising practices content in a new, user-friendly online format; development of two new print resources: (1) a report that updates and consolidates two popular publications, and (2) a series of stand-alone issue briefs on each content area. All the Philanthropy Solutions content was integrated throughout existing Corporate Service programs.

      Matthew Nelson pointed out, "We leveraged a single topic to create multiple products (peer learning, webinar, white paper, database content, and case studies), but also reinforce member retention and recruitment opportunities.”

      The results of Philanthropy Solutions were positive and we learned some things. On the positive side:

      1. We forged new and positive partnerships with regional associations.
      2. We brought practitioners together who don’t often see each other face to face.
      3. We created new educational resources for the field.
      4. We used new technology in creating webinars and using instant polling tools to heighten interest and to provide anecdotal statistics to support conclusions.
      5. We enhanced the reputation and brand of the Council as a convener and go-to-place for knowledge.

      Lessons learned: the success of peer learning depended on having a critical mass of attendees and top level grantmakers; webinars had to be managed well; expectations of partners had to be clear and communication was key to building a good relationship.

      "Philanthropy Solutions was a thoughtful and focused program,” according to Matthew Nelson. "We did our research, we tested and we revised to meet the needs of the field. We learned from our mistakes and improved upon the product. The project was intended to make our work easier by consolidating our work under one umbrella and although the start-up work was a major effort, once our systems were in place and we had some experience with the program, it has made all our efforts easier. It has provided us a single, clear marketing strategy and brand recognition. We created branded e-blasts to further enhance the awareness of products and opportunities. It gave us a single connecting point with our members and with prospective members. We learned how to re-purpose our work in multiple ways and for multiple purposes.”

      Brief version for Corporate Services: Corporate Services Case Statement

      Corporate foundations and giving programs serve a powerful function in the landscape of the philanthropic sector. As a corporate grantmaker, you have extremely high standards to maintain and a host of stakeholders you must answer to: executive leaders, employees, investors, grantees, and the community-at-large. At the same time, your philanthropy must reflect the vision and value of your company.

      The Council on Foundations is committed to your success. Whether you are a large or small grantmaker, our global network, thought leadership, and practical expertise can help you develop an effective grantmaking program. The Corporate Services department is the field’s "go-to” resource for tools, information, and leadership.

      When you join the Council, you gain members-only access to a wealth of resources to help you meet your mission, serve your constituents, and operate efficiently and effectively. In addition to individualized responses to your inquiries, legal advice, and a voice in Washington DC--thanks to a new Council initiative--you’ll have even more at your fingertips. The Corporate Services "Philanthropy Solutions” initiative gives you easy access to:

      • a user-friendly database featuring promising practices
      • regional roundtable discussions, teleconferences, and issue briefs
      • leadership and peer networking opportunities

      Get connected. Be informed. Set the standard.

      As a corporate grantmaker, you have extremely high standards to maintain and a host of stakeholders to accommodate. With the Council on Foundations extensive members-only services, we can help you develop strong, effective grantmaking programs. Use our expert resources—including an enhanced database featuring corporate-specific promising practices—to explore new ideas, learn from your peers, and set the standard in corporate grantmaking.



      Get connected. Be informed. Set the standard.

    3. Value proposition for the Corporation
    4. The value proposition for corporate engagement identifies the reasons why the association should engage corporations and explains how the corporation can benefit from engaging in CSR. "What’s in it for the corporation?” leads to a value proposition.

      There are several reasons why a corporation would be interested to engage in CSR: compliance with legal labor and business practice standards, increase markets and improve bottom lines, achieve prestige in the community, contribute to attainment of their Vision, Mission, Goals, or be a socially responsible corporate citizen.

      In the late 90s, a public opinion poll in the US conducted by Harris Interactive found out that nearly eight out of ten respondents said that they take corporate citizenship into account when deciding whether to buy a particular company’s product. About seven out of ten said that corporate citizenship is a factor in their investment decisions. A separate study, commissioned by the Council of Foundations, found that corporate giving also increases the admiration employees have for the companies they work for, which, in turn, build employee morale and loyalty and reduces turn-overvi.

      The Centre on Philanthropy in Bermuda which is involved in Corporate Sponsored Volunteerism uses the following facts in engaging corporations:

      • 75% of executives worldwide rank human performance ahead of productivity and technology in terms of strategic importance, with 80% claiming that by 2010 attracting and retaining people will be the leading success factor in strategy (Business in the Community’s FastForward Research 2002).
      • 89% of people say that a community programme makes a difference in their perception of a company (MORI 2002).
      • American Express saw highly positive increases in staff satisfaction surveys amongst the group of staff who were volunteering in a local school, compared with a control group of non volunteers.

      Centre on Philanthropy in Bermuda’s ENGAGE:

      Focus on Corporate Sponsored Volunteerism - get out in the community together to let everyone else know that CHW cares for its community

        Why Engage?  
      Benefits to Your Company   Benefits to the Community

      Helps employees find work/life balance


      Bridges the gap between businesses and communities

      Improves employee recruitment, morale and retention


      Engenders trust in the community

      Helps convey a positive, socially responsible corporate image


      Motivates others to get involved

      Strengthens relationships with coworkers


      Motivates others to get involved

      Enhances teamwork and collaboration resulting in increased productivity


      Addresses real community needs 365 days a year

      Establish the value proposition for your corporation. Write up a brief statement that includes:

      • Main information needed to build the case for the corporation (Whatever the corporation values or finds important you must be able to pinpoint and highlight in this first section.)
      • The role companies can have on social development
      • Measurement of the impact of corporations’ philanthropic investment
      • A list of benefits or gains of being association members or participants in its activities
      • A few case studies showcasing benefits derived from engagement, and also on benefits of connecting with successful practitioners of corporate philanthropy
      • Outline of manner of proceeding or protocol (including preparatory studies, e.g., "corporate < > community” oriented context analysis; topics to be researched)
      • Reference to principles and values in all discussions

iii_______ (2007). The Current Landscape of Corporate Social Responsibility. WINGS%20CSR% 20mapping%202007%20FINAL.pdf