Connecting to Philanthropy: What’s trending in Wisconsin corporate giving

We all have busy lives, and with the holiday season upon us, it will get increasingly busier. At Donors Forum of Wisconsin, we know that finding the national, regional, or local data you need in your work as a Wisconsin grantmaker can be time consuming and frustrating.


DFW understands and appreciates the growing responsibilities and challenges faced by its grantmaking members and works hard to help find time saving solution by providing current and reliable data on philanthropy trends, issues and benchmarks. Through our custom research services, we provide grantmakers the opportunity to get the data they need to support their unique roles in philanthropy.

This month, we want to feature Wisconsin corporate grantmakers. Do you know how many corporate grantmakers there are in Wisconsin? You may be surprised to learn that Wisconsin currently has 118 corporate foundations, and 32 corporate giving programs. Although both are considered corporate grantmakers, how they are structured and administered differs. Corporate or company-sponsored foundations receive funds from their parent companies, but they are separate legal entities. Corporate giving programs are housed within the parent company and make charitable contributions directly out of the corporate budget.

Below are a few recent trends in corporate grantmaking from the recently released “2014 Giving in Numbers” report, which is based off a survey of 261 companies, and conducted by CECP, formerly known as the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy.

For the last several years, companies have become more strategic in their grantmaking, often aligning their giving with long-term business plans. A recent marketing effort used by companies is cause marketing – a mutually beneficial relationship between a corporation and nonprofit which creates shareholder and social value. Additionally, many companies believe that focusing efforts to specific cause areas will result in deeper impact.

From 2010 to 2013, the median number of grants decreased from 1,000 to 701. However, individual grants are getting larger- the median grant size increased by 43 percent, and corporate grantmakers are working with fewer nonprofit organizations – the median number of nonprofit partnerships per corporation fell 21 percent from 2010 to 2013.

Many of America’s largest companies gave less in 2013 than in the prior year due to very large, one-time contributions to Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts in 2012. Many businesses contribute to disaster relief and recovery efforts – current efforts may include the Ebola crisis, Typhoon Rammasun, landslides, and wildfires.

In-kind gifts had the biggest increase for corporate giving from 2012 to 2013. In-kind giving includes non-cash offerings of products or pro bono (free) services, which are professional services for which the nonprofit recipient would otherwise have to pay.

Measuring societal outcomes is an increasingly important practice in corporate philanthropy. Seventy-six percent of companies said they measured societal outcomes and/or impacts of their grants in 2013, primarily in the program areas of education; health and social services; and community and economic development. To demonstrate societal outcomes, corporate grantmakers ask for the specific changes in the program participants’ behavior, knowledge, skills, and level of functioning. To demonstrate impact, many look for the change occurring in organizations, communities, or systems as a result of program activities in the long term.

As you may see from the above trends, the field of corporate philanthropy continues to evolve and change. DFW aims to provide Wisconsin grantmakers of all types with valuable information they need to make more informed grantmaking decisions. To learn more about the scope, diversity and depth of Wisconsin philanthropy, including spotlights on several Wisconsin grantmakers, check out DFW’s new report on statewide giving: “2014 Wisconsin Gives Report” at

Contributed by Jill Van Calster, president and CEO, Donors Forum of Wisconsin

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