The Gifts That Keep on Giving

by Peter Proko | Nov 21, 2022
The Gifts That Keep on Giving
For many individuals, supporting difference-making nonprofits and charities can be rewarding for any number of reasons. And for a company that partakes in philanthropic efforts, it can be a great way to boost morale among employees, helping to create a sense of pride and fulfillment that exists outside of a hard day’s work.

Whether through longstanding partnerships, significant financial contributions or connecting employees directly with a worthy cause, corporate giving plays a huge role in allowing area nonprofits to further their mission and expand their reach. 

Rosemarie Parker is the CEO of Family Promise of Southwest New Jersey, which helps address the root of family homelessness, and says corporate giving is crucial in helping the organization fund key programs that aid families faced with housing insecurities. In fact, she estimates that 1/3 of Family Promise’s revenue is a direct result of corporate giving.

“We have some of the same foundations support our programs, year after year, and we wouldn’t be able to run without their support,” Parker says. 

Mari Considine, chief marketing officer and chief development officer with Acenda Integrated Health, echoes those sentiments, citing how essential corporate giving is to boosting fundraising efforts in order to better meet the growing needs of South Jersey. 

“Corporate donors have given us the opportunity to innovate and expand existing programming while also helping us fill service gaps in order to meet the needs of the community in real time. We have been able to offer services to veterans, ESL programming, STEM learning and enhanced mental health services, just to name a few of our corporate-funded programs,” Considine says.

And while these donations are vastly important to nonprofits, the companies and individuals doing the giving are also reaping the benefits by helping uplift the communities in which they live, work and play.

“Corporate investment and employee engagement is proven to boost employee morale and increase positive brand recognition,” says Jen Hammill, vice president of development and public relations with Center for Family Services. “Corporate partners and the employees at these companies share the common theme that giving back feels good.”

Of course, securing those dollars isn’t always easy and so, just like elsewhere in the business world, networking goes a long way to forming mutually beneficial partnerships.

Parker, like many other heads of local nonprofits, is active with local chambers of commerce and proactive in establishing collaborative relationships. 

“Just as other businesses are out there trying to develop their business, it really works the same way for nonprofits. We like to share our mission and we try to engage the community to participate in our mission however they can do it,” Parker says. 

Mark Morgan is the producing artistic director of the Moorestown Theater Company and agrees networking is a must. He also regularly attends local chamber events and previously served as the president of the Moorestown Business Association for nine years. 

“I know a lot of people and reach out to these people,” he says. “Networking is huge, you can’t just sit in your office and make blind phone calls or send out emails and texts. You have to get out, be visible and let people know about you and brag about your events. People hear about it and they want to congratulate you and help support, so networking is key.”

MEND, the nonprofit corporation that develops, builds, owns and manages affordable rental housing across the area, formed its own supporting organization—The Friends of MEND—comprised of local business professionals that work to solicit financial support for its annual fundraising events.

Earlier this year, The Friends of MEND reached out seeking support of its first post-COVID event, the “Fun”Raiser. The success of that April gathering led to several corporate donors continuing to support the organization at a golf event in September. “An initial outreach by the team has resulted in an ongoing relationship of support,” says Eileen Wirth, president and CEO.

Fortunately, Wirth adds, the rental income MEND generates from its homes almost fully supports its operations, but she recognizes how beneficial corporate giving can be and says there has been discussion internally about conducting more corporate outreach in the future. 

“Corporate giving has helped support the operating budget, freeing up funds for initiatives such as increasing our portfolio of affordable homes through the purchase of six homes earlier this year,” she says. 

But, as a result of the pandemic, overall corporate giving has slowed as businesses tighten the purse strings and reevaluate how they look to spend charitable dollars moving forward. At the Moorestown Theater Company, Morgan has seen this firsthand.

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, the community theater group held its annual Extravagala fundraising dinner and dance last month. In 2019, the event garnered 20 corporate sponsors, but this year that number dropped down to 11. As a result, Morgan says the theater is about at 50% of where it was in terms of donations before the pandemic. That decline in funding hasn’t slowed their production schedule, but it’s certainly been noticeable.

“COVID is still having its effects and still impacting corporate financial decisions,” he says. “We have to get more corporate support; we don’t make much money [to support operations] just selling tickets or offering concessions.”

Brian Riggs serves as the director of The Joseph Fund of Camden and says in the post-pandemic space, he’s noticed a lot of corporations have defined social responsibility strategies to align their giving with their own values and interests. 

“The trends are really interesting. The decision makers and CEOs of large companies have a real sense on the human side of our impact. They want to know the names of the kids they’re impacting, they want to know how they are doing grade wise; they want to follow their success. … From the other side, the larger, more national corporations; they want to make sure we have a structure and program in place so their money is going toward exactly what we say it is. And more importantly, where it falls within their own giving strategy,” he says.

Riggs acknowledges that the organization also took a bit of a dip during the pandemic in terms of corporate giving, but thanks to the generosity of its existing donors, The Joseph Fund of Camden was able to provide scholarships and tuition assistance for 145 students this school year. 

Perhaps surprisingly, the pandemic has also inspired some to start new nonprofits, which is exactly what Jo-Ann Weiner, founder and CEO of forensic accounting practice J. L. Weiner & Associates, decided to do. Weiner created Women, Words, and Wisdom, an organization designed to inform women of current issues in order to help them make critical life decisions as well as to provide scholarship money to college students in financial need. 

“We have been fortunate to have corporate partners for the two years [since the nonprofit was created]. Without these donations, it would not be possible to sustain the organization. … We rely on corporate donations because it is the corporate funding that goes directly to the college scholarship fund. The scholarships help ensure needy students stay in college and finish their education,” Weiner says.

One thing that is clear is that as the needs across South Jersey continue to grow at a rapid pace, nonprofits see an urgent need for continued investment.

“Corporate philanthropy has a direct and positive impact on the lives of people in need here. … Investment from large corporations and small businesses expands important services and provides direct support to address urgent needs, including basic needs. There continues to be a strong need for general operating support which is vital to nonprofits, both to support day-to-day and overhead, and to provide important flexibility to direct funds where needed most,” Hammill says. 

Riggs harkens back to the trends mentioned earlier and the desire of many companies to see their money make a sustained impact. 

“This trend of corporate social responsibility in terms of aligning values with effort, I think it’s fabulous,” says Riggs. “We’re not going out and asking for dollars just to put up your logo at our events anymore. It may cost us a couple of sponsors down the road, but in the end I think it’s the right thing for both companies and the organizations they support.” 

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Author: Peter Proko

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