Corporate giving – a major opportunity, but widely misunderstood. A new report shows us how understanding the values and ‘shape’ of corporates is key to securing their support. 

Corporate community investment is huge across the globe. So huge in fact, that the latest JBWere report, produced by John McLeod (senior consultant and co-founder of the JBWere Philanthropic Services team) estimates that, in Australia, corporate support is worth around $5 billion per year.  

Projected change in giving to Australian for-purpose causes ($m).

The growth seen over the past three years has been impressive. After a “normal” 2019 for profitability and social need, we moved into the devastating bushfires of 2019/20 which saw major philanthropic support across the country plus a large increase in corporate support adding over 10% to corporate giving totals.  

What hasn’t happened is the widely-predicted downturn of corporate giving during COVID-19 – we have seen quite the opposite as corporates have played their role in response and recovery and have developed a growing awareness of their purpose and connection to community.  

Whilst this sounds like incredible news, John cautions that, currently, the relationship between nonprofits and corporates is not well understood. 

Globally, cash makes up 70 – 80% of corporate support with one third coming from corporate foundations. In Australia, however, cash is around 60% of corporate support, with only 20% as direct donations, and the rest held in partnerships. Put simply, we are behind. How can we make more of the corporate golden goose?  

JBWere’s Corporate Support Report sheds light on opportunities available to both the community sector and corporates. The latter’s reach has expanded substantially over the last 50 years, and businesses are now inextricably connected to governments, community, individuals, households and the for-purpose sector.  

A powerful connection between nonprofits and corporates irrefutably exists, but how do we make the most of it?   

The shape of things  

It’s very important to understand the shape of corporates, explains John. There are large corporates, small corporates and family businesses – a multitude of industries, and each for-purpose organisation will benefit from partnering with the corporate that best fits them (and vice versa).  

Large nonprofits may gravitate towards the goliaths of the banking sector, smaller organisations may fit better with retail and local businesses. “The best [partners] aren’t the ones with the most money, the best [partners] are the best fit for that organisation,” says John. Think about the size of corporate you can manage – for example, if a businesses’ workforce is a cast of thousands, can you meet their demand for volunteering opportunities if you are a small nonprofit?  

“The best partners aren’t the ones with the most money, the best partners are the best fit for an organisation.” 

While aiming for the biggest corporate partner around is almost certainly not the right approach, neither is taking a scatter gun approach to partnerships. There are more layers and complexities to corporate partnerships than major donors, so do not aim to have the same number of both advises John. “Whereas [you] might want to have 50 major donors, [you] probably should have three or four corporate partners”. 

The nature of a corporate also provides a big clue as to what they may support – see the infographic above and table below. Is it any surprise that within Coles’ cause focus there is food rescue and disaster relief? Ask, what business model does your nonprofit’s values and impact align with?  

And it is not just about dollars of course. Corporate relationships can offer pro bono services, in-kind support, skilled and casual volunteers and advocacy support. As you consider a new relationship, think about every way that business may be able to engage with you.  

Key findings and recommendations 

  1. The corporate sector has a scale the charity sector cannot match (20x annual income). 
  1. Corporates need partners who are experts in ‘purpose’ to help them evolve – this is where you come in.  
  1. It is vital to know your organisation and your partner – understand each other’s purpose, values, strategy, stakeholders and strengths.  
  1. Build real trusting relationships anchored in transparency and accountability, so you can collaborate and co-create with an open mind. 


We have arrived at a moment in time when corporates know that to secure consumer trust and build healthy and happy workforces, they must make a positive impact in the world. In both Australia and the US, annual corporate spending is around 7 – 8 times that of government spending and 20 – 25 times the for-purpose sector. With that has come a growing interest in how companies are operating and what effect that is having on society. Employees care who they work for and consumers who they buy from.  

“Organisation’s that don’t address our social and environmental needs as a human race will cease to exist,” says Tim Diamond, General Manager of the Cotton On Foundation.  

A nonprofit’s job is to meet that understanding with a compelling proposition based on a deep knowledge of a corporate’s alignment, motivations and values.  

To view the full Corporate Support Report, click here 

Next week we will take a deeper look into the report and explore its recommendations on how much to ask for, how to measure corporate investment, how to engage corporate volunteers, what workplace giving means for you, and more.  

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