The Next Wave of Corporate Support


Corporations and businesses can be great supporters and contributors to your Library and fundraising efforts. Today, corporate giving is taking on some new directions and fundraisers are shifting the approach to businesses.

Traditionally, many larger corporations have foundations with active philanthropic giving, often with specified areas of focus targeted at community needs. More local businesses also have annual giving programs with areas of interest defined by the owners or managers. Although these types of gifts are philanthropic, increasingly corporate giving also relates to the needs and mission of the business as a whole (for instance, a science based business may be most interested in supporting science education).

Another area of corporate giving has focused on sponsorship. These types of support usually have a marketing or networking aspect for the corporation. That is, the corporation is looking for a direct tangible result or outcome for the sponsorship. In some cases, such as big, community-wide events, this is essentially an advertising buy for the businesses. The audience for the event or activity is large, and the corporation is purchasing the opportunity to market to your audience. Many corporations also use sponsorship dollars for networking or entertaining clients.  A big gala fundraiser, where businesses buy tables and bring clients, provides an opportunity for them to connect with other peer businesses who fall into this category.

The newer focus is on corporate engagement. Here, at The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, we have begun this type of program. This approach involves engaging the business community and discovering their needs and then developing a partnership to move the business and community forward.  For example, many businesses are finding it difficult to attract skilled employees, so workforce development is a major concern and on top of their agenda. From early literacy to computer skills, this is an area where libraries shine. Promoting these services and engaging businesses on this issue is a win-win for everyone.

The engagement strategy does ultimately involve an ask for financial support, particularly for targeted services or resources. However, it goes beyond that. It is important to include aspects such as volunteer opportunities, help with promotion, connections to individual employees, etc. that are more personal and direct for the corporation. This is a benefit for the corporation as they have deeper community involvement. It’s also a benefit for the library or library foundation, helping build a much stronger attachment with business and the individuals within the corporation.

For an example of this type of corporate engagement strategy, take a look at The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library’s new corporate approach focused on workforce development: