Take a close look at whether applying for corporate grants requires you to compromise your organization’s values.
Many conservative nonprofits, especially ones that focus on giving back to their local communities, turn to corporate foundations for funding.
This makes sense, as there are many advantages to applying to corporations: short and simple applications, quick turnaround, and local giving priorities are all great reasons for organizations to apply for corporate grants.
Groups like Walmart have an easy process for nonprofits to apply to individual locations for grants up to $5,000. These applications can be completed quickly, and the grants are intended to support those in the local area. In under an hour, you could apply for thousands of dollars in funding.
While a majority of these grants are fairly small—with gift sizes ranging from $1,000 to $10,000—they can be worth the minimal effort the short, simple applications require. But even if the ROI is there (minimal effort for a small grant), the questions on many of these applications are cause for concern.
Corporate donors don’t typically care very much about an organization’s mission. Their interest is less in advancing your mission and more in getting their logo out there and posturing as philanthropic or socially engaged. That’s not all bad—you still get the grant, after all! But in today’s society, this can turn down some troubling roads, leading to companies making funding decisions based on race and gender.
I ran into this problem for the first time while applying to the Target Foundation. Target’s application started out just like any other, requesting contact information and a short statement of the organization’s mission. Then, it took a turn. Flipping to the next page, I was faced with question after question asking about race and gender identity:
- Provide an estimated percentage of leadership team members for each race/ethnicity.
- Provide an estimated percentage of board members for each race/ethnicity.
- Provide an estimated percentage of those served by the organization or program associated with this application for each gender: female, male, non-binary/non-conforming, transgender, other.
Target isn’t making decisions based on the good your organization does in the community. It’s deciding based on whether or not your staff page looks right for their virtue-signaling goals.
After filling out a lengthy, invasive application, you still might find your amazing work deemed unworthy of funding, not because of your mission or ineffectiveness, but because your CEO isn’t “intersectional.”
Perhaps your application will still be successful, but this should make us ask, is it worth it? Is a small “local” grant worth asking your board members for their preferred pronouns and reducing your staff to their gender and ethnicity? Is it worth trying to make your organization appeal to “woke” corporations?
Perhaps not. If you’re running a nonprofit, you want your funding partners to be a part of your mission, which means that values alignment matters a great deal. Finding donors who are aligned with your mission will be far more valuable in the long run than catering to the reductive and condescending questions that corporations like Target subject their applicants to.
Some organizations will be a good fit and others won’t, and you shouldn’t be afraid to stick to your values.
In short, when asking for money, ask yourself, is this worth it?