With careful cultivation, your school can develop profitable relationships with companies in your town that work to the benefit of both parties. There are two kinds of corporate grants. The first will be small grants somewhere between $250 and $3,000. These grants come from big national chains such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Best Buy. These companies like to support programs in towns where they have a presence. They usually have a specific issue they like to tackle, and most have great websites that outline their interests and past awards. Pay attention to the types of projects they support each year; this is a clue to your approach. Wal-Mart has a good site that we can look at for an example. They work with Sam's Club, and if your town has a Wal-Mart store or, better yet, a Sam's Club, check your eligibility and start writing.
Check out our Grants Database and be amazed at what's out there.
You can usually apply for these awards year after year, but check to be sure. They may want to spread their support around and only provide a grant to a school once, or every two years. Their application packages (almost all are online) will tell you. These grants are a way to provide support for low-budget projects in your school or as matching grants for large projects. Matching awards are tricky—the store or company may want to take the lead and be front and center when accolades are given. It is usually easy to apply for these grants, and you usually get the money or materials you need very quickly.
The award might not be cash; it might be in-kind support. They may, for example, donate a set of ten computers for a lab. It helps to let them know that you will apply plaques to the machines acknowledging their gift.
Another type of corporate grant is very much like a foundation grant except that the money comes directly from the corporation rather than its philanthropic foundation. The application is going to be longer and more detailed than the store grant application, but should be very similar to a foundation application. These are big awards that come from corporate headquarters, not your local store or office. Often, corporate awards are from invitation only opportunities. Perhaps your school has caught the attention of someone in the corporate office who thinks the project has great merit and will highlight company goals, and the corporation is seeking attention for being a good neighbor in this area. It pays to work with your town newspaper to get stories out there about the projects your school launches each year.
In my last article, I talked about "What's in it for Them?" Like the foundation grant, you will need to match your problem area very closely to a corporation’s reason for giving. They too have a philosophy, and, as with a foundation, you will need to thoroughly understand that philosophy and match your needs closely to it.
Always remember these two types of corporate grants when you’re looking for money. The first store grant might fill in some deficits you have in other projects you are working on, while the second bigger grant will stand on its own and be the focus of your project and its support. The corporation will generally want to be the sole source of support and not share the limelight with another company or foundation.
Like any other endeavor, you'll need to do your homework, research your targets thoroughly, make phone calls and invite store owners to your school to show them good works; they love to see what members of the community are doing. It's good business.
Do you have companies with a presence in your town? Drive around, you might be surprised.