Strategic Philanthropy 101: Definition, Benefits, Examples

In the context of a tough economic situation, many companies feel obliged to reject proposals to donate to charity. If they are struggling with difficulties, they no longer have the means to make donations. This is harsh both for charities, but also for the business as well, as it affects its image. As a result, many people have turned to strategic philanthropy, which brings many advantages to the donor, not only to the receiver.

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Image source: Cannon Air Force Base

A definition of strategic philanthropy

Through strategic philanthropy, a company chooses a charitable activity to support, which also brings some benefits back. This philanthropic activity needs to support the business objectives of the company. Therefore, what this company does is support both its own interests and the interests of a charity organization through the generic denomination of strategic philanthropy.

Such a collaboration benefits both parts. The company gets the chance to be associated with philanthropic activities, thus increasing its reputation and creating a good image. On the other hand, the charity gets the funding it needs, and manages to support its philanthropic purpose. This idea is great, as it brings together two different goals. While helping the community, the company manages to receive some benefits of its own.

Benefits and attributes of strategic philanthropy

There are many reasons why companies should consider embracing strategic philanthropy. Of course, the main goal is to help the community and bring funds to an organization that wants to help those in need. However, you can do it while still picking some benefits for your own organization.


The most popular benefit associated with strategic philanthropy is, of course, exposure. Once you start the collaboration with the non-profit organization, it will go public. This way, more people will hear about it, your reputation will improve, and your chances of success will significantly increase.

This will be reflected by the activity of the employees. They will become less likely to leave the company, and their motivation and engagement will increase. Therefore, the company will shortly have great results to brag about. In some situations, strategic philanthropy might bring profit as well.


Here are a series of elements related to strategic philanthropy. This practice is common among corporations, and you rarely see it among individuals or small companies. Also, they settle the collaborations only after thorough research.

Before choosing their preferred charity, companies should explore what the collaboration would mean, and how they should make it work. Then, they should put up a thorough plan of action, and analyze each result they get. This way, if there’s anything that doesn’t work properly, they would know what to change.

The advantages for the non-profit organization are clear. However, apart from the funding and charity they receive, they can also get some exposure. Being associated with a renowned corporation might attract other valuable donors.

Examples of strategic philanthropy

Here are a series of real-life examples of companies that decided to embrace strategic philanthropy.


Chrysler used to donate money for education in general, but it decided to change the situation a bit. It directed its donations directly for trainings in the field of the automotive industry. These trainings seek to get people ready for jobs in the industry by focusing on skills they need to develop. This also cut the costs the industry had to support for the in-house training of future employees.


Kmart has a lifelong partnership with the March of Dimes since 1984, and has managed to raise an impressive sum of more than $55 million through all kinds of methods. As a result, Kmart enjoyed a lot of benefits as well. It has seen a great increase in the satisfaction of its employees, the image of the company has improved, and the consumer traffic has greatly increased.


This company is in a collaboration with Teach for America which brought great advantages for both parts. The benefits for Wachovia include a greater employee satisfaction and engagement, and fewer of them who decided to leave the company.

At the same time, Teach for America allowed some of these employees to work as trainers for new teachers. This way, they acquired some valuable knowledge from experienced professionals. These employees could also take some time off to volunteer as teachers themselves. The collaboration remains open, as Wachovia welcomes any Teach for America members as employees or interns.

How to be a part of strategic philanthropy

Start with a smaller organization

Instead of aiming high, find a charitable organization where even the smallest donations matter. This way, you can attract attention towards them and help them acquire more funds. Also, you can pick a charity that is completely new and help it grow.

Choose a company in your field of action

You have more chances of success if you pick something you already know how to do. This way, it will be easier for you to help the organization get the funding it needs. Also, you can get your own benefits without too much effort. People tend to give more credit to two such organizations if they are also related.

Create an equal partnership

Strategic philanthropy is about a civil collaboration between two organizations where none is superior to the other. If the charity is the one that receives donations it doesn’t mean you are above it. Indeed, it has a lot more benefits from being in a constant collaboration with you rather than receiving one single donation.

However, this doesn’t mean you should regard your organization as superior. Your own company has plenty of benefits it wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for this strategic philanthropy collaboration.

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Image source: Flickr

Summing up

Strategic philanthropy goes both ways. Trying to find which half of the partnership has more benefits is unproductive. For charities, it’s definitely more profitable to start such a collaboration than individual donations. On the other hand, companies get plenty of valuable exposure and other image-related benefits. According to the nature of the charity, some companies might acquire even some extra profit as a result of strategic philanthropy.

Image source: Max Pixel



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