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It’s Time to Rethink Your Corporate Philanthropy Partnerships

Samantha Hunter
Published:  04/21/2021

brown sticky notes on a desk with a keyboardPhoto by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

As we begin to look towards the “next normal,” it’s important to think about the lasting impacts from 2020 and how they will affect 2021. 2020 has changed the way we work, the way we ‘see’ friends and family, and also what issues keep us up at night. Because of this, there has been a notable shift over the past year around how people and corporations think about philanthropy. 

What trends are we seeing today?

Over the past year, as social justice issues and disparities in our healthcare system have come to the forefront, we’ve started to see a shift in the way that corporations are thinking about philanthropy and corporate giving. A recent study conducted by Accelerist found, despite the pandemic, corporate giving actually increased by 0.4% in 2020 and is expected to increase by 1.4% in 2021. 

Why are we seeing this change? Previously, the corporate sector viewed philanthropy as ‘nice to do’, but there has been a market shift that shows philanthropy is something that’s now critical to investors and employees across all industries. There’s a growing movement that puts corporate social responsibility front and center when people think about where to shop, where their next job is going to be, and where they want their money to go. 

As a result, we are seeing a shift in thinking at the corporate level. Accelerist found that 76% of executives acknowledge the role of business in perpetuating systemic racial inequality and are committed to action. And 60% of corporations report they are looking at new issues to support in the next fiscal year. 

The issues a company supports and how it approaches philanthropy also has a significant impact on market value. Studies show that high-purpose brands will double their market value more than 4x faster than low-purpose brands and will create much higher levels of total shareholder returns. There is now a tangible link to being a purpose-driven company and the company’s bottom line.

How does this impact healthcare?

Healthcare is uniquely positioned because there is a sense of urgency around healthcare and global health as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond COVID itself, the pandemic has highlighted existing disparities in the healthcare system across the US and the world. 

Hospitals and health systems have the opportunity to position themselves as an expert partner that can really make a true change from a corporate giving standpoint. There's an opportunity to have a voice in this conversation and to serve as an expert to companies that are looking to begin new partnerships focused on equitable access to care. 

Healthcare philanthropy leaders should be asking the question, how can you provide potential corporate partners with knowledge and education on the topic if they are newer to the space? How can you highlight the ways your hospital or health system can directly impact marginalized communities through philanthropy? Essentially, you need to make the message clear on how you can use corporate gifts to drive change. 

How to build a new business strategy for corporate fundraising

We’ve established that philanthropy, and healthcare philanthropy in particular, is a new focus for corporations, so how can you capitalize on that? The first thing that’s important to understand is the timeline to anticipate. It can take anywhere from six to eighteen months to build new corporate relationships so starting conversations sooner rather than later is critical. 

Think about industries you might already have relationships with, like companies in the pharmaceutical space. Other industries that might be ripe for opportunity are real estate, construction, or software companies. 

Later in the year, you can start conversations with some of those industries that are still hard hit by the recession, like travel and retail. Although hospitality is starting to come back, it’s still currently operating at a loss in most cases. Give them time to reevaluate their budgets and then set yourself up to have a fruitful conversation next year. 

Most companies are broadening the range of causes they are aligning with or are refocusing on what resonates with their investors and employees. Now is a really good time to go back to some companies that you've talked to previously that weren’t necessarily looking for a healthcare partner. You never know if they’ve reevaluated and are newly interested in partnership opportunities.

Though you might have to squint to see it, it’s important to try to see the silver lining of 2020. A renewed focus on social issues, corporate giving, and finding new philanthropic organizations to support are some positive trends that will continue throughout 2021. 

For more on this topic including 10 ripe industries to consider engaging in a corporate partnership with, watch this on-demand webinar.
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Meet The Author

Sam Hunter headshot
Samantha Hunter
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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