Corporate foundations: How to build a business case?

Last updated: 29th March 2023

A successful corporate foundation needs the full support of your senior leaders to help drive and champion its work. Their buy-in is essential, but so is that of all your employees – you’ll want them to feel engaged, feel a sense of pride and ownership in the foundation and empowered to participate.

There are many well-known competitive advantages to setting up a corporate foundation, including:

  • Lasting brand and social impact
  • Customer loyalty
  • Attracting, engaging and retaining staff
  • Becoming a leader and driving change in your sector

Whether you’re setting up a corporate foundation or are looking for better senior leader engagement with an established one, we’ve put together some key things to consider to help you build a strong business case and sell the benefits to your internal stakeholders.

Define your purpose and proposition

Whatever your purpose is, your stakeholders should be on-board. If you’re just starting out, bring them with you for consultation through the planning process. If you already have a foundation, make sure they know exactly what it is you’re trying to achieve and how they can play a part in it.

Defining your purpose and proposition can require detailed research, benchmarking and developing a strategy. Think critically about the impact you are seeking to achieve, why you are looking to set up a foundation, and how you can create the conditions for long-term demonstrable impact. Think too about your financial commitment and aligning your ambitions to your budget without relying too heavily on staff fundraising.

Identify the challenge and the opportunity

Clearly illustrate to your senior leaders exactly what issues exist within society and how your business could use its resources to alleviate them. Draw on independent research from think tanks, government and charities to help identify specific issues or cause areas. How do the issues relate to your business sector, local community or stakeholders?

Demonstrate where there is opportunity to make an impact. Identifying risks and opportunities has always been central to business and investment strategies, so how might there be risk in not responding to a pressing social issue?

Crucially, show where the opportunity lies in shared value creation. Shared value refers to the societal benefits driven through corporate philanthropy and the corresponding business benefits such as customer, supplier and employee loyalty; increased brand awareness or market share; or potential for new products, services or partnerships.

Demonstrate the ROI of your impact

Be clear with your stakeholders. Firstly, communicate the impact you seek to achieve and secondly, how you plan to measure results in order to tangibly demonstrate the impact of your foundation. 

Metrics such as the number of people your foundation will reach are important, but so too are outcomes. How will the lives of specific individuals or the circumstances of communities be improved? Key to this is determining what the short, medium and long-term milestones of the foundation’s work will be to ensure you’re on the right track with achieving intended outcomes.

It is also important to think holistically about outcomes. For example, by providing better access to education on climate-resilient agriculture a key primary outcome may be improved yields and food security but there may also be additional secondary impacts upon the farmer’s quality of life, that of his family and community, as well as soil quality, water quality and nutritional health.  

Bring in the return on investment to your business too. Could some of these outcomes have positive impacts on the business in the future, for example by improving the operating environment, the supply chain or providing a future work force? Many companies also see an improvement in employee wellbeing and better unity in having a common goal and bringing the business closer to the communities it’s connected to. 

Inspire ambitious thinking

A corporate foundation presents an opportunity to make real change. Whether it’s a commitment to a percentage of profits, tackling a systemic issue, or collaborating across your sector to share ideas, open up conversations or pool resources. 

Aim for something your stakeholders can be proud of and that inspires ambitious thinking. Providing a clear timescale of commitment up front can be helpful. For example committing to donating a specific amount to deliver a certain objective by a predetermined date or year.

Maintain the foundation’s independence

While it’s critical to get support from senior leaders – and employee engagement is high when leaders are publicly and actively engaged with it – a successful corporate foundation should not be driven by their personal objectives or preferences. It should be authentic, honest and independent, and managed in line with the company’s purpose and proposition. 

For the most successful corporate foundations, employees at all levels across the business have collective ownership of the foundation, from being on decision-making committees, to managing charity partnerships, to volunteering and taking part in fundraising activities. 

An independent corporate foundation registered with The Charity Commission must be completely independent from the business. This includes having some trustees who are not company employees.


Considering a corporate foundation?

Whether it’s defining your ambitions, engaging your stakeholders,

or setting up a measurement framework, CAF’s expert corporate team can support you at every stage of your foundation journey.

Learn more about corporate foundations with CAF

N.B. The information contained in this entry is provided by the above supplier, and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher

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