How to Be an Equitable Corporate Partner


by Genevieve Villegas, YWCA Advancement Director

Corporate philanthropy is a beautiful thing. This is when a business of any size decides they will utilize their resources to support their local community through:

  • Time – Volunteering hours, days of service, etc
  • Talent – Using their expertise to benefit a cause
  • Treasure – Financial contributions (big or small)

Non-profits of any size can benefit from these resources. If a business encourages their employees to volunteer, that is a huge benefit for a nonprofit. That means the nonprofit can expand their services with qualified talent in a meaningful way.

One of the greatest ways for a business to support a nonprofit is through monetary donations. Organizations decide how they want to distribute monetary donations to nonprofits through various opportunities, such as sponsorship of an event or program and granting opportunities, to name a few.

Sponsorship looks a little like this:

  • Non-profit hosts their annual fundraising event and looks to organizations to sponsor to offset event expenses, but more importantly to support the mission. The nonprofit creates sponsorship opportunities, with varying benefits, that they hope will be appealing enough to grab the attention of a BIG sponsor.
  • The way a typical grant opportunity looks is there is usually a portal the nonprofit needs to sign up for and get accepted into, then it is followed by a lengthy application process that will include information about the organization and the program for which they are seeking funding, the mission, the board members, and of course the financials.
    Then it gets into the good stuff – How are you going to use these funds? How many people are you going to serve? What is the racial makeup of the participants? What are the ages of the participants? What is their financial status? What is their sexual orientation? What is their military status?

On the surface these types of questions seem very well-intended and well-meaning. But what is underneath all of this are systemic barriers. A lot of nonprofits work with marginalized communities. A lot of nonprofits work with populations that are not so willing to provide their personal information due to the sensitivity of their situation.

But alas the non-profit receives that long-awaited email that the grant has been approved. Yay right? But you must read the fine print and comply with the terms regarding reporting and restrictions.  

Some examples of reporting requirements and gift restrictions could include: funds can only be used on programming not overhead (staff, rent, water); must be used on a specific program within a year; report quarterly on how your program is doing and how their funds are making an impact in the community; quantitative results to be reported (how many meals were served, how many clients, how many people attended, how many classes, racial makeup of your clients, ages of your clients, genders of your client, sexual orientation of your clients? Military status? Disability status? Income status?); Did you meet your goals? Explain why if you didn’t; How exactly did this grant impact this program?; How exactly were these funds used in this program? and so on and so on.

What is not easy to report for an organization like YWCA, with the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, is how do you put a number on impacting racism? Do we count the number of courageous conversations that have been had because of our programming? Or do we add up how many people in the community are now aware of the privilege they have whereas others may not be?

For our work, and other organizations focused on social justice, a straight reporting out of numbers served doesn’t always tell the story of our impact. What numbers does one report to measure where someone is on their racial and social justice journey? What we do know is that because of our financial education courses, with perhaps only a handful of participants, one of them was able to break the cycle of poverty in their family. The ripple effect that will be felt in her family and her community is unmeasurable. Until corporations look through a lens of social and racial justice rather than the lens of hierarchy, they will never clearly see their true impact.

We are on a mission to eliminate racism and empower women, but for us to achieve that we must move the needle in corporate philanthropy which will allow us to create a just and equitable community. We are honored to have recently embarked on a partnership with Intel to do just that. Intel and YWCA are working together to make an impact and to change how corporate philanthropy is typically done. Together we are working on STEAM focused equitable grants. YWCA will facilitate the entire granting process for 20 grants that will directly benefit closing the race gap in STEAM careers. Intel has entrusted YWCA to create the grant application and reporting process, through a racial and social justice lens, making this an equitable granting opportunity.

Some systemic barriers in the philanthropy process that YWCA and Intel grants will work to address:

Application Process

  • Status Quo: Requires multiple-page narratives, several attachments, and/or unique outcomes templates. Takes organizations 15 or more hours to complete application.
  • Equity: Streamline application processes and reporting requirements so nonprofits can focus on the work at hand.

Funding Restrictions

  • Status Quo: Awards are mostly restricted.
  • Equity: Remove the funding restrictions and allow the funds to be used as needed by the grantee.

Reporting Process

  • Status Quo: Requires filling out funder designed reporting forms for narratives and budget expenses that break down what funding was spent on.
  • Equity: We will accept reports written for other funders, or will have a conversation with the grantee, with us recording and taking notes.

Read More about Making Philanthropy More Equitable: Introducing the Equitable Grantmaking Continuum.

Funders, take this assessment and see where you fall on the Equitable Grantmaking Continuum, then share it with colleagues and board. If you work at a nonprofit, feel free to share this with the organizations that fund you.

Statements on this blog reflect the author’s personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix or YWCA USA. Blog entries are meant to spark individual reflection and community conversations on issues of racial justice and gender equality.