3 Big Compliance Concerns for Nonprofits Raising Money from Corporate Giving Programs

Avatar photo
Posted on February 24, 2016 by Harbor Compliance in Fundraising and Grants, Nonprofit Compliance.

As you likely know, nonprofits have to remain compliant with many local, state, and federal regulations.

Whether you’re crowdfunding, asking for donations online, or just fundraising in general, compliance laws are everywhere.

If your nonprofit is receiving donations from corporations, there are even more compliance concerns that you should be paying attention to.

Corporate matching gifts, volunteer grants, and challenge grants each present their own set of issues. Make sure that your nonprofit is able to raise as much money as possible from these corporate giving programs by remaining compliant with the various rules and regulations.

Let’s take a look at three of the biggest compliance concerns that nonprofits should address when raising money from corporate giving programs.

And if you want a look inside the world of corporate philanthropy, check out the 10 most common corporate giving programs!

1. Grants

We’re going to tackle one of the most strictly regulated corporate giving programs first.

Because corporate grants and challenge grants are often major gifts, they tend to come with a laundry list of requirements and standards that must be met. If these rules are not adhered to, the nonprofit runs the risk of not receiving the grant.

But let’s look at each type of grant separately so that we can address the concerns one at a time.

Corporate grants are sums of money that are given to a nonprofit by a company or corporate foundation. Some companies select the nonprofits they wish to give to while others accept applications on an annual basis.

Regardless of how the grant-receiving party is chosen, there are certain rules that generally go along with corporate grants. Some of these general requirements include:

  • Using the money for a predetermined project like a new building or a scholarship. Very few companies are going to be willing to throw money at a nonprofit while saying, “Use it for whatever you want!” There are generally rules surrounding what area of the nonprofit’s mission the grant goes toward.
  • Being a certain type of nonprofit. This point has more to do with eligibility as opposed to compliance, but it’s still important to mention. If your nonprofit’s mission doesn’t fall within the scope of the corporation’s requirements, then you won’t be able to receive the grant (even if you have a perfect application).  
  • Proving nonprofit status. Corporations won’t issue grants to a nonprofit unless you can prove your 501(c)(3) status and provide financial and tax statements.

Applying for a corporate grant can take a lot of time and effort. Don’t waste the hours and manpower that go into the process by ignoring requirements!

Challenge grants are very similar to corporate grants. They’re funds that a company (or sometimes a foundation) will issue after a nonprofit has completed a “challenge.” The challenge in question is usually fiscally based and requires a nonprofit to raise a certain amount of money before the grant-making party releases the funds.

The compliance requirements for challenge grants are similar to the ones listed above for corporate grants, but they also come with their own set of, well, challenges:


  • The money must be raised by a certain date. The whole point of a challenge grant is for the nonprofit to raise a certain amount before a specified deadline. This end-date could be six months, a year, or longer from the beginning of the grant process.
  • The nonprofit must provide updates. Before a challenge grant is considered complete, the nonprofit must provide written and verbal updates to the company. These updates may be as simple as, “We raised X amount of money this past month,” or they could be more complex. The format of the updates is at the discretion of the company or grant-making party.

Corporate and challenge grants can be great fundraising options for nonprofits, but it’s important to remember that they come with their own set of requirements and compliance concerns.

2. Matching Gifts

Matching gifts are the 2-for-1 deals of the corporate giving world. After your organization asks for a contribution, a donor gives $100. They then submit a request to their employer for a matching gift, and the company issues another donation of $100.

Sounds great, right?

It is! However, matching gifts come with their own set of rules that must be adhered to:

  1. Prove your nonprofit status. Corporations won’t match donations to organizations that can’t prove their 501(c)(3) status.
  2. Prove your organization’s eligibility. While some corporations will match donations to any nonprofit, others will only match donations to certain types of organizations or a select number of nonprofits.
  3. Verify that the donor made the initial contribution. Understandably, a company isn’t going to donate to a nonprofit unless they have proof that a donation was made in the first place.

Make sure that you’re meeting these standards (and any other specific rules that particular companies may have) so that you can start receiving twice as many donations!

3. Volunteer Grants

Volunteer grants are the cousins of matching gifts. The two programs share a lot of similarities, but volunteer grants reward hours of work as opposed to monetary contributions.

After an advocate has volunteered for a specific amount of time, he or she submits a volunteer grant request to his or her employer. After the verification process is completed, the corporation will donate a predetermined amount based on the number of hours volunteered.

Where does compliance fit into this equation, though?

Well, in order for your nonprofit to benefit from the generosity of companies with robust volunteer grant programs, you must keep up-to-date records of everyone that donates their time to your organization.

That way, when the company asks for a log of their employees’ volunteer hours, you have it handy and are able to receive the volunteer grant as soon as possible!


So, whether you’re a church that is raising money for a new building or an organization that wants to learn more about corporate giving programs, these three compliance concerns should be addressed regularly. Your organization can start raising more money with the help of corporate giving programs like grants, matching gifts, and volunteer grants, but you have to be prepared to follow the various rules that come along with them.


About the Author:

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via email or on LinkedIn.