Total corporate giving amongst Fortune 500 firms totals over US $20 billion annually. While the budgets for ‘doing good’ seem large, we gain perspective by considering what they might be spent on. Let us consider the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 global objectives for a brighter shared future. In 2017, the United Nations reported that achieving the SDGs will cost up to US $7 trillion annually. While much of that sum will be committed by governments in developed nations, large investment gaps averaging US $2.5 trillion in developing countries pose a significant challenge. Suddenly the demand for funding seemingly dwarfs global supply.
Private sector giving will undoubtedly contribute towards closing these significant funding gaps by the SDG deadline in 2030. To stretch budgets further, we must ensure that the ways in which we utilise these funds maximises impact. Much of direct corporate giving is carried out through two vehicles. The first, through sponsorship, is commonly made with cash or in-kind goods or services and is a quick method of deploying resources. The second, through grant making, is a more involved vehicle that is employed when an organisation wants to exercise influence over where, how, and for whom its resources are used. Often used interchangeably, the key defining characteristic of sponsorship is that it is generally ‘no strings attached’. The receiver can use the resources with a high degree of freedom. Grants, on the other hand, are usually governed by a budget, scope of work, or other parameters.