Aug 6, 2019

Madison and Milwaukee Corporate Donor Guide


As the state’s capital and state’s largest city, respectively, Madison and Milwaukee house the vast majority of Wisconsin’s 36,120 registered nonprofits as of 2018. These cities represent the best of the state’s philanthropic ecosystem and are an integral part of its social, civic and economic pulse.

Nestled near the Great Lakes, nonprofits in Madison and Milwaukee tackle a wide range of interconnected issues to promote social good. Enlisting corporate donors is a key practice in this mission, with corporate sponsors and partners often funding the difference between ad-hoc, infrequent services and lasting communal impact.

If you’re looking for one of our other Corporate Donor Guides, check out the resources found here:

This guide to corporate donors in Madison and Milwaukee aims to help local nonprofits target, identify and engage top corporate donors by segment within their own Wisconsin backyards and therefore create more secure, sustainable and impactful revenue models.

This guide also explores:

We hope this guide inspires your nonprofit’s most strategic and successful corporate fundraising partnerships to date.

What motivates corporate donors to give to support nonprofits?

Today’s corporations cite a number of characteristics they look for when determining philanthropic associations. When looking for businesses that donate to nonprofits, position your organization as one that can offer:

1. Local connection

Local giving opportunities in communities where a company is already present tend to be more attractive than non-geographically relevant ones. Working with local nonprofits gives corporations a chance to make a tangible difference in their immediate corners, as well as the chance for convenient employee volunteer offerings.

This is good news for Wisconsin nonprofits of all sizes. Small and medium-sized organizations can push their existing integration within a micro-community, highlighting the evident and organic local connection. Yet larger nonprofits — even national ones — often maintain regional branches focusing on local iterations of their missions, such as local chapters of Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Clubs, Feeding America and more.

2. Aligned mission and values

Companies select nonprofit partners with similar values and interests to theirs. These mirroring missions make it far easier to find common ground on projects and programs to sponsor.

Plus, it provides an intuitive connection between a private company’s goods or services and the charitable work they perform. For example, a regional gym chain will be more inclined to sponsor a series of youth sports programs, while a staffing agency will find it pertinent to provide career coaching for underserved areas.

3. Suitable philanthropic image

Businesses must think critically about the outside organizations they associate with publicly and vice versa. Companies today are working harder than ever to identify suitable matches, particularly as more and more consumers look and spend favorably on brands with authentic corporate philanthropic positions.

Nonprofits pitching corporate donors can leverage their good public standing and similar values as persuasive reasons to form a partnership. Likewise, businesses should perform due diligence in identifying like-minded, respected charities with complementary goals.

4. An ongoing relationship

Corporate donations make a larger impact when they’re strategically maintained over the years, not conducted through ad-hoc asks. A business will be far more inclined to work with your nonprofit when you present ongoing engagement opportunities, including financial sponsorships, in-kind donations, pro-bono work, employee volunteer opportunities and — in particular — special thank-you events in their honor, planned over the long term.

5. Tangible results

Providing proof of impact is paramount for your Madison- and Milwaukee-based nonprofits to stand out from the rest. With such a high concentration of statewide charities in these cities, nonprofits that can quantify their accomplishments across the calendar year will rally more corporations behind their causes. They generate a data-backed “track record” that corporate donations turn into social value, with those values compounding thanks to donors.

Corporate donors by segment in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee and Madison each contain dozens of corporations committed to nonprofit donations and sponsorships.

We’ve cataloged companies according to the causes, or nonprofit segments, they identify as important to their organizations. We also include:

  • An “ideal sponsorship” description, lending a broader explanation behind the type of corporation or institution for your nonprofit to seek when funding a particular cause.
  • Descriptions of causes as they pertain to the Milwaukee and Madison metropolitan areas.
  • Links to business’s corporate philanthropy or donation request pages

1. The arts

Wisconsin’s nonprofit arts industry generates $657 million in statewide economic value and contributes to almost 30,000 full-time jobs, most of which are concentrated in Madison and Milwaukee.

Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the top-ranking public colleges in the United States. The university’s presence imbues the city with an impressive range of arts and cultural affordances — affordances far more available than per-capita arts opportunities in comparable cities of the same size nationwide.

Milwaukee maintains over 20 cultural, heritage and art museums as well as city artist and literature residencies. In addition, Milwaukee nonprofits support youth and adult creative endeavors in theatre, dance, fine arts, creative writing and more.

  • Ideal sponsorship alignment: Companies with products or services connected to creative pursuits and branding, as well as larger corporations headquartered in Milwaukee and Madison that wish to amplify the cities as fresh, inviting cultural centers.

Milwaukee and Madison companies that contribute to the arts include:

2. Children and youth

A quarter of Milwaukee’s (25.9%) and around a fifth (16.3%) of Madison’s population is 18 years or younger. Nonprofits in the children and youth sectors conduct work on issues pertaining to these demographics, such as before and after school programs, tutoring, wellness initiatives, youth sports, youth mental health and more.

  • Ideal sponsorship alignment: Corporations with science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM)-centered products and services, children’s merchandise, higher education institutions as well as brands with robust youth internships, mentorship programs or younger employee demographics.

Milwaukee and Madison businesses with stated commitments to children’s causes include:

3. Civil rights and services

Wisconsin nonprofits in the civil rights segment champion a spectrum of social justice-oriented causes. From diversity and inclusion efforts to immigration settlement, women’s resources, economic justice and reform and more, nonprofits in this sector often combat interrelated, systemic issues touching the lives of much of its populations.

As Wisconsin’s largest and most culturally diverse city, Milwaukee in particular hosts the most nonprofits in this sector. The city is home to urban leagues, employment rights groups, human rights organizations, support networks and many more, each addressing a range of social inequality issues.

  • Ideal sponsorship alignment: Companies headquartered in Milwaukee and its surrounding towns, as well as brands naming diversity, inclusion, social justice and public betterment as tenets in their mission statements and corporate identities.

Milwaukee and Madison companies that contribute to local civil services nonprofits include:

4. Environment

Nonprofits in the environmental sector aim to educate the public and preserve Wisconsin’s distinct ecological makeup. In particular, they navigate many of the state’s agricultural interests, which are historical and economic, as well as wildlife, soil and forestry conservation.

Wisconsin is also nestled into not one but two Great Lakes, the largest freshwater repositories in the world. The state has over 15,000 registered freshwater lakes — also one of the highest concentrations in the world. This positions Wisconsin as a premier destination for environmental nonprofits concerned with water conservation, legislative protection, research and education.

  • Ideal sponsorship alignment: “Green” brands, organizations in the agriculture, energy, utilities and transportation sectors, plus companies looking to expand their sustainability efforts and reduce their carbon footprints.

Madison and Milwaukee businesses with an expressed interest in environmental causes include:

5. Education

The reading ability among youth in Milwaukee, determined by test results, has been rated as below proficiency for decades. In Milwaukee public schools, only about 15% of third-graders are proficient in reading, while only 35% of Wisconsin fourth-graders scored above proficient in reading.

In Madison, there was a near 51% decrease in math proficiency and a 45% decrease in English language arts for exams given to K-12 schools, and these rates were declining across many districts.

Such statistics make it little surprise that youth education nonprofits comprise the largest subsector of education-centered philanthropy in this segment. However, nonprofits looking for robust corporate sponsorships find great area success in continued education programming, such as GED accreditation support, college preparation and career training and mentorship, particularly for underserved populations.

  • Ideal sponsorship alignment: Higher education institutions and businesses in STEAM industries and manufacturing, as well as companies with youth-facing brands and product portfolios.

Milwaukee and Madison companies with traditional and career education as stated priorities within their giving policies include:

6. Food security

Food deserts in Milwaukee and Madison contribute to poorer health outcomes for individuals located within their perimeters. People living in food deserts don’t have local access to healthy food options and grocery stores and must rely on fast food and convenience stores stocking processed snacks.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a food desert as a low-income area whose residents must travel over 1 mile to access a full-service grocery store — that is, one stocked with fresh produce and meat counters. In the city of Milwaukee alone, there are 13 food deserts in which 21% of residents (about 124,000 people) live.

  • Nonprofits in the food security sector combat many of the poverty-related issues intricately linked with food insecurity, including access to reliable cars and public transportation, gentrification, income inequality, food policy, farmers market support and more.
    • Ideal sponsorship alignment: Food and beverage brands, as well as corporations in the hospitality, transportation, energy and agricultural sectors whose products and services are intuitively relevant to food access and equity.

    Milwaukee and Madison corporations that regularly work to promote food security in the state include:

    7. Healthcare

    The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recognizes and tracks over seven dozen medical topics and their related subcategories, from alcohol and drug use to oral health to cancer and chronic diseases. Healthcare nonprofits exist within the state covering the near-complete spectrum of these topics, offering direct medical services, research and education to aid in the state’s overall public health outcomes.

    Healthcare nonprofits also exist to provide primary and specialty medical care to underserved populations. Nearly 6% of Wisconsin’s population has no form of healthcare insurance. Another 32% rely on Medicare and Medicaid.

    • Ideal sponsorship alignment: Private healthcare institutions such as insurance carriers, medical institutions and research bodies, businesses in the STEAM fields, and Madison- and Milwaukee-based companies seeking to make their communities vibrant and healthy places.

    Companies that make regular donations to healthcare nonprofits and causes in Madison and Milwaukee include:

8. Human services

One of the broadest nonprofit sectors, human services intersect with civil rights and other social-justice-oriented causes to make cities like Madison and Milwaukee safer, inclusive and structurally supportive communities for all persons.

Nonprofits in this category often tackle challenging and still under-discussed issues like human trafficking, domestic violence, homelessness and crisis centers. With Milwaukee and Madison the first and second most-populated cities in the state, respectively, these municipalities see higher instances of human service-related injustices and, by extension, related philanthropic work.

  • Ideal sponsorship alignment: Businesses with strong Milwaukee and Madison connections working to make a direct, immediate impact on the well-being of their neighbors and hometowns.

Milwaukee and Madison companies with a corporate philanthropic commitment to human services include:

9. Veterans

Wisconsin maintains an above-average veteran population compared to national averages. Nonprofits serving veterans and recent military retirees in the state seek to remedy causes and concerns that disproportionately affect today’s military community, including homelessness, disability, unemployment, substance abuse, social reintegration and higher rates of mental and behavioral health problems.

Milwaukee and Dane counties also hold the state’s largest populations of veterans per capita. Each of these counties posses two veterans health and administration facilities but are buffered by a network of area nonprofits addressing many of the disproportionate affairs listed above.

  • Ideal sponsorship alignment: Veteran-owned businesses in Madison and Milwaukee, where over half of the state’s 40,147 veteran-owned organizations are located, as well as businesses and institutions with high rates of hiring veterans or veteran quotas and military contracts.

Milwaukee and Madison companies with a corporate philanthropic commitment to human services include:

9. Veterans

Wisconsin maintains an above-average veteran population compared to national averages. Nonprofits serving veterans and recent military retirees in the state seek to remedy causes and concerns that disproportionately affect today’s military community, including homelessness, disability, unemployment, substance abuse, social reintegration and higher rates of mental and behavioral health problems.

Milwaukee and Dane counties also hold the state’s largest populations of veterans per capita. These counties both possess veterans health and administration facilities but are buffered by a network of area nonprofits addressing many of the disproportionate affairs listed above.

  • Ideal sponsorship alignment: Veteran-owned businesses in Madison and Milwaukee, where over half of the state’s 40,147 veteran-owned organizations are located, as well as businesses and institutions with high rates of hiring veterans or veteran quotas and military contracts.

Milwaukee and Madison businesses with a commitment to serving area veterans include:

Three great ways to demonstrate the impact of your organization

Learning how to prove your nonprofit’s impact is one of the most powerful tools in your fundraising arsenal.

Impact data builds trust and reputation. It will work in your favor when making donation requests to Wisconsin businesses, which can fundamentally change the scope of your work. Here are three leading ways to do so.

1. Calculate social return on investments (SROIs)

Social return on investment calculations show that for every dollar invested into an initiative, you generated double, triple — sometimes even quadruple — its economic returns.

In other words, it puts a quantitative value on your nonprofit’s work. It also demonstrates to corporate donors, both current and prospective, the likelihood that their givings will compound to make a sizeable difference in your Milwaukee and Madison communities — a win-win for all.

2. Publish impact stories

Many nonprofit publications outline the nuts and bolts of current campaigns, relaying things like intent and design, inputs, outputs, activities, timelines and final desired outcomes.

Impact stories, though, take a different route. They’re real-life accounts told by the people your nonprofit’s work has positively affected, from volunteers and employees to target constituents themselves.

These testimonials give a human face to the sometimes intangible or long-term nature of nonprofit work, particularly in segments combatting social, economic or environmental injustices without immediate payback.

Best of all, impact stories are diverse. Create multimedia videos, publish brochure narratives, commission formal print and online reports or generate upbeat, informal social media posts. You can also:

  • Write case studies
  • Create an impact story email newsletter
  • Host a dedicated webpage to stories
  • Create weekly or monthly social media impact campaigns
  • Produce a documentary
  • Garner media coverage
  • Share stories at formal industry events

3. Create donation maps

What’s perhaps the best way to illustrate step-by-step where donor’s money is going? Show them!

That’s precisely what a “donation map” does. Hosted online, in print or both, donation maps are visual representations depicting the exact places a donation will go. They’re end-to-end, step-by-step donation journeys not unlike a project tracker. Using donation maps helps assure individual and corporate donors alike that their money is being put to good use while simultaneously building transparency and rapport with this essential base.

What event management software can

do for nonprofits

Event management software helps create win-win collaborations for corporations and nonprofits.

More specifically, these pieces of technology allow your nonprofit to perform the full spectrum of public and behind-the-scenes fundraising operations — but quicker, more conveniently and more dynamically than ever. They grant you and your employees the ability to maximize the fundraising models and partners you already have as well as expand your reach, name recognition and influence, leveraging even greater fundraising outcomes tomorrow.

Event management software, like GiveSmart®, empowers your nonprofit to:

  • Create fundraising campaigns: Create and administer any fundraising efforts devised by your nonprofit, from online auctions to text-to-give campaigns to year-long donation portals. Duplicate those campaigns next year without recreating templates or plugging in past donor data — all from your computer or smartphone screen.
  • Track progress: Get real-time, 24/7 visibility into fundraiser performance. Analyze data, tweak strategies, send communications and target relevant audiences to move the donation needle forward.
  • Perform back-office operations: Forget the endless paper files. Send tax receipts to donors, register donation data, itemize and sort auction items and tickets, analyze revenue stream data and so much more, all from one user-friendly portal.
  • Host fundraising auctions: Fundraising auctions are notoriously high revenue generators for philanthropic causes. However, they’re equally notorious for their difficulty in pulling off. Nonprofit auctions require months of preparation and outreach to procure high-value items, sell tickets and drum up awareness. Event management software is uniquely designed to spearhead nonprofit auctions, making many of the preparatory tasks and day-of bidding mobile.
  • Ask and give thanks: Generate customized donation request letters as well as thank you’s to individual and corporate donors. This function streamlines one of the most important activities in fundraising, with top event-management software offering a range of bulk and individual customizations across donor communications.

Take your nonprofit fundraising to the next level

If you’re ready to enhance your fundraising yet feel like you’re doing half the work, check out GiveSmart’s fundraising and event management software. Our software includes one of the nonprofit industry’s leading guest management portals. The platform delivers end-to-end conveniences meant to inform more strategic pitches and donation requests to secure even further revenue for your Milwaukee and Madison organization. Schedule a demo today.


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What our clients say

We needed a platform to make sales online and to track and display ads for our sponsors. GiveSmart was perfect. We ended up making close to $15,000 more than we had hoped for. Definite better ROI than we anticipated. The interface is easy to use and provides plenty of options to get help if needed.

Michelle M.

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

Using GS has created ease in auction bookkeeping, payments, and generating post-event thank you/tax letters. While we were online during COVID, our interactions with our GiveSmart via phone, email, and zoom were seamless. A representative always got back to us within the day. I would recommend GiveSmart to anyone doing a large online event.

Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County