What is a Corporate Foundation?

Corporate buildings

As businesses increasingly recognise their role in creating positive social impact, many have established corporate foundations to drive their philanthropic efforts. These foundations serve as powerful tools for companies to contribute to making the world a better place, typically focusing on social issues like education, healthcare, environmental conservation, and poverty alleviation.

The role of corporate foundations in corporate philanthropy is multifaceted. Companies can improve their brand image and reputation by engaging in philanthropic efforts and fostering positive associations with customers and stakeholders. Corporate giving via foundations also increases employee engagement and morale, as employees feel proud to be part of an organisation that actively contributes to society.

This article aims to answer what a corporate foundation is, exploring its role and the benefits they bring, along with providing an example of a notable corporate foundation.

What is a Corporate Foundation?

A recent analysis by the National Philanthropic Trust UK (NPTUK) revealed that corporate foundation giving increased by 12.5% in 2020 – an impressive rise from the 0.9% increase from families and personal foundations.

Corporate foundations are beginning to grow in popularity as a means for organisations to drive meaningful change. 

But what is a corporate foundation?

A corporate foundation is an independent, non-profit organisation funded by a business entity to engage in philanthropic activities and contribute to social impact. While they operate separately from the parent company, corporate foundations maintain a close relationship, aligning their mission and goals with the overarching values of the organisation. The foundation will often receive funding and support from the parent company.

The concept of a corporate foundation stems from the recognition that businesses are responsible for giving back to society and contributing to its well-being. By establishing a separate entity dedicated to philanthropy, companies can channel their resources and expertise toward tackling specific social issues.

In short: The foundation benefits from the financial resources, networks, and expertise of the company, while the parent company benefits from the positive impact and reputation associated with its philanthropic endeavours.

How to create a corporate foundation

There are different approaches to consider when creating a corporate foundation. One option is to go through the full non-profit registration process, which includes establishing a separate legal entity, developing a mission and vision, and fulfilling all legal and regulatory requirements. This process, plus government approvals, usually takes between three to six months. You’d also need to (usually) nominate at least three trustees who’d be personally responsible for the organisation’s actions. 

Alternatively, businesses can opt for an outsourced foundation management solution, such as a  Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) account with Kindlink. This approach allows companies to partner with a trusted provider like KindLink and KindLink Foundation, which handles the administrative tasks, compliance, and donation management, freeing up resources and enabling businesses to focus on their philanthropic goals. 

Typical objectives and goals of a corporate foundation

The objectives and goals of a corporate foundation cover a wide range of social issues. Common areas of focus include: 

  • Education: corporate foundations can support scholarship programs, provide access to quality education, and enhance educational infrastructure.

  • Healthcare: foundations may fund medical research, support healthcare facilities, or promote public health initiatives.

  • Environmental sustainability: efforts can include reforestation, sustainable energy projects, and promoting eco-friendly practices.

  • Poverty alleviation: a crucial objective for many corporate foundations, with initiatives ranging from microfinance programs to skills training and entrepreneurship support.

  • Community development: efforts may involve funding community centres, infrastructure projects, or cultural events that foster social cohesion and inclusivity.

  • Cultural enrichment: ranging from funding restoration projects of cultural landmarks and historical sites to initiatives promoting artistic expression, creativity, and cultural diversity.

These foundations aim to make a meaningful difference in these areas by strategically directing their resources, collaborating with relevant stakeholders, and implementing impactful initiatives.

Types of fundraising

There are various types of fundraising methods that corporate foundations can use to raise funds. One common method is through cause marketing, where a percentage of sales from specific products or services is donated to the foundation. This not only raises funds, but also awareness about the foundation’s work. Another method is to encourage and facilitate employee donations and initiatives.

Corporate foundations may also organise fundraising events such as charity galas, auctions, or online fundraising initiatives, which raise funds, generate awareness, and engage the community. In many cases, corporate foundations assist with disaster relief and emergency response.

Additionally, corporate foundations may establish partnerships with other foundations, businesses, and philanthropic organisations to pool resources and collectively address social challenges.

The Role of Corporate Foundations

Over the years, corporate philanthropy has evolved from being a mere act of charity to becoming an integral part of corporate strategy. These days, it reflects a company's commitment to social responsibility and sustainable development.

By starting a corporate foundation, businesses can positively impact social issues that align with their values, missions, and stakeholders’ interests. By addressing these issues, companies demonstrate their commitment to being good corporate citizens and contributing to the well-being of society.

While this is the key role that a corporate foundation plays, there are other advantages and benefits of corporate giving via corporate foundations, including:

  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship: companies can support start-ups, incubators, and social enterprises that tackle social and environmental challenges. By providing funding, mentorship, and access to networks, businesses contribute to the growth and success of innovative solutions that address pressing societal issues.

  • Increased Employee Engagement and Morale: engaging employees in volunteerism or corporate giving programs fosters a sense of camaraderie, teamwork, and shared values within the organisation – boosting employee loyalty, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.

  • Stakeholder Relations and Partnerships: collaborating with governments, non-profit organisations, and other stakeholders allows companies to use their resources, networks, and expertise to drive meaningful change. By working together, businesses and organisations can amplify their impact, share best practices, and create sustainable solutions to complex societal challenges.

  • Positive Brand Image and Reputation: businesses can differentiate themselves from competitors, gain public trust, and establish a positive association with their brand.

  • Tax Benefits: many countries provide tax incentives and deductions for businesses that engage in philanthropy. By strategically structuring their giving, companies can contribute to social causes while also optimising their financial resources and receiving tax advantages. It’s a win-win proposition!

  • Community Development and Social Impact: by investing in education, healthcare, poverty alleviation, and environmental sustainability, businesses contribute to the betterment of communities. These initiatives have the potential to create a positive ripple effect, improving the quality of life for individuals and driving positive societal change.

  • Risk Mitigation and Stakeholder Trust: by proactively addressing social and environmental challenges, companies demonstrate their commitment to ethical business practices, sustainability, and responsible corporate behaviour. This enhances stakeholder trust, reduces reputational risks, and strengthens long-term relationships with customers, investors, and communities.

  • Long-Term Business Sustainability: by actively engaging in societal issues, companies align their values with those of their stakeholders and respond to evolving societal expectations. This alignment fosters trust, loyalty, and goodwill, creating a solid foundation for long-term success and sustainability.

Ultimately, corporate philanthropy profoundly impacts the company’s reputation and brand image. By actively contributing to social causes, businesses are seen as agents of positive change and catalysts for societal progress. This positive perception can enhance customer loyalty, attract top talent, and generate positive media coverage, reinforcing the company’s brand as socially responsible and values-driven.

Example of Notable Corporate Foundation

Outdoor view of an Ikea building

The IKEA Foundation is a notable example of a corporate foundation that exemplifies the impactful role of corporate philanthropy. Established in 1982 by Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, the foundation operates independently from the IKEA Group but shares a common mission to create a better everyday life for vulnerable children and families worldwide.

The foundation focuses on several key areas, including: 

  • Improving children's access to quality education

  • Empowering women and girls

  • Supporting refugees and displaced communities 

  • Promoting sustainable livelihoods

Through its philanthropic efforts, the IKEA Foundation aims to address the root causes of poverty and create lasting change in the lives of those in need.

One of the foundation's flagship initiatives is the "Let's Play for Change" campaign, which aims to provide safe play areas for children living in some of the world's most vulnerable communities. These play spaces not only offer a sense of normalcy and joy but also foster social development and resilience in children facing adversity.

The IKEA Foundation's approach to philanthropy is characterised by strategic focus, partnership, and long-term commitment. They collaborate with leading organisations like UNICEF, Save the Children, and the UNHCR to leverage expertise, resources, and networks for greater impact. Additionally, the foundation is committed to supporting initiatives that not only meet immediate needs but also address systemic challenges and promote sustainable solutions.

Transparency and accountability are central to the foundation's values. They regularly report on their activities, financials, and impact, fostering trust and engagement among stakeholders, donors, and the public. Their dedication to openness and learning allows them to continuously improve and adapt their strategies for maximum effectiveness.

Their commitment to making a difference aligns with the IKEA Group's ethos of responsibility and care, proving that corporate foundations can be powerful catalysts for social progress and transformation.

Increase your Philanthropic Efforts with a Corporate Foundation

Establishing a corporate foundation provides a powerful avenue for businesses to increase their philanthropic efforts and make a lasting impact on society. By leveraging the advantages and benefits of a corporate foundation, companies can align their values, enhance their reputation, engage employees, foster partnerships, and drive positive social change, ultimately contributing to a better and more sustainable future.

Ultimately, embracing corporate philanthropy is a win-win proposition that promotes sustainable development and a more equitable future for all.

Amplify your Corporate Foundation impact with KindLink  – book a demo call today!


KindLink Team


KindLink is the online platform where businesses and charities connect and manage their corporate social responsibility, fundraising, volunteering, donor Customer Relationship Management, and measure and share their sustainability impact.


KindLink is the network with purpose. KindLink helps companies manage and showcase their social impact programmes, and provides free tools that allow charities to raise more funds online and communicate their impact.

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