Sunday, 9 February 2014

Corporate fundraising: tilling the ground

Hello, I’m Hannah. I have over 12 years of corporate relationship building under my belt and as this is my first blog post, I thought I’d start with how to prepare for seeking out a corporate supporter.

A new project appears on the horizon. Someone (not a fundraiser) proudly presents a list of companies to you that they think might have an interest in funding the project. You take a look at the list and... *sigh*. It’s the same list of companies that comes up every time: a couple of huge global corporations; a few large local operations, then there’s that business with a CEO who’s got a 'connection' to your charity. Time to think out of the box.

First, manage those expectations. What’s expected of you? Fundraisers are often thought of as shameless creatures, able to magic money out of thin air, always happy to 'shake a bucket '. Workmates may need gentle enlightening to understand that there’s theory, planning and logic in all areas of our black art.

Learn from the experts. Know your project well and really believe in its value. Call on those who know and understand it better than you do. They’ll know how to sell complex ideas to a company needing detailed information.

Collaboration and trust are key to your success. Build good relationships with those managing the project for which you’re fundraising. Discuss potential links and who might be engaged. Those heavily involved in the project may be connected with industry. Or they may know interested parties. You never know where your leads may lead. So listen, listen again, and listen some more!

Hand over those contacts (please, pretty please!). It's just so common to meet resistance when requesting contacts from non-fundraisers. It’s all about gaining trust inside your organisation. Colleagues and other sources won’t hand over contacts if they think you’ll mess up their personal relationships. No-one wants to feel that they’ve subjected someone to the tender mercies of a tenacious fundraiser. What if that fundraiser just refuses to stop pestering, unable to understand ‘no’  (not my style, by the way)?  

Ultimately, you need people to trust you. And you need some ready examples of how cooperation can lead to positive results. And when they decide they can trust you and you have those contacts you’ve been after? Remember to behave well!

Next week...Corporate relationship building - brick by brick

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