For the next in our Fundraising on a Shoestring series, I'm taking a look at the world of business.
For those working in a small office and with a skeleton staff, corporate fundraising can seem like a glamorous red herring.
Building relationships with companies is a time consuming business. It doesn't necessarily cost the earth. However, without dedicated staff time, you'll need think strategically about what is the best use of your time and effort, so let’s go back to basics.
Do your research. Select the target/s of your attention carefully so that you aren't using a scatter-gun approach, and wasting time and effort.
Use the huge swathes of information available out there on the web (business press, marketing news etc) to find companies that might have some synergy with your organisation. You don’t need expensive databases and subscriptions to do basic research. Though if you do have available budget, there are some fantastic tools - on a sliding scale of cost - that could be very handy, depending on the type of support you are looking for.
Finding the connection between organisations takes a little more time investment but initially no more budget than a visit to your prospective donor. You should factor in a cup of coffee too, and do always offer. But in my experience, a company is likely to treat you as they have budget for entertaining too and know their budget is bigger.
Make sure that you know what your unique selling point is. Make your organisation stand out. Companies will receive a huge number of requests for support and so know why they should support YOUR organisation, and make contact in a creative way, or with an interesting idea if you can. You don’t need to spend money on snazzy proposal or brochure, especially not at this stage. Ensure you contact the right person too (this goes back to the research). For a charity of the year or donation request, investigate whether there is a Corporate Social Responsibility policy and if so, who is responsible. For sponsorship, contact the Marketing Department.
Consider (before an approach, but also again after a discovery meeting) layering the ways that a company can support you as possible. Not just hard cash in donations, or sponsorship, but what about volunteering, mentoring, providing product or event support if they can? This could offset money that your organisation would have had to spend anyway, and so could seriously improve your budgeting abilities.
Sweet treats can always come in handy
Include all costs in a proposal. Don’t assume that the company will pay for a press launch, reception or other events if it these are not indicated in a proposal. The same goes for any leaflets etc that you might offer by way of publicity. Don’t undersell yourself.
A word of warning. Once all is agreed, make sure you have everything in writing and signed. There doesn’t have to be a full on contract, just a simple agreement. I have, in the past, had everything agreed verbally and then my contact has suddenly left the company before everything was received back in writing. Disaster for the project, and a waste of time and effort. Where possible, try to have a couple of contacts at the company in question, so there isn't only one individual that knows what is going on.
Finally, steward your donor. Make sure that you look after the company that is supporting you. Invite them to see how their money is being spent. Ask if they want a joint event to take place (and ask them to pay) so that you can show your partnership off to the world. Send them a report every year to ensure that they have details of the way that they have supported on file. Meet regularly to check they are happy with the partnership. Continuously evaluate and discuss how you can improve the donor's experience, and brainstorm new ideas whenever you can.