7 Rules To Approaching Corporate Funders
Many nonprofits want them: corporate funders. In some cases, having a large company to sponsor or donate to your organization can not only just fill your bank account, it can also open doors to other funders and volunteers.
So how do you get them? Corporate money can be hard to attain especially as budgets and staff sizes are decreasing. In this, the second part of a five-article series, we’re going to look at a few “insider tips” on ways to approach a potential corporate funder.
First, be sure to check out our previous article on the four types of corporate funding. This will help you understand the motivations of the company you’re going to try to connect with.
- Four types of corporate funding
- 7 Rules To Approaching Corporate Funders
- Secret paths to get corporate funding
- Cause-marketing: when it works for both of you
- Why corporate funding is in trouble
Now, on to the tips:
RULE #1 – RESEARCH FIRST – YOUR TIME IS YOUR MONEY
This is important for all types of prospecting: corporate, foundation, or government. Learn about the organization you’re soliciting. You should know what their areas of focus are before you pick up the phone or strike one key on your keyboard. This isn’t only to spare the funders from excessive phone calls and emails, it’s to save you time. Don’t waste your time on a funders that will never be the right fit.
RULE # 2 – DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME
Yes, I’m being repetitive here: but that’s how important it is to not waste your own time.
When I was a corporate philanthropist, I felt guilty. I felt that way because I was empathetic to everyone who approached me who had ignored rule number one, but also spent more time than they should had on a long-shot.
You see, sometimes hail marys can work in getting funding from a company that is only peripherally involved in what your organization support. Sometimes I was approached by a nonprofit that clearly put a lot of time into their proposal. Too much time. The proposal was extremely well-thought out and impressive. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t a perfect match and our budget only allowed us to give to the perfect matches. The lesson, before you spend hours and hours of time developing proposals, make sure you have a nibble first.
RULE # 3 – NEVER UNDER- OR OVER-ESTIMATE THE VALUE OF YOUR BRAND
Companies need to align themselves with nonprofits. Doing so allows companies to be seen as part of the community and as a company that gives back. No matter what their motivation for giving is, companies need to make stakeholders (employees, community members, politicians, etc.) think they are a part of something bigger than just selling widgets.
You can play a role in that. But never sell yourself short in underestimating the value that your company/nonprofit can bring to a for-profit company. Not only do you bring the trust and recognition your organization has built over the years, but you also bring relationships that can support all parties if something happens (e.g. PR crisis, natural disaster) that is either an opportunity or a moment of concern.
At the same time, if you’re not a major brand, don’t sell it to them as though you are a household name.
RULE # 4 – KNOW HOW YOU ARE GOING TO HELP THEM
As I mentioned in the first article, companies have different motivations. You should really listen to what they say and try to figure out which “bucket” they belong to. Can you help them with volunteer opportunities? Can you board help them develop relationships that will help them develop business?
RULE # 5 – OFF-THE-SHELF-SPONSORSHIP: TO RELY OR NOT TO RELY
Sometimes corporate sponsors can be lazy. It’s true. Like a man shopping for a new outfit who just wants to point to a mannequin and say “Give me that,” a corporate philanthropist may want to just point her/his finger on a list of options and select a giving level. If you’re going for an even sponsorship, outlining your different levels of sponsorship should be a given. But it is also helpful for some of the more creative ways to get corporate sponsors: help with recruitment, cause-marketing, etc.
At the same time, sometimes companies want and need a more creative approach. So you should signal your willingness to get creative and work with them to develop something unique.
In either case, what helps is to have examples of how you’ve assisted other companies achieve their sponsoring goals. This is more than a convenient way to name drop – it helps to develop ideas for your prospective funder.
RULE # 6 – KNOW WHO IS IN YOUR DATABASE
Going back to rule number one, do your research first. Do you have volunteers and board members who would feel comfortable using their relationships to get you in the door? Companies these days are very much excited to learn that their employees are already involved with potential grantees. In fact, some even require it first.
RULE # 7 – DON’T STOP BELIEVING
I’ve had it happen several times during my career: an organization that wasn’t the right fit one year turned out to the right fit six months or a year later. If you get rejected from a company, never be afraid to ask if you can reapply after a certain amount of time (usually a year). Remember to maintain the relationship between applications (a simple “Hello, I’m still alive and thriving!” email will do). You never know what might change in that company’s funding priorities. Keep believing in your nonprofit and keep being persistent.
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The writer is the editor of CitizenPolity.com — You can contact him at JamesERatcitizenpolitydotcom or follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/jepsteinreeves
Copyright 2009 – CitizenPolity & James Epstein-Reeves – Not to be used without the written permission of CitizenPolity or the author.