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Corporate fundraising

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Charity fundraising, especially corporate fundraising, has changed dramatically in line with new technology and social media.

Charity fundraising, especially corporate fundraising, has changed dramatically in line with new technology and social media. The methods for engaging corporate funding have therefore become more defined.

Corporate fundraising can be hard work, but ultimately very rewarding. Follow the rules below (written by an experienced charity chief executive and fundraiser) to make your best pitch.

Rule 1: identify your unique selling point (USP)

In a perfect world, charities shouldn't have to ask for money. Yet in reality, corporations are decreasing at an alarming rate, and the charity sector is fighting more and more with other sectors for the same pot of money. Corporations receive at least 50 letters a week from charities that want help. To be successful, you need to think outside of the box, and ask yourself why the corporation you want money from would want to support your organisation.

Ask yourself what it is about your organisation that would make them want to donate to you, rather than your greatest competitor. This should leave you in no doubt as to what your USP is. Once you've worked out the USP, the next task is to work out how donating to your organisation will benefit the company donor.

Rule 2: do your homework before meeting the potential sponsor

Find out as much as you can about the companies you're approaching. Do they have other charitable interests or corporate social responsibility programmes? What's their working culture like – should you wear a suit or jeans? Are they expecting a formal presentation or a quick chat?

When requesting a meeting, start by sending them a letter with a document outlining the strategic aims of your charity over the next couple of years. Invite the company to become a part of that vision, and set the tone for the meeting while illustrating your professionalism.  

Research each of the companies and the kinds of charitable concerns they have contributed to in the past. Make this part of your script when discussing their requirements. Bring along a senior director, or your chair, to all of the meetings. They may want to talk to senior level people, even if you are the one that knows all the facts.

Rule 3: what can you offer your corporate sponsor?

If you are successful in persuading a company to make a charitable donation, think about what you are able to offer in return. Being seen to consider the benefits for the donor company already puts you above the crowd by being original – companies are usually expected to give in return for nothing. Alter your argument, consider their position and this will make you a genuine front runner. No two companies are alike. The trick is identifying early on in the meetings what each company wants.

Some companies want to donate because they believe in the concept of supporting the local community at grassroots level. Others want to increase their profile in the local community, or to boost their corporate social responsibility credentials, while others want to increase staff morale and retention, and use volunteering activities as a way to do this. Whatever the reason, rarely does anyone write a cheque for nothing. Your task is to discover why.

You could encourage companies to become involved in fundraising activities, such as:

  • annual high profile benefit
  • annual charity ball
  • corporate dinners
  • events, challenges and competitions
  • Christmas hamper collection.

You could also offer them the chance to get involved in staff development opportunities, such as:

  • volunteering with your organisation
  • mentoring or skill sharing with your staff
  • offering skilled pro bono support to you or your beneficiaries, for example, accounting, legal or financial advice
  • contributing to or sponsoring policy discussions and briefings, hosted events and conferences, training courses
  • providing guest blogs for your website as ‘guest experts’.

All these activities offer to promote companies’ work, helping them achieve their charitable goals through:

  • branding of company logos in promotional material for events
  • sponsorship deals for main events
  • newspaper articles to promote events and publicise good work
  • promotion through your regular communications, such as e-newsletters, social media and blogs.

Rule 4: success has many fathers

‘Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan’ is a wise saying. Successful corporate sponsorship is not about writing a cheque. Instead the more you layer the returns for the company the better your chances of success. The recipe for success is to involve them on as many levels as possible: donations, events, mentoring etc. The greater the range of people involved, the greater the impact.

Ideally, you want to build a relationship with your corporate sponsor that is about more than money. You may end up with a trusted group of people to share ideas with, testing the waters for a more public showing. You may want to coproduce and codeliver events or publications, using their valuable expertise to bolster your own.

Companies really do care about what happens to the cheques they write, and the better the feedback from the charity, the greater involvement and better the relationship you will build with them. Make sure that you thank them, both in private and public, and share impact data that they can show their stakeholders.

Top tips for corporate fundraising

1. Research the company you are targeting.

2. Dress the part at the first meeting.

3. Provide a professional presentation, offering several opportunities for involvement.

4. Listen to feedback from your potential donor.

5. Don't give up.

Other ways for corporates to give

Allia is a charitable investment service supporting causes that give people a better future. Its charitable bonds provide a way for supporters to make a secure, fixed-return social investment and release an up-front, tax-free gift for their chosen cause.

This page is an edited version of the original, which was written by Janine Jasper, who worked at the head of a corporate-led charity for five years.

Get more help

How to approach local businesses for donations

How to prepare for corporate sponsorship

Page last edited Feb 13, 2017

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