Corporate Fundraising: A Powerful Partnership

For many years corporate fundraising was a substantial source of income and support for nonprofit organizations throughout the United States. Yet as tough financial times hit many corporations in the past decade, we have thought that corporate fundraising and support were a thing of the past.

Think again.

According to Giving USA, corporate fundraising in 2014 increased to $17.77 billion – a 13.7% increase from 2013. The statistics for 2015 aren’t out yet, but if these numbers are any indication of the current climate in corporate fundraising, it surely is alive and well.

Like with any form of fundraising campaign whether it be online as related to a specific event or year round the key to success truly starts with creating the most thoughtful plan and taking consistent action to achieve your goals.

Start With the End in Mind

photodune-6656413-business-partnership-growth-success-sIn order to create a strategic plan for a corporate partner, you need to get clear on what you’re raising funding for and what the case for support is. If you will be approaching a variety of corporate supporters you’ll want to ensure that you have a variety of needs that you are raising money for. Whether it be event sponsorship, grant funding for unrestricted operating funds, program specific funds or matching grants- each of these areas of funding opportunities have specific cases for support in order to create the best match with a possible corporate sponsor.

For each area of need outline the amount of dollars needed to be raised, what the funding will be supporting, measurable outcomes and stories to support the need. Once you understand what you will be raising funds for, you can begin to create a list of possible corporations and what they like to support in terms of funding parameters.

Friends First

When creating a list of possible corporate supporters, it’s best to start with the companies that are already supporting your work. Make a list of any corporation that has supported your mission in any way over the years. Golf tournament sponsors, corporate dress down day sponsors, matching grant sponsors or even special event sponsors. The best place to start is with the companies that have already supported your work and may still be familiar with your mission.

The best place to find this vital information is within your donation software. By tracking your corporate supporters and their gifts, you are able to clearly understand the relationship that the corporation has had with your organization. Having software that works for you allows for a seamless integration of donor and gift tracking, website creation and relationship notes is a powerful tool to ensure that information is captured and maximized for the best results possible.

The next step can work if your organization has never had corporate support or if you have decades of support. One of the best places to start when creating a prospect list is with your Board of Directors and Committee members. Think about it, people give to people. Oftentimes, a nonprofit’s Board and Committee members are volunteering their time as a representation of own passion, yet they may also be the perfect liaison to garner a more substantial relationship with the corporation that they own or work for.

Once you have a list of funding opportunities, the next step is to create a list of your closest volunteers and their corporate connections. Take the time to perform your due diligence with respect to previous gifts, key relationships and how much the corporation has contributed over time. The more you know about the corporation and its relationship to your mission, the more prepared you will be for the next steps.

How Do They Give Back?

Now it’s time to create the winning strategy for your mission. Starting with your list of closest friends and your funding needs, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do the research to uncover how each corporation prefers to support the mission of nonprofit organizations currently. The more you understand about how their funding practices are structured, the more successful your request will be. While, in the past they may have supported your mission in a certain way, corporate support strategies can change from year to year. Doing the research about how they support nonprofits now is an important step in creating a winning proposal.

Keep In-Kind In Mind

While having support from a corporate sponsor in the form of cash is the most sought after, in-kind support is often an overlooked opportunity for a relationship. Maybe you have a food or beverage company in your town that would be willing to give you products for free for an event in exchange for their listing as a sponsor while featuring them on your fundraising website and marketing materials. Or maybe there’s a venue that is willing to waive a fee for you for an event. Or perhaps your local television or radio stations are willing to provide free airtime to promote your mission or an upcoming event. When you are creating proposals for prospective corporate sponsors in-kind support is often overlooked but can make a tremendous impact on the bottom line of your agency’s budget.

The Perfect Ask

Once you have your plan in place as to how your mission and funding request fits with their corporate support, it’s time to create a proposal and present it in a manner which increases your chances of getting the ‘yes’ you’re looking for.

If you have a personal relationship, or a volunteer with a relationship to a corporation, reach out to that person to ask for insights or extending an introduction to the decision maker if they aren’t that person. Once you’ve made contact, request a meeting to either field questions or to present your proposal. Face to face meetings are an excellent way to strengthen a relationship between your mission and a corporation.

When you’re creating a winning proposal make sure to not only create an option that is perfect for the funding priorities of a corporation, but also keep recognition in mind. Oftentimes a corporation likes to be recognized for their work in a way that helps their business goals. Creating a recognition plan that suits their business goals and needs gets you even closer to a ‘yes’. Once your meeting is over, track the notes of the conversation and make sure you send a thank you note. Gratitude throughout the entire cultivation process can set you apart from other requests for support.

Always remember that the more your mission fits with what a corporation is trying to do with their business scope and impact, the more likely you are to receive funding and support for your important work. Corporate fundraising can be a tremendous way to impact your mission, the community and the amazing people that are served through your work. Find many online non-profit fundraising resources to help in meeting your goals overall.