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Corporate Fundraising for Local Charities

  • Joe Burns is the North West regional development manager for Localgiving. Before that he was a corporate fundraiser for a national charity, and worked with firms in the FTSE 100 as well as small family run businesses.

    Gone are the days when a company might simply pick a Charity of the Year, run a few events, and then send off a cheque in the post at year’s end, almost as an afterthought. Corporate supporters are now far more interested in mutually beneficial partnerships, where a company gets some sort of value out of donating to your charity. This may sound daunting, but corporate fundraising is an area that is rich in rewards, and a strong corporate partnership can bring in guaranteed income for many years; and this is before you consider the skills a corporate might bring, the in-kind donations available, and the potential pool of staff volunteers they can provide you with as well!

    So, how do you go about finding and then persuading a company to support you? Well, here are the key steps you need to consider.

    Which companies might work with you?

    The first thing you need to consider is the type of companies who your charity would appeal to. Broadly speaking, there are three ways you might appeal to a corporate supporter.

    1. Is there a clear link between the work you do and the corporate’s own work? When working at the road safety charity Brake, I arranged a number of partnerships with insurance firms, who shared our aims of reducing the numbers of crashes on the roads (as this would mean they would pay out less in claims!).

    2. Is there a local link? Does this company work in the same region or area as you? Companies are increasingly keen to be supporting their local communities, and here being small and local group can actually be a benefit compared to larger national or international charities.

    3. Have you got any personal connections? Does a trustee know the MD of a local firm? Have employees of a local firm used your charity? These kinds of connections can be very powerful when persuading a corporate to support you.

    What can you bring to the table? And what do you want from a corporate?

    So, you’ve got your list of potential corporate supporters to contact. Your next step is to ask yourself, what can I offer the corporates in question? Can I offer them volunteering opportunities for their staff? Can I arrange for a local press campaign, or can someone from my charity visit their offices to give a talk to their staff? Can I give them a shout out on social media? Are there capital costs they can sponsor and get their name on, such as a new building? There are lots of ways you can ‘add value’ to a corporate as a charity, if given a bit of thought.

    The next question to then ask, is what do I want from a corporate supporter – am I after financial donations, in-kind support, volunteers, or all of the above? What support can a corporate give, and would be comfortable to provide you with?

    If you can answer these two questions, then you can pull together a package that is very attractive to a local business.  The next and final step, at last, is The Ask.

    The Ask

    It’s at this point that many groups lose heart, as the idea of approaching a corporate can seem a little daunting. But don’t be put off – if you don’t ask you don’t get!

    The first thing you need to do is find someone within an organisation who would be right to approach. If you already know or have links with someone in a company, that’s a good place to start, but if not you’ll need to do some digging. Here LinkedIn can be invaluable, allowing you to search for individuals with specific job titles within an organisation.

    Many larger companies have dedicated CSR (corporate social responsibility) teams, who are an ideal first port of call. Marketing, communications and PR teams are also good people to contact, as working with a charity is also often a classic way for a corporate to portray themselves in a positive light. Finally, for smaller, really local companies like local solicitor or accountancy firms, don’t be afraid to reach out directly to partners or MDs!

    So, we now have a contact to approach. But how should we ask? Generally, corporate contacts are busy people – you can’t just ring and get through to them cold, especially if you don’t have any pre-existing connections. As such, the best approach is usually to either send them an email (where you have their address) or a message through LinkedIn (when you don’t).

    Keep the pitch simple and short, and focus on who you are, why you’ve got in touch, and the benefits you can offer a corporate in return for their support. Try to see things from their point of view – the work you do may well be vital and praiseworthy, but ultimately a corporate will need to see how they benefit too. Highlight any unique selling points you have, what they can get from working with you that no one else can provide, and again keep it brief. A corporate contact often has only a limited amount of time available to them, and it can never hurt to leave someone wanting more information. Ask if your contact would be interested in a meeting or phone call to discuss any partnership in more depth – you can give them all the details then.

    Don’t be put off if you don’t hear back straight away, and at the same time don’t be afraid of chasing your email with another one a week or two later if you don’t hear anything at all. If you have a large enough pool of potential supporters who you are contacting, it only takes one corporate to get back to you with an offer of support, and all your hard work will have potentially paid off!

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