Non-profit organizations play a vital role in society, providing a broad array of services that help many.
Non-profit organizations can be big (think American Red Cross or Big Brothers Big Sisters) or small (think your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter), and the variety of services they offer is just about limitless. There are non-profits that help children, or older adults, or victims of domestic violence. Some help after natural disasters, and some help protect endangered species.
Many non-profit organizations are seeing a dip in donations due to the tough economic times. Even private foundation money and government funding programs may be limited due to the economic downturn, as portfolios shrink along with corporate bottom lines and state budgets. However, one funding option that many non-profits do not consider is corporate sponsors.
There are a number of reasons why corporations like to partner with non-profit agencies.
One, it may be a part of their mission. More and more corporations are including social responsibility in their missions and making philanthropy and volunteering part of their corporate culture. Two, donating goods, money, and time is good publicity for companies. They like to be good neighbors, and they also like the positive press coverage that comes along with it. Third, many corporations can receive tax breaks for their philanthropic work.
There are several steps you should take to make corporate sponsorships part of your fundraising program:
Identify Potential Partners
This step is crucial. Identify corporations who would be a good match for your mission. Look for companies that have a product you use. For example, if you run a gardening program for underprivileged youth, consider soliciting seed companies, or companies that make lawn care or farm equipment. Also consider geographic relevancy. Are there any companies nearby? Many corporations like to support something close to home, so that they can see the benefits first hand and feel a personal connection to their donation.
Tell Your Story
Visit the corporations you’ve identified in step one. Invite them to visit your organization and see what you do. Tell your story. Be passionate. Show your results. Try to make a personal connection at the company before you send in a request for funding. Talk to your board members, volunteers, or other supporters. You never know who they might know!
It seems obvious, but you have to ask people for money. It’s hard to do, but remember, the worst thing they can say is no. Some corporations have a more informal process, but most require that you complete a grant application. Follow the instructions, and submit all required documentation.
Acknowledge and Follow Up
Send a thank you, and do it promptly. A personal follow up phone call is also appropriate and appreciated. Invite the funders to visit the project they’ve sponsored, and include them in any press releases or events relating to the program. Include your key contact person in the organization’s mailing list, and keep in touch with them every few months.
So start your research, and keep doing the great work you do!