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The step-by-step guide to getting donations from companies

Getting donations from companies requires a different strategy from your normal donor outreach. These four steps will help you forge corporate relationships and write a standout fundraising appeal.

Rachel Mills
January 12, 2021

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Nonprofit organizations raise the bulk of their funds from individual donors — responsible for 69% of all charitable giving — but this is by no means your only fundraising option.

Companies regularly make donations and work with nonprofits and other fundraisers, such as sports teams, school groups, political parties, etc. This is because brands are always on the hunt for ways to practice corporate social responsibility and improve their local communities.

A relationship with your organization helps companies make a positive, public impact and build goodwill with their target customers at the same time. In fact, [90% of corporations]( than 49% of nonprofit,ability to improve the community.) said that teaming up with a reputable nonprofit enhanced their brand.

Better yet, businesses can do much more than send money your way. They can help you attract new donors and fresh volunteer forces, bring greater awareness to your cause, and provide free goods for you to use, sell, or give away.

From retailers and restaurants to banks and technology firms, opportunity is everywhere. But getting donations from companies requires a different approach than your usual donor outreach strategy. We’ve got your back. With the steps below, we’ll show you how to find prospects and to write a strong fundraising appeal.

Getting donations from companies in 4 steps

Looking for a matching gift donor, exciting raffle prize, or a sponsorship for your big fundraising event? How about helpful resources like financial services, meeting space, or some extra marketing power? Follow these steps to win over companies and strike the deal you need.

1. Create your company shortlist 📝

Fun Love GIF By Kool Aid

Coming up with a list of possible corporate donors may seem overwhelming, but there’s an easy way to narrow things down: Start by leveraging the relationships you have now.

While large companies like Coca-Cola, Disney, and Walmart are technically on the table, their corporate giving programs are extremely competitive. Your application will have to stand up against submissions from hundreds or thousands of other groups.

Generally, your best bet is to stick with local small businesses. Not only do they receive fewer donation requests, but they’re much more invested in bettering the community. (After all, it’s their home too.) Plus, you’re more likely to know someone who can refer you to the business — like a volunteer or a board member — and secure that crucial first meeting.

Here are some signs that a company could be a good match:

  • Their mission and values align with yours.
  • They have a good business reputation.
  • They serve a similar demographic.
  • They donate to other charitable organizations in your sector.
  • They engage in other philanthropic activities.

Dive into your professional and social networks to find prospects. Think about the vendors you buy supplies from, financial institutions you bank with, and other local businesses. Whenever possible, single out a staff member you can approach personally and directly at each company.

2. Tailor your donation request 📣

pointing at you tracee ellis ross GIF

“Donations” have become synonymous with “dollars,” but a business can contribute to your cause in many different ways. Ultimately, what you get out of a corporate team-up comes down to what you ask for.

Here’s a rundown of the most common contributions:

  • Cash donations, like lump sums, ongoing payments, and expense reimbursements
  • In-kind donations, like product donations, professional services and expertise, and cash equivalents (bonds, stocks, assets, etc.)
  • Corporate sponsorships, where companies pay to be associated with events, campaigns, and more
  • Matching gift programs, where companies match charitable donations for a limited time or up to a certain dollar amount
  • Employee programs, like paid volunteer days, corporate matching gift programs, and automatic payroll deductions for donations
  • Volunteer grant programs, where employers offer grants to organizations that their employees volunteer for
  • Community grant programs, where companies award cash, gift cards, and more to select organizations

To be successful, your request has to strike a happy medium between what you need and what each company could realistically give. Maybe your year-end fundraising campaign could use a publicity boost or your soccer club needs new equipment. Zero in on these priority projects.

Then, get an idea of what each prospect could afford to donate.

A good starting point is to research the company’s financial standing and their philanthropic track record.

Check out news headlines, press releases, and business reports. Are they dealing with any economic challenges? Are they expanding or cutting back? When and how much do they typically donate? Adjust your request accordingly.

3. Emphasize what you can offer them 🎁

The Kid Mero Wow GIF by Desus & Mero

We mentioned earlier that getting donations from companies is different than winning over individual donors. There’s no question that some companies will be happy to lend a hand — whether it’s with funds, volunteers, or in-kind donations — just like your average supporter.

However, the reality is that they’ll also be asking what they’re going to receive in return. Top placement on your website and merchandise? Positive press and widespread recognition? Tax advantages? In essence, why should the business invest in your mission and your team?

Use your donation request letter to explain the unique benefits of starting a relationship with your organization. Address your letter to the point of contact at the company, and remember the golden rule of writing: “Show, don’t tell.”

Check out the examples below. Which snippet sounds more persuasive?

  • Example A: “Since 2019, we’ve helped thousands of unemployed workers in the community get back on their feet. Your $50,000 donation will allow us to further that mission, expanding and promoting our services. Will you help us?”
  • Example B: “Susan, since 2019, support from businesses like yours has helped us provide over 25,000 unemployed Springfield workers with benefits, job training, and a brighter future. Your $50,000 pledge would let us expand and promote our services — and your staffing firm — with paid media campaigns reaching 500,000 skilled workers. Will you join us in enriching our community?”

Ding ding! Example B is correct. This appeal demonstrates the nonprofit’s community reach and how a partnership could drive new customers, sales, and other valuable relationships. It’s clear and direct, emphasizing their shared goals and audiences.

Like in step two, be sure to tailor your list of benefits to each prospect (Check out our guide to writing appeals for some fundraising letter examples and templates you can use.).

4. Follow up with everyone 📲

Calling Karen Gillan GIF By HULU

The final and most important step when you’re getting donations from companies is the follow-up. Allow time for your prospects to receive, digest, and discuss your proposal with their team. It’s best to assume that you won’t hear back quickly or at all and instead have a strategy for following up in a respectful but persistent manner.

A few days to a week after your initial request letter or meeting, reach out in one of the following ways:

  • Call your point of contact
  • Send follow-up emails
  • Request an in-person meeting
  • Send a direct mail letter
  • Message them via social media sites like LinkedIn

Repeat positive points from your past talks and share any new developments that could strengthen your cause. Be careful not to bombard your point of contact. After following up once, for example, you could set a pace of one message every one or two weeks. If your fundraising goal is time-sensitive, make sure that’s front and center in your communications.

One final tip: Use donor management software to keep tabs on all your in-progress applications and budding corporate relationships. You can keep contact details, conversation records, and gift histories organized. That way, nothing gets lost in the cracks.

You’re in good company 👋

Teaming up with the right corporation — whether it’s a one-time donation, event sponsorship, grant program, volunteer day, or some combination — can be tremendously valuable for individuals and organizations.

As you’re weighing potential corporate donors, remember that the relationship is a two-way street. The best way to get companies to donate is to prove that you’ll deliver one-of-a-kind value for the business in exchange for their contribution.

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