I’m often asked what the best way is to turn large companies in a particular city or town into donors to a certain non-profit organization. The short answer is that, as with all donor cultivation, you need to build a relationship with the people at that company and make them feel like part of your team before you ask for donation.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. How can your non-profit really connect with the people at a large company (and particularly with the decision makers there) to get them connected with your mission, team, and vision?
The first step is for you to get introduced to someone at the company by a person who knows both of you. Then, turn to relationship building. Here are three quick ideas for building strong relationships with people at large local companies before you make an ask:
Idea #1: Host a Whole Company Volunteer Day
Does your non-profit have some large projects that you need to get done, and which can be accomplished by volunteers? (E.g. painting your building, stuffing 5,000 envelopes, making calls, etc.) If so, why not hold a “whole company volunteer day?”
Here’s how it works – let’s say you have someone who is involved with your non-profit (as a donor, volunteer, or board member) and who works for a large company that you want to get more involved with. Approach that person and ask them if you could partner with their company for the entire workforce (or a significant portion of it) to come accomplish the task in one day. Promise that you will provide refreshments and positive PR, invite local reporters to cover the day, and post pictures on your website and social media.
When the day occurs, collect contact information from all of the volunteers. Make a fuss over company leadership. Then, follow-up to both thank the volunteers as well as to get them more involved as donors and supporters. This is a great way to turn one supporter into an entire company full of supporters for your organization. The good PR and great goodwill generated by the day will also endear your organization to the company’s management.
Idea #2: Set Up an Executive-on-Loan Program
If your non-profit needs help with specific projects or with specific expertise, consider creating an executive-on-loan program and ask large local companies to “donate” a staff member with that expertise to your organization for a short period of time (1-3 months is normally a good time frame). This strategy only works with large companies who can afford to spare a mid-level worker for a couple of months.
Companies will often agree to this type of arrangement because it allows them to make a major donation without spending any money (they are already paying the worker’s salary). Non-profits benefit because they get a consultant with real-world experience for free. Plus – and this is the important part – this is a great way to build a relationship with a major company in your area and to then convert that company and its employees into donors to your non-profit.
Idea #3: Hold a Joint Event with the Company
Many non-profits have found success holding free events (like roundtables, training opportunities or community fairs) with large businesses in their area. These events can be open to the public at large, or open solely to the staff of the company you are targeting. Events like these provide an amazing opportunity to build awareness of your organization at a large local business as well as introduce you to specific prospects at that company.
For example, a community hospital could hold a health fair at a local company that employees can visit on their lunch break. Or, a town library can hold an all day storytelling event at a large business on “Bring Your Child to Work Day,” which gives parent and child a fun activity to engage in. Think outside the box on this one… most non-profits can figure out a way to hold a joint event with large local businesses.
Photo Credit: S Pakhrin