Large companies support charities on a large scale, providing financial support through fundraising events and donations, in addition to providing publicity of their sponsored non-profits among their employees.
But even large companies may have to lower their cash donations during tough economic times and will often resort to making up at least some of the difference through in-kind donations or giving their employees paid time off to volunteer. In any case, show how supporting your cause will ultimately also benefit the company by considering sponsorship benefits.
How you ask can make the difference between getting a donation or not.
Following are a few points to consider when approaching a company for donations:
1. Do Your Homework before Sending Your Donation Request
Large companies usually have dedicated departments that work with charitable groups. Check the company’s website and make some calls to make sure you’re directing your request to the right department and the right person. Don’t simply send a letter to a catch-all address; it may take too long to get to the right person, or worse, never get there.
Besides, who wants to receive a letter that starts with ‘dear sir’ or ‘to whom it may concern’? How serious would you think this person is about his or her request? Remember that you are going to deal with real people, not the ‘company’.
2. Learn about Donation Request Procedures and Follow Them
Each company will have their own set of rules, forms and procedures about how to apply for a donation. Some will ask detailed information, down to exact demographics of your beneficiaries, while others may ask for specific forms to be filled out. Be ready to provide a lot of information if you’d like to be considered for the ‘charity of the year’ or a donation match program.
In any case, do a thorough research and ask questions beforehand, so when you send in your donation request package it contains all the pertinent information. Also, be prepared to make your request in person. If a company is willing to make a large donation, they might invite you to make a presentation.
3. Briefly Introduce Your Cause
In your request letter, make it clear right from the beginning who you are. Briefly describe your charity, your mission and goals. This shouldn’t take more than a paragraph or two. Remember that no one has time to read long letters, and you don’t want them to have to do research on something you could have easily mentioned. Be specific and concise and include information on your charity’s rating if applicable.
Tip: Google your cause with and without quotation marks; your own web pages and social media accounts should be among the first search results on the page. Make sure that anyone who searches for your cause can easily find pertinent information on your pages and that this information matches up with the info you’re sending out in your donation request.
4. Describe Your Group’s Struggles and What You’d like to Achieve
This is the part about why you’re asking for help and why you’re asking now. Make your case and let your passion for your work shine through. This is where persuasive writing skills will come in handy. (See writing fundraising letters.)
Don’t be shy about asking for support for your charity. It’s your job as the representative of your cause to generate as much money as you can for your group, so write with no inhibitions, remembering what you are trying to achieve.
5. Let Them Know How You’d like to Be Supported
If you’re sending a donation request, be specific. Tell them you need x amount of money which will support x amount of kids through month or year x. As mentioned before, many companies also offer in-kind donations and paid time off for their employees to volunteer. If these forms of help are useful to you, include these in your request as well.
6. Express Your Gratitude to Your Sponsor
Regardless how much they donate to you, send a personalized thank you letter. They didn’t have to donate to you, but thought your cause was worthy of their consideration. A thank you letter will show your appreciation and may even be publicly displayed. It’ll also help pave the way for an ongoing relationship that might possibly result in another donation the following year.
7. Send Updates
Your sponsor may request that you send regular updates, but if they don’t, send them anyway. You may already be posting your updates on a blog, or Facebook, but you should also make it a point to occasionally send a letter (possibly with pictures) that describes your progress to your sponsor. Your letter may be posted somewhere for all to see and will remind everyone of the good they are doing.
Even if you didn’t get chosen for a donation one year, be aware of the impression you leave behind. If you’ve represented your cause in a positive light and dealt with everyone in a respectful and friendly manner, chances are they will remember you the following year – when you apply again.