Fund Development: Ten Tips to Get you Started

Maybe it's more perspective than skill.

We think fundraising success is more about attitude – yours – than about knowledge or skill. If you work for or volunteer with a worthy nonprofit, it’s likely you can successfully raise money from the corporate world, but you might need to change your attitude just a bit. For example:

1.     You are offering opportunities, not asking for favors. Businesses want and need to reach their target audiences with the right message. Your nonprofit, through its projects and events, can offer them that opportunity.

2.     Fundraising is matchmaking, not begging. As long as you’re approaching a business that has something to gain from the relationship, it’s a win-win situation.

3.     As with all communication, it’s more about listening than about speaking. If you never understand their marketing goals, you cannot help them achieve those goals. And then what good are you to them? Do invite each of your “prospects” to explain what it is their company is hoping to achieve.

4.     The arrangement must be mutually beneficial. You get the vital funding, and they get a good shot at putting their message in front of their target audience. Win-win.

5.     Be prepared for disappointment – so offer future options. All businesses and foundations must say “no” at one time or another. That’s not a door forever closed. If their sponsorship budgets have been spent for this year, that doesn’t mean they won’t support you in the future.

6.     Have some ready-made opportunities handy. Sometimes a business leader is ready to offer support. He/she just wants you to lay it out quickly and answer “how much, and what will we get in return?” Those are the easy ones. See #7, though, because it usually doesn’t go that way.

7.     Be willing to customize the opportunities. Others have very specific marketing needs, so be willing to listen and adjust so they can win too. One-size-fits-all sponsorships are easy for you, but they can be hard to sell. Can you modify the benefits a little so the funder can win too?

8.     Be prepared to clearly and openly state the benefits you can offer. Corporate America needs a return on investment. Know what good things you can promise. Having it all on paper in the form of a prospectus – and being prepared to send it as an email attachment, really helps you and your prospect.

9.     Go as far as you can to meet their needs. Marketing and community support funding is limited. If you can truly scratch their back, they will probably scratch yours. Your flexibility can make it easier for the prospect to invest.

10. Cultivate the relationship for the future. One-time giving just sets you up to do it all over again in the next cycle. Try to establish an ongoing giving relationship. Believe it or not, we’ve never been told, “Please stop asking for our support.” We have heard, “Be sure to call us next time. Keep us on your list!”

Do you have other basic tips to share about good fund development practice? Join in!