Getting the meeting with potential donors & sponsors: Fundraising Q&A

sponsorship meeting I get lots of email enquiries from people asking for advice on specific questions to do with their fundraising – and I always try to respond directly to each one individually. However, as there are often themes that come up, it got me to thinking that perhaps I should share some of the responses more widely – so welcome to the first of my monthly Fundraising Q&A Sessions that deals with getting in front of donors & sponsors:


“I do lots of research to identify which companies have the greatest affinity with our cause but I still have difficulty getting an initial meeting. I know that if I could get in front of potential donors & sponsors, I could engage them with our work but how do I convince them to take time out of their busy schedules to meet with me?”


In a crowded marketplace it is often difficult to stand out from the crowd but, assuming the problem is getting in front of the right people in the first place (as opposed to making the ask and not getting the gift) there are a few key aspects to consider:


1. Start by focusing on your networks – I’ve said it before but your networks are the first place you should look.  Fundraising is all about relationships and, just because you’re looking at a company, that doesn’t mean the relationship rule doesn’t apply.  People make decisions about donations and sponsorship – not companies.  Look at the employers of your board (or companies that they are on the board of/own themselves); companies that are based in your local area or that recruit in your local area; company links with your partners or with your existing donors & sponsors.  Once you have that list THEN you should look at whether there is an affinity with your work.


2. Ask for referrals – rather than starting with a list of companies start with a list of your networks and ask those connections to make introductions to the key decision makers in companies that they have a connection to. Do you have well networked donors or board members who would be willing to introduce you to their networks? Do you work with a partner organisation who has strong corporate partners that they could (and would introduce you to)?


3. Flip it around – Once you’ve exhausted your networks for your research, then you should start to look at companies that you have an affinity with.  However, once you have this list, can you find out whether there are any networks that you are one step removed from there? You may think that your board has told you about everyone they know of (and to be fair, so might they) but they and you might not have realised that the person they live next door to is one of the main decision makers for sponsorship at the company you’d love to work with. 

In addition, you should drill down into your ‘affinity’ company list to identify whether they have sponsored a charity that you know? Could your contact in that charity make an introduction on your behalf or even provide a testimonial in an initial approach letter?  Obviously, not all will be willing to do this but charities are often more than happy to help out so it’s worth asking at least. And if they won’t give you an introduction, they might be happy to give you some background or pointers that helped them when they made their own successful approach.  Remember, if you don’t ask for help, you won’t get it.


4. Do your research – make sure that you’re pitching your approach to the right person in the first place by doing some basic research. That can be as simple as phoning reception and asking who deals with CSR activity or sponsorship or you could Google the company name + sponsorship (or donations).  What you want to do is make sure that it ends up on the desk of the right person in the first place. Not only does that mean you aren’t wasting anyone’s time but it also shows that you are interested in the company – interested enough to have found out who to write to in the first place.


5. Ask for feedback – If you’re still getting nowhere, ask for feedback from those companies that you’re approaching but try to be specific.  Don’t just ask for general feedback but explain that you’re wondering whether your pitch isn’t right or if it’s your timing or amount you’re asking for.  This might help you to begin to assess where and why your approaches aren’t hitting the mark.


[frame]By looking at your prospect research differently, you should begin to develop a list of potential corporate donors & sponsors that it feels as though you can assign actions to  – rather than having a long list of companies with no clear action beyond ‘get them to support us’. If you’ve any other tips for getting in front of potential supporters, please leave them in the comments below – and of course, if you’d like to feature in a future Fundraising Q&A Session, let me know.[/frame]

Tweet: Click to Tweet: I’m reading all about getting meetings with sponsors via @HeatherActivate – great post!

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