The art of corporate fundraising

Categories: Community Engagement.

Philanthropy, or corporate social responsibility (CSR), is a funding stream that can bring new dollars to the palliative care agenda; yet this stream remains largely untapped. Understanding the basic key steps in developing relationships with corporates is vital. The bottom line is that most, if not all palliative care organizations, are doing spectacular work changing the lives of vulnerable people.

Unfortunately, there are many other organizations globally doing other work with the same, if not more, level of success who are also looking for potential partners. The key to success is finding your niche, your Unique Selling Point (USP). Once you have worked out the USP, the next task is to conceptualize how funding your organization benefits the company donor. This is your selling tool to secure the much needed deal.

To do this, it is critical that palliative care organizations do their homework and create mechanisms through which they can prove to prospective corporate partners that they are the best non-profit partner deserving of their support. ‘Standing out’ from the crowd of qualified organizations to attract corporate funders is a task most non-profits face repeatedly. But how do we stand out?

There are several issues that we need to consider:

  • types of support your organization needs
  • defining your fundraising approaches
  • deciding who to target and why
  • preparing your organization for corporate/business support and identifying your USP.

Types of support you need

Before you decide this, it is important to determine what the corporate can, or is likely, to offer. Most common offers comprise the big five, with many corporates offering one or a combination of the following support:

  • Gifts – there are mainly one off and could be material or financial gifts and are largely unrestricted.
  • Grants – typically restricted and for a specified cause that is of interest to the corporation.
  • Sponsorships, events, programs, tools – this is popular as sometimes it means the corporation are buying marketing space by placing their logos on your events or brochures.
  • Marketing – might be popular with companies wishing to market their products on your website or space in return for a fee.
  • Employee/ volunteer matching gifts – this includes payroll deductions and is reliant on in-house champions or strong partnerships.

Defining your fundraising approaches

It is important to define clear fundraising targets and to assess your organizational capacity to deliver. This might entail developing projects and concept notes or attending face-to-face meetings to plant a pitch and present your work. If you need a one-off grant for an event, it might be good to prepare a pitch to the relevant CSR representatives. For long-term projects, letters of inquiry and concept notes are more useful. 

Regardless of the pattern you use, always state the problem but stress the solution and how the corporate can add value to that solution. Remember to also state clearly what is in it for the corporate as the funds they have are for their stakeholders and sometimes they need to receive something back from the support they provide you. For example, good publicity is a worthwhile investment for many corporates. But as you consider the benefits that you might offer, always consider the trade-offs you might be required to make and how this might affect your stakeholders.

Deciding who to target and why

Once you are clear on the problem you need to solve and the type of support you need, the next step is to decide who to approach. This is where preparation is vital and some research on whom in the field is well aligned to your issue. Remember however that there are corporations that will respond to compelling issues that are sometimes outside their core mandate.

Preparing your organization for corporate/business support and identifying your USP

Although it might be very clear to you what your USP is, this might not be obvious to others outside your circle of influence. It is therefore important to refine it and also state why your organization is best placed to do this work, demonstrate past successes and also show who your support groups are. If such groups happen to be other corporates, this adds value and it is good to include such partnerships.

The Corporate giving incentives

There are three incentives that drive corporates to give funds:

  1. Purposive: they give as they genuinely support the cause for which the funds are being raised.
  2. Solidarity: they want to support you since others are supporting you and they want to join the club.
  3. Material: they give because they expect to reap some benefits from supporting you.

How do you make your case?

In light of the above incentives, it is therefore important to:

  • Sell your organization and the cause you are seeking support for and persuade the corporate to be sympathetic to your cause and be part of the solution.
  • Tell them who else is supporting you and sell the ‘peer group’ they might join by supporting you.
  • Identify the benefits the corporate will receive by supporting you and sell these benefits to them.

Use short proposals, with simple data; less data, clever statistics. For example, statements like “one dollar can buy one day of care”. Rather than “with 50,000 dollars we will reach 200 people.”

Lastly, always understand the limits to which they can support so that you do not overestimate or underestimate your ask.

Go try!

Sources and further reading

  1. Janine Jasper (2013) How to succeed in corporate fundraising.
  2. 11 Things to Know About: Corporate Fundraising
  3. Michael J. Montgomery (2013) Maximizing Corporate and Business Support, MONTGOMERY CONSULTING, accessed June 14th 2013