This morning, I was one of the facilitators at the Center for Nonprofit Management’s Meet the Corporate Funders event. Representatives from five corporations talked about what it takes to get a grant from their organization. And while there were nuanced differences, there were three common messages from all:
- It’s about relationships. Make sure that our employees are excited by and involved with your organization
- Tell us who you serve—and how many people are impacted
- Tell us what we get supporting you.
I started my fundraising career in 1988 as the Director of Corporate Relations for the school of engineering at USC. My boss had been a little leery of hiring me. I had never written a grant. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what a grant proposal was.
He didn’t have to worry. Grantwriting took up very little of my time. With the brilliance of ignorance, I thought that my time would be best spent finding out how to meet corporate needs with the things we did—research, students, things like that—and by figuring out how partnering with us could also be a public relations win for them.
Maybe it was coming out of sales. I knew from experience that what I needed (closing the deal) and what I had to offer (the product or service) were of little importance. What mattered was what my potential customer wanted. Finding that out meant building a relationship.
Many of the companies I worked with told me that it was critical that I find a corporate champion. Someone who would carry our message and work to get us the support we desired.
Other companies didn’t care about a champion, but wanted to know that their employees supported us with their individual charitable gifts and/or volunteer hours. Have a board member who happened to work at the company certainly helped, especially when it came to larger gifts and—to be frank—gifts that didn’t meet their stated charitable interests.
What this means is rather than spending your time sitting behind your computer, grinding out proposals and LOI’s, get out into the community and bring people back into your organization. Go through your database and find out who works where. If you aren’t already asking that question, what a great opportunity to reach out to your donors and ask a simple question.
Then think about all things you do and how what you do and who you are could benefit a corporate donor. In other words, be as donor-centric with the business community as you are—or should be—with your individual donors.
Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity, build more engaged boards, and work smarter. Learn how she can help you at http://janetlevineconsulting.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.