As a non-profit that receives a lot of support from local businesses and national companies I have always been grateful for business people who truly care about supporting our mission in serving youth experiencing homelessness. There are a lot of non-profits out there doing amazing work, and when a company chooses us as the recipient of a financial donation, I celebrate them.
As every individual has their own, personal reason for giving, so too do corporations. Some give because it is their community, some give because someone on their staff is on the board, some give because they are having a public relations problem and some give because they have a desire to make positive change. I could add dozens of reasons to this list.
My approach to asking for support from the business community is one of pure relationship. I don't like simply asking for a donation. As I do with individual donors, I want to be in a life-long relationship with the business. That of course looks different for each business.
Aside from an annual donation, what can the relationship look like? For me it starts with a tour of our space and introducing them to our mission. It continues with letting them know the variety of ways they can support us aside from a financial donation.
Then the fun really begins. How can we, as the non-profit, benefit them?
This is a question only the business can answer. I like to get creative. Would their presence at our annual dinner benefit them? Would having our staff speak to their employees be something of interest to them? What about social media? Remember that every business is different and their partnership with you is going to be different than the next business supporter based on why they are supporting you and what they want from a partnership.
For me it's important to be clear and for me to understand exactly what the business would like from us. I recently had a conversation with a potential corporate supporter who has been using the term "strategic partnership" for some time. I still, after many conversations, do not have a clear picture of what that is.
It's also important to know when there is just not a fit. Every business is not going to want to partner with you, regardless of how amazing your mission is. That's OK. Remember that just because there might not be a fit now doesn't mean that there can't be a fit in the future. And remember that a partnership is not only about a donation. We have dozens of businesses that have employees who volunteer with us all of the time. We couldn't be as successful with our mission without these folks. Each one of them is equally important as a financial donation.
I work for this agency because I firmly believe that we completely rock in our mission to serve youth experiencing homelessness. I take that belief and make sure that comes across in every dialogue I have with a potential supporter. That can help. After all, who wants to give to someone who doesn't come across as 100% enthusiastically supportive of the mission they are representing. When I am meeting with potential corporate donors I must remember that I am the voice for those who have had their voice taken away from them.
Thanks for reading!