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Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

About Linda

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Finding Business Donors for Your Nonprofit

Let's discuss finding business donors for your nonprofit.

Have you ever been told by your board or CEO: “Gosh, there are all these big companies in our community. Write to them and ask them for a contribution”? Dollars to doughnuts, if you listened to this advice, you struck out. You might have sent a letter to hundreds of businesses and received one donation (if you’re lucky).

Want to Learn More?

Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, is the author of Raise More Money from Your Business Community: A Practical Guide to Tapping into Corporate Charitable Giving and its companion workbook.

Raise More Money from Your Business Community - Book and Workbook, by Linda Lysakowski

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As a member of the CharityChannel professional community, for a limited time you may use this discount code to save 20%: rmm-20

 

So, How Do You Find Business Donors Who Will Support Your Cause?

Yes, there are a lot of businesses in your community. (It doesn't matter if you’re in Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, or a small rural town in Wyoming—there are businesses there!) But how do you narrow down the field to which ones will support your cause?

 

First, you need to figure out which of these businesses (whether there are dozens or thousands of them in your community) would be likely to support your organization. Let’s build an ideal business donor profile for your organization. Here are some things you might include in your “Ideal Profile:”

  • This business gives to charities similar to ours.
  • We have a connection to a top manager/executive within this company.
  • This business is “in our neighborhood.”
  • We’ve done business with this company.
  • This business has given to us previously.
  • This business has a natural connection to our mission (i.e., a crayon, toy, or kids' clothing manufacturer giving to a child care center).
  • This company has an interest in supporting the community
  • This company has an employee volunteer program.
  • This company shares our values.

What other criteria would you add for your organization? You should be able to sit down with your staff, development committee, or board and develop this ideal business donor profile in a matter of minutes—an hour at most.

Our Ideal Business Donor Profile

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Okay, so you’ve developed your ideal business donor profile. Now let’s get started developing your list of prospects.

Our Prospect List

Now you’re ready to review your profile and match up the companies in your community to see which ones are your best prospects. So let’s start with a list of “suspects,” companies that might become donors.

Vendors of Our Organization:

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Companies Our Board Members Have Connections with:

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Companies Our Staff Has Connection with:

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Companies Our Volunteers Have Connections with (Starting with the Development Committee):

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Hint: To help you develop these lists, schedule some brainstorming sessions with board members, staff, and volunteers to develop a preliminary list of people they have contacts with. Be sure to tell them that you are not going to contact these businesses yet but that you are trying to develop a list of prospective donors. You’ll be surprised how quickly your list grows. Each of these people has a sphere of influence you might not be aware of. Then do a scan of your environment.

Companies in Our Neighborhood:

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Companies That Belong to Our Local Chamber(s) of Commerce:

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You should be able to develop a huge list within one month by following these steps:

  • Meet with your CFO and get the list of vendors.
  • Drive around your neighborhood in an afternoon. Take someone along to make note of the companies and businesses in the neighborhood.
  • Hold a brainstorming session with your board at the next board meeting. This should take about fifteen minutes.
  • Hold a brainstorming session with your departmental staff at the next staff meeting(s). This should also take about fifteen minutes at each staff meeting.
  • Hold a brainstorming session at your next development committee meeting (another twenty minutes) and any other volunteer meetings you have.
  • Spend an afternoon visiting your local chambers of commerce and see if you can get a list (You may have to be a member, so join now.) Remember that there might be several chambers in your area. My community, for example, has a major metropolitan chamber, three or four suburban chambers, a women’s chamber, an Asian chamber, a Hispanic chamber, and an African-American chamber.

Narrowing the Field

Definition

Suspect: A company that might be interested in supporting your cause.

Prospect: A company, after being compared with your ideal business donor profile, that you believe would support your cause (more about this in a future article.

Expect: A company, after cultivation (more about that later too), that you believe will make a donation to support your cause.

Okay, you might have a list of hundred, even thousands if you’ve done your homework. And it took you only a few weeks! Now you’ll need to narrow the field and fit these “suspects” into your ideal donor profile so they become “prospects.” We’ll talk more about that in a future article.

 

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