How to approach small business donors
Now more than ever, small businesses know about the benefits of giving back. A well-executed community involvement strategy can create a proud and united employee culture, attract new customers and engage existing ones, and improve brand reputation. Really, building relationships with the nonprofit sector should be a no-brainer for companies looking to gain a competitive edge.
And yet, approaching a business for support can be one of the most awkward situations for any nonprofit. It can be an intimidating conversation, filled with uncertainty about expectations and etiquette surrounding a potentially sensitive topic.
But these conversations don’t have to be uncomfortable. When approached transparently and respectfully, nonprofits and small businesses can come to understand objectives on both sides and find common ground to build the foundation for a mutually beneficial partnership.
The community involvement toolkit from Alberta’s Promise, Creating a Community Involvement Program for your Small Business, breaks down the giving process into bite-sized segments for small businesses interested in supporting their community. The toolkit is a free resource available for download online. Here are four questions drawn from the toolkit that your nonprofit should consider asking when approaching local businesses for support.
What are your business’ goals for giving?
Before a business can even think about building a relationship with your nonprofit, they must identify their own internal objectives of giving back. Help them understand the “why” behind their community involvement strategy, and what they hope to gain.
Goals may include generating positive publicity, improving company morale, winning new business, developing the future workforce, or tackling issues that matter most to employees and customers. For an extensive list of giving objectives, check out page 9 of the toolkit.
What causes matter most to your business?
Small businesses simply can’t support every nonprofit that comes knocking, so it is up to them to narrow down the causes they want to support. If they have already defined their giving priorities, it will be easy to recognize whether or not your nonprofit’s cause aligns well.
For example, if the company believes in supporting education, your child literacy program may be a great fit. However, if the business has not defined their giving priorities, help them identify causes that connect with what they do, what they stand for, and what customers and employees value. Read page 11 of the toolkit for more on identifying giving priorities.
What resources are you interested in giving to the causes you care about?
Like any business activity, a community involvement program must be tied to a set budget and pool of resources. Find out what the business has to give, and remind them that giving can take all forms – not just financial support.
Employee volunteering, offering pro bono services, donating the use of meeting space, extending purchasing power, or launching a new product in support of a cause are just some of the creative and strategic ways in which businesses can support local nonprofits. See page 21 of the toolkit for more great ways to give.
Is there an opportunity for our organizations to work together?
Relationships should make sense for everyone involved. And community giving should never be a one-way transaction. Brainstorm ways your organization would be able to further the business’ giving objectives.
Would you be able to promote the company’s community giving to a large social media following or in your monthly newsletter? Could you offer unique teambuilding opportunities for the company’s staff? In exchange for event sponsorship, could you offer the company exclusive perks like media opportunities and complimentary VIP tickets? Get creative, and go into your conversation with a mental list of possibilities.
One final tip when approaching small businesses: don’t forget to communicate the impact of your organization. A well-rehearsed elevator pitch that is customized to your audience has the potential to spark a great conversation, a partnership, or even other donor referrals down the road.
Ready to forge some amazing local partnerships? Download the community involvement toolkit and add it to your arsenal of resources for approaching local businesses.
Alberta’s Promise makes community investment easy. The organization helps businesses in Alberta direct financial gifts, volunteer hours, and in-kind donations to non-profits that support the well-being of kids and their families. Learn more at www.albertaspromise.org.
Marketing Communications Coordinator at Alberta’s Promise