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Posted: November 11, 2013

Great fundraising strategies

Don't panic! Try these

Vicki Felmlee

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

If you’re like many of us, you’re active in your community, perhaps as a member of a service club or the board of a nonprofit. And, as part of that service, you may find yourself on committee tasked to raise funds for an event or the ubiquitous “good cause.”

For some, that committee is a dreaded duty; some, however, find it to be challenging and even fun. Whether you’re new at it, or a fund-raising veteran who can use some fresh insights, there are a few strategies that can help you find success:

  • Approach this as you would your business or job. Do some homework, what businesses sponsor what, not with the idea of hitting them up, too, but targeting categories of businesses for a good fit.
  • Think of ways to reward your sponsors – then think of more ways. Logos, banners, web site opportunities, free tickets have all become standard, but can you think of other ways to make it easy for that prospect say “Yes”?
  • Be concise and professional – prepare a nicely-printed brochure, one page, of sponsorship opportunities with bullet points of what makes your organization and event special. Make sure contact info is prevalent and easy to find.
  • Organize, organize, organize.  Prepare a note sheet for yourself and the others on your committee with the name of the prospect, date they were approached, notes about the conversation, and if follow-up is required.
  • Don’t duplicate: Give each of your committee members a list to make sure they aren’t stepping on each other’s toes by going to the same businesses.
  • Cite numbers: years of service, how many people attended, articles from local publications. ROI = NOP: Return on Investment = Number of Peeps.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about IRS status, membership and leadership of your group.
  • Be flexible and listen. Some prospects may have had prior experience, good or bad. Listen to their concerns, listen to their ideas. There might be some good ones.
  • Cross-promotions could work. A restaurant gives 25 $50 gift cards as their sponsorship – you offer those cards as enticements to larger sponsors.
  • Provide copies of press releases and media coverage.
  • Pictures are great, don’t leave them out. Prep a few photo sheets of past events, these visualizations will help you make your case better than just about anything else.
  • Offer different levels, from low-dollar to high-dollar, to include as many sponsors as possible. List what each level means for the sponsor – what do they get? Consider multi-year opportunities, a great way to reward sponsors, and it means less work for somebody else down the road.
  • Stuff a Goodie Bag with, well, stuff. Everybody likes free stuff. Do you have t-shirts or give-aways left over from previous years? Don’t spend a lot of money but peruse the discontinued aisles of business supply stores for fun ideas or items.
  • Be realistic. If your event is small, but targeted, or your fundraising cause is low-key but potentially of great media interest, be honest with yourself and your prospect.
  • Many large “box” businesses have their home offices far, far away. It may take weeks to get a decision – if you get one at all. Some business owners (the decision makers) rarely if ever frequent their business. Malls are notoriously horrible places to solicit sponsorships.

Don’t panic! It’s a few weeks before your deadline and you’re falling short of the goal. Don’t start to rubber ball or promise the moon. Rather, review your notes and see if you’re missing something, perhaps not answering questions thoroughly. Canvass your team and look for other opportunities.

If you get a "yes,"ensure results are well-documented and there is a procedure in place for invoicing.  Use a checklist to make sure the sponsor receives everything that has been promised – including that all-important "thank you" letter.

Remember to be enthusiastic: Good economy or bad, raising money for anything is never easy. Covering the bases can make it more fun, and successful.

Vicki Felmlee is a former newspaper reporter and editor, and holds a degree in Geology which she actually used for 10 years before starting her own business, TCS Marketing Group, Inc., in 1996. She serves on various boards and committees and is currently president of Palisade Sunrise Rotary.

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