When fundraising, we are conditioned to go after the big fish, corporations that have a lot of money and a lot of name recognition. We often lose sight of the little fish that swim right past us each and every day.
But first, lets talk about my client Emily (of course not her real name 🙂 )
Emily is the Executive Director of a small nonprofit that works with youth in Philadelphia. In the fall of 2015, her organization received a letter from its biggest foundation sponsor, which shared that the foundation had lost assets and they would be cutting back financial support in the upcoming fiscal year due to a negative shift in financial assets. The $150,000 grant cutback represented 40% of her organization’s operating budget.
To help fill the pending funding gap, Emily was up for trying something her organization had not tried in the past. She officially launched a campaign to solicit funding other corporations. In three weeks time, Emily created a list of corporate prospects from a local Chamber of Commerce directory, crafted a request letter and proposal, and sent out 64 proposal packages to local corporations.
Then she waited.
By the spring of 2016, five proposals had been returned due to a bad address, 21 corporations rejected the organization’s proposal, and Emily had not heard from the remaining 38 corporations she solicited.
Have you experienced a similar scenario?
According to the Urban Institute, there were reportedly 1.41 million nonprofit organizations registered in 2017. And each of them depends heavily on donations and charitable giving to help them meet their bottom line.
Which means that every year Emily’s request for sponsorship goes in the sea of over 1 million other requests. And they all go to the same companies. So what separates the chosen organizations from the ones, like Emily’s organization, that don’t even get a callback? What do they do differently?
Emily made one of the major mistakes that most fundraisers do, especially when this is not the scope of their work. Emily went to the top of the tree, to the sweetest fruit. Don’t get me wrong; this fruit looks like the best option, but not before
aligning with her organization’s “low hanging fruit”.
This is what I mean….
Emily’s first mistake was that she went for the sweetest fruit and skipped all of the other fruit on her tree. The sweetest fruit is sweetest because it gets the most sun the most recognition. She sent a perfectly good campaign pitch to the top corporations, and it got her nowhere!
Her campaign would have been more successful if she worked her way up the tree by going after her lowest hanging fruit first.
The low hanging fruit consists of opportunities that your organization has a natural connection. Companies that the organization or its members regularly support.
One of the biggest challenges of getting money from corporations is the creation of a strong and qualified prospect list. Often, the organizations that have not traditionally raised money from corporations say they don’t have the prospects or time to implement and execute a campaign. And sometimes, the organizations that have corporate prospects feel they’ve solicited the same prospects too many times.
The truth is that almost all organizations have corporate prospects, but only some truly know how to identify and approach those corporate prospects in ways that are mutually beneficial, and not intrusive.
One good way to get started is through the relationships that exist between your organization’s leadership and the corporations to which they are connected.
Your goal is to identify the “low hanging fruit” first as these are the potential corporate funders that are most ripe for receiving a sponsorship request from your organization.
ASK FOR HELP. ENLIST THE PEOPLE YOU KNOW