Schools often leave thousands of dollars in corporate donations on the table when it comes to supplementing their school fundraisers. Whether a local business is willing to give time, talent, or treasure, leveraging these community relationships can result in big wins and bigger fundraising results.
Both local businesses and national chains alike expect solicitations from nonprofit organizations. This makes the donation process somewhat competitive which is why it’s important to find ways to make your school stand out. Set out to define your needs and make a plan before approaching businesses to position your school for success. Here are some things to consider:
The local business advantage
Local businesses already have a vested interest in their community, and they know that goodwill goes a long way for positive word-of-mouth. There are many social ties at stake as business owners may be parents themselves, or happen to know people who are associated with your school. Therefore, they may be interested because they already know who’s going to benefit from the donation.
Nationwide chains work too
School fundraisers may find themselves intimidated by big corporations. But these organizations are increasingly vested in local communities and often have a standard program for donation solicitations. For example, business managers can donate gift cards that bring people back into their stores. Or they may provide actual merchandise that can be used for raffles at school events or as fundraising incentives. Some companies have a place on their website where they’ll accept online donation requests. The PTO Today website has an Ultimate Donation List that offers tips from experienced parent group leaders.
Go after the big fish—what you catch might surprise you! Keep an open mind and consider how your school can take advantage of whatever they have to offer and cultivate these relationships year after year.
How to approach business owners
Preparation can minimize the anxiety of asking a business to contribute.
- First, make a list of businesses you’d like to approach and discuss the reasons why. Have a good understanding what you hope to receive each place and why you think that business is a good fit for that request.
- Define when to approach. Visiting a restaurant during the dinner hour is probably not a great idea, and some businesses prefer to donate at certain times of the year based on their fiscal calendar.
- During the approach, introduce your organization and ask for the person who has the ability to make the donation decision. Let them know that you’ll be sending a donation letter that provides specific information about what the donation will be used for.
- If you made an appointment, bring the letter with you. Make sure the letter is printed on your school or organization letterhead and contains your contact information. Personalize your letter with the name of the contact person and the business name. This shows your attention to detail and that you are respecting the decision maker.
Ensure that everyone wins
Regardless of the cause, turning your request into a win-win can make all the difference. Your donation letter should include information about how the business will benefit. Schools provide an excellent resource for the business to be able to reach out to families. Make sure that the business knows that you plan to promote their name at upcoming meetings or with promotional material.
Social media is also a great way to get the word out about what the business has done for your organization. They’ll appreciate you posting about the donation on Facebook or Twitter. Let the business know when you plan to post so they can engage with you digitally and maximize message’s impact.
Donations can also be tax deductible for the business, so if your PTO or PTA is a 501(c)(3) organization, provide them with a timely receipt.
Show your gratitude
Every business that donates to your organization needs to receive a thank you letter. Besides being the right thing to do, it may help keep you at the top of their list for next year’s donation as well. Take the time to make it personal and specific. Businesses—no matter how big—appreciate feeling appreciated for their contributions. It will be even more special with your students involved.
Both schools and businesses can benefit greatly by following these simple and easy to implement guidelines.