Five corporate fundraising mistakes to avoid

Wouldn’t life be wonderful if we never made a mistake? Sadly that’s never going to happen. However, there are some basic mistakes that can be avoided. Here are five that fundraisers make all too often when they are creating corporate partnerships.

Written by
Jonathan Andrews
Added
May 22, 2012

1. Insufficient research

If you’ve done the research thoroughly you’ll avoid that sinking feeling as you set off for your meeting.

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you’re going to a meeting and you know in your heart that you haven’t done enough research? This will quickly become apparent to the person you are meeting and she or he will be disappointed because, obviously, you are expected to be properly prepared.

You have missed the chance to make a great early impression. You could so easily have looked at the news section on the company’s website and mentioned an interesting story. Or you could have visited one of their stores or spoken to a member of staff, which would have given you insight that would make you stand out from the competition.

Insufficient research on the company will make it harder to link the work of your charity to their business aims. Also insufficient research on the person you’re meeting will make it much harder to build rapport because you don’t know what subjects are interesting to her.

​2. Going in with a blank page

Flexibility is all very well as long as you don’t take it too far.

It’s great to have a flexible approach when you meet with a company, but a blank page is way too flexible because it will make you look lazy and unfocused.

Ideally you want to identify two or three compelling opportunities to share with the company. If you don’t have these as a starting point you put the onus on the company and risk creating a project that isn’t right for your charity.

Companies want to hear your ideas for projects you could work on together. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate that you understand their objectives and to show your creativity. If you don’t have those ideas it will give the impression that you aren’t very keen on partnering with them.

3. Too much focus on money

Watch out for the money trap.

Because you’re a fundraiser and your performance is measured against a fundraising target it’s highly likely that you will fall into the trap of putting too much focus on money. This really is the biggest mistake because it ignores the company’s motivations and reduces your chances of success.

Companies don’t want to be seen as chequebooks for charities. They want to be viewed as proper partners. If you start your conversation by talking about money they will think that you’re only interested in quick cash and not a long-term relationship. Also companies can help charities in so many other ways, such as strategic advice, gifts in kind, raising profile and introducing you to other companies.

Instead of focusing on money, focus on the cause. Tell them a powerful story about how your charity has changed someone’s life then show them how you can change the world together.

4. Woolly business benefits

Don’t be too woolly about the benefits. You must present them specific, tangible and tailored to the people you are talking to.

It’s really important to show companies the benefits you can offer, because it helps them understand the business case for partnering with your charity.

Often charities put forward benefits that are simply headlines like ‘increased profile, branding and volunteering opportunities’. But these are far too woolly which makes them difficult to imagine, so the company won’t believe them.

Companies want the benefits of partnerships to be specific, tangible and tailored for them. So it’s really worth putting in the extra time to identify benefits that make the company say ‘Wow!’

5. Sending a really ordinary thank you

Don’t leave your donors wondering if their gifts make a difference. Send them a brilliant thank you that shows they do.

I recently attended a training course with Clayton Burnett on emotional fundraising and I learned why it is so important to say thank you to donors in a brilliant way. When we give to a charity we experience positive feelings, because we really enjoy helping other people. But very quickly after making our donation we are struck with a thought along the lines of ‘did my gift actually make a difference?’ That is why it’s so important that charities send a brilliant thank you quickly.

Companies are exactly the same. So it’s not good enough if a charity sends them a really ordinary thank you, because it suggests that their contribution doesn’t matter, which will damage their motivation for the partnership.

Instead we can be creative and make a large and bright thank-you card signed by the whole team. Or we could send them a framed picture that shows how they have changed lives.

Corporate fundraisers should send companies prompt and brilliant thank-you messages because by doing so we will continue to inspire them and ourselves. 

About the author: Jonathan Andrews

Jonathan Andrews

Jonathan Andrews began his career working in sales for Unilever. Since then he has led successful fundraising teams at Alzheimer’s Society, Age Concern and Action for Children. He is passionate about creating remarkable corporate partnerships and is now director of Remarkable Partnerships.

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