Starting a Business Program- PART 1

January 28, 2014

How do you start and cultivate relationships with local businesses?

This is a question that I ask myself every day. I work as the project lead for the business giving program at my work. As you look to start engaging with local businesses it is important to have a gift acceptance policy. Who will you accept gifts from and who will you choose not to? You might say that all money is good money. But what if the business is counter to your mission. For example an organization like Money Tree that provides short-term high interest loans is a bad organization for a non-profit that works to help financially struggling families build assets and move out of poverty. Why? Because high interest loans create more financial problems for a low-income family than they solve. It is also important to have a gift acceptance policy so that you know what kinds of gifts you will receive and what kinds of gifts you will not. For example many businesses want to give in-kind goods and in many cases that is wonderful for your organization. However, what if they want to donate used shoes to your organization and you exist to teach people to learn to read. What are you going to do with all those shoes? Your board should approve this policy so everyone is on the same page.

When starting your program you can look to develop in a few different ways:
Work with local businesses employees. Involve local offices to do an employee fund drive for your organization. This provides a great base level of support, can boast your number of annual fund donors, and is a great way to garner higher-level support within a business. I will often ask to meet with a member of upper level management to brag to them about how great their employees did in running the drive. I will then talk about all the great things that the employee’s did and ask the senior manager if the business would be interested in matching their wonderful employee’s gifts.

PART 2 will be about sponsorships and general contributions. Please post questions, stories or comments about how you have or have not worked with local businesses.


No need to fear

January 21, 2014

I have talked with a lot of different people about fundraising for their organization. One thing that I have continued to find is that there are a lot of misconceptions about fundraising. I think that everyone has heard all of the horror stories about going door to door and asking you friends and neighbors to give more money than they have ever given before.

My experience with fundraising has been very different. More often than not I am working with individuals or organizations that have already expressed an interest in supporting my cause and I am not asking my friends for money or support of any kind. Fundraising can be a really positive experience and allows non-profits to continue to and increase the work they do.

When getting started my first piece of advice is just do it, people want to be asked and if you do it right it can be an incredible experience.


Event Invitation Mistakes

January 7, 2014

I’m not an events guy. I’m learning a lot in terms of trial by fire with events. Here are a few of the mistakes I’ve made that I thought I’d share with you so you don’t make my mistakes. Feel free to add a mistake of your own, it may help me avoid it next time.

  • Don’t forget to have a reason that appeals to the donor for having your event. Don’t make your event just about your campaign. If you are a school find a way to use a notable faculty as a guest speaker.
  • Think about the cost per invitation. Not just the financial cost but also the personal time cost. If you have a really intricate invitation it will take you a long time to put together.
  • Be aware of holidays and other community events. Having an event around Christmas can be a real challenge.
  • Make sure to hold the event day well in advance with all of your internal stakeholders. Who is speaking, who needs to be there? The ED or President at your organization’s calendar will book up really fast so you may need to be quite proactive about using their time.
  • Make sure to allow time for follow-up calls. Depending on who you are inviting to the event it might work well to have board members or hosts make some of these calls.
  • Think through the guests that you are inviting. Will they fit together? What will the interactions be like?
  • Choose your paper stock carefully, for both invitations and programs. Heavy, flecked or speckled paper is neat, but photos with “spots” are not. (Reader submission, thanks Terri)
  • Make sure you weigh the entire package when you are determining paperstock. Ink has weight, and printing on the paperstock can add just enough weight to kick you into the next postal rate category. (Graphic design folks know these things, but we don’t always have the luxury of contracting a designer.) (Reader submission, thanks Terri)
  • Always include contact information for the organization. It is frustrating to to hunt for contact information when you have additional questions. (Reader submission, thanks Terri)
  • In the “funny story you never want to happen to you,” category, the “l” in “public” is a VERY IMPORTANT letter. (Reader submission, thanks Terri)