Starting a Business Program- PART 1

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.

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