The best fundraising resource are your contacts, trustees and supporters. They already know about your cause and have a propensity to support you. Major donor and corporate fundraising experts always advise non-profits to start with their networks. But what if you don’t have a strong or particularly proactive network? This is a tough and ever present issue facing thousands of non-profits.
With news that 1 in 5 charities are at risk of closure, there has never been a more important time to build your network. Building a base of supporters is hard work and resource intensive. Pro bono creates a unique and much underutilized access point, allowing you to build relationships, whilst simultaneously building organisational capacity.
As in business, relationships are key to successful fundraising. ‘So many companies complain of being hounded by non-profits who see them as cash-cows.’ So says, Ami Bloomer, Founder and CEO of Give What You’re Good At. ‘When I see non-profits approach companies for money straight off the bat, I flinch at the missed opportunity. One of the motivators behind the Give What You’re Good At concept was the opportunity to bring passionate people together. Many of our matches have lead to funding. Bloomer thinks its the tip of a large iceberg, and she would know having spent two years raising six figure donations for Platform 51.
Here are tips for getting the most from pro bono relationships
Use available tools
As part of The Lead the Change campaign, Give What You’re Good At has been busy collecting details about the philanthropic activities of 10,000 companies. They’ve channeled this into a powerful search engine available to non-profits. The new tool integrates the professional database of talent with the companies, so that where needs fit, non-profits can connect with a professional whose employed by a company known to be sympathetic to their cause.
Don’t make money your sole motivator
Pro bono is a valuable commodity and if you enter a relationship with financial objectives, you may risk appealing insincere. Ensure your organisation benefits from the work and sees the relationship as a long-term asset.
Set realistic targets
Large companies will often plan their philanthropic activities years in advance. Don’t go into to the pro bono activity with the sole objective of money. You may be in for a long wait.
Listen More Than You Talk
We all want to extol our strengths, our virtues in hopes of impressing others and, ultimately, raising more funds, but it’s counter-intuitive, but being a good listener highlights your virtues much better than being a big talker. What sets corporate fundraisers apart is the ability to listen and really understand the companies motivators. That’s the kind of behavior that leads to long-term success.
Keep in touch
With the proliferation of social media tools these days such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s never been easier to keep in touch. Keep your volunteer updated on the impact of the project. The individuals may move companies – and who know’s that company may be keen to support your work.
Make it Personal
It’s good to send a physical letter or card of appreciation as opposed to an e-mail. Particularly if you can involve your beneficiaries in the creation process.
Where possible meet your pro bono professional face-to-face. You will naturally deepen the relationship and get to know each other better. You could also make plans to catch up at or join someone at a networking event. For some people, networking events are challenges and having at least one friendly face there can give them the confidence to network better. Plus, you will strengthen the relationship.
Be clear on what you have to offer
- Do you have a unique advertising space corporate could use? Does your office get a lot of foot fall?
- Do you have a large social media presence?
- What makes you different to all the other non-profits vying for the corporate pound?
- Communicate your impact emotionally
- And most importantly, if you get a warm introduction find out what the company wants from a charitable relationship. See our blog post on 7 pieces of information you need to secure a corporate funder.