How to get businesses onboard with your cause
Modern workers, especially young people, want to feel like they are working for a socially responsible business with values they can believe in. During Covid 19, more and more people and businesses have realised that giving something back is good for their mental and physical wellbeing. There’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve done a good deed!
This provides a great opportunity for charities and community groups to develop relationships with businesses that will help both the charity and the business thrive. Here are some top tips for how to start building relationships with businesses.
It’s all about who you know
Think about who you already know in local businesses, ask your staff members and trustees for suggestions of people they know, and ask if they can make introductions. If that doesn’t yield much, why not go along to some local business networking events. Contact local business associations to find out if there’s any upcoming events you can attend – even if they are online. Initially you may want to suggest meeting up for a coffee with someone within a business to discuss whether you have common aims or goals. It’s much harder to ignore a smiling person sharing a coffee with you than a formal letter requesting support.
Chose the right person to talk to
If you feel like you’re constantly being fobbed off, it might be that you’re talking to the wrong person. Ask who in their company is responsible for corporate social responsibility. If it’s a small business that might be the manager or owner, but in larger organisations you might have more luck approaching someone in public relations or marketing, and very large organisations may have a corporate social responsibility department.
What do you have in common?
Businesses are more likely to work with charities that have a shared vision. If you’re an organisation that works with young people, look for businesses that also engage with young people – a computer game store for example. Think about common goals – if your organisation is set up to promote the local environment, a car dealership might not be for you, but a home insulation company might be. Perhaps the local café would be interested in supporting your lunch club?
Think outside the box
Relationships can start small and grow over time, don’t think you’ve failed if you’ve not walked away with a cheque. What about donations for a prize draw? Could the business support you in kind – for example a printing business might print leaflets to promote an event or fundraising drive. Could their staff volunteer some time with you? They could sit on your board or work with you to create a fundraising strategy or business development plan. Could you benefit from their old office equipment – desks, computers – or do they have a room you could use for board meetings? If you’re a youth charity, could local businesses offer young people work experience?
What’s in it for them?
In the era of Covid 19 more and more businesses are recognising that their communities need voluntary organisations to thrive. However, if you can offer a business the opportunity to get something back, they’ll be even more interested. You could put their logo on your leaflets or website or give them a shout out on social media. You could explore sponsorship opportunities.
Beware of conflicts of interest
If you are trying to engage with companies with a shared vision, this shouldn’t be an issues, but don’t be afraid of turning down a donation if the company’s purpose actively undermines your own. If you’re an animal charity, for example, it would not be in your interest to accept support from a company involved in animal testing. The relationship might also damage your reputation with other supporters and affect fundraising income. If a business approaches you, do your homework and ensure it doesn’t have a vested interest that could do you more damage than good.
Be patient – the best things come to those who wait
Corporate partnerships take time to grow and deepen. Rather to approach lots of different business, you are likely to reap more rewards from growing a relationship with a business you have a lot in common with. As a business starts to see the benefits of working with you, they are likely to be open to doing more. Don’t push it though, let them feel comfortable with what they are giving for now before going back to ask for more.