In place of always 'asking', we should think about selling an investment opportunity and selling the benefits of what we do, offering funders the opportunity to share our success. This how-to looks at what makes you an attractive proposition to a business, and tips on how you can exploit this.
Investing in the voluntary sector can deliver certain business benefits, which you need to be able to demonstrate and deliver to the businesses you approach.
What benefits can you offer to their branding
Funding from corporates usually comes from their community affairs (or a similarly titled) budget, and will be used to develop brand awareness and corporate image.
- Make you sure you know the marketing needs of the company you are approaching. Can you help them meet those needs? For example, a company needing access to the youth market is likely to have its interest aroused by projects that deliver benefits to young people.
- Use some figures to convince potential sponsors that helping your organisation will help them in the long run. The "Does Business Ethics pay?" report found that companies with a public commitment to ethical conduct out perform those without, with 18 per cent higher profits on average. Visit the Institute of Business Ethics for more information.
What can you offer their employees?
Corporate Community Involvement has a big role to play in motivating employees.
The Finance Director may come to work every morning preoccupied with the company's share price; most employees come to work for a variety of other reasons. Involving staff in community projects is a great way of responding to such multiple motivations, building employee skills and morale:
- See what opportunities you can offer to broaden a company's employee experience and skills. Think as much about what you have to offer as the need for which you seek support.
- Employee fundraising initiatives can also inject fun into the workplace. On a large scale participation in Children in Need and Red Nose Day are seen as very important to Human Resources Managers: and employee fundraising projects can lever in matched funds from the business. Is there potential for a local fundraising initiative that will draw on private sector employee time and effort?
What do you know about the market that they don't?
The voluntary sector holds a great amount of information about markets and customer groups. One company's Head of Public Affairs told us: 'We will buy that information. And if you will give it to us then more fool you.'
The Bromley-by-Bow Centre
A great example of an organisation who developed a relationship with an insurance company to provide insurance in a neighbourhood where insurers had decided not to insure, calculating the risk to be too great.
The insurance company knew a lot about insurance and nothing about the inner city. The Bromley-by-Bow centre knows that people in the inner city want affordable, accessible insurance but often know little about insurance. 'So', as Andrew Mawson, former Chief Executive of the Centre explains, 'we began to sit down together and show them a bit of our world and they showed us a bit of theirs and we began to find that we could bring that together and create something that made good business sense and good social sense, a win-win situation. We don't want their charity frankly. We want their marketing budgets.
Consider these points...
- Understand the business you want to do business with. How do they approach the issue you are interested in?
- Have you thought about their products and services. What could they do differently to simultaneously benefit your clients and their business?
- Clearly articulate the business benefit. Put yourself in some corporate shoes. How would you design the business case? You have to be tough here - you're in competition with many worthwhile projects: how is your case going to make the best business sense?
- Who are their employees? What type of people are they? What could they do?
- What is the company's public policy agenda? All companies face difficult public policy issues and sometimes a way of unlocking those difficult issues is through partnership with the voluntary sector.
- Clearly articulate the social need that the proposal will fulfil. Businesses want to see clear social benefits as well as business ones.
- Are your costings realistic?
- Do you have an expertise you could sell to the business? Private profit making consultancies sell business information and intellectual property all the time - at a fee which could make your eyes water.
- Be very clear of the commitments you are undertaking and make sure you can meet them.
- Remember, corporate funding for voluntary organisations from businesses is only sustainable if there is a return to the business.