Partnering with Local Businesses for Community Build Playground Fundraising
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Many of our potential community build playground clients consider contacting local business in order to obtain sponsorships, gain additional volunteers or receive in-kind donations for products or services. Often these groups do not know how to begin the process because they may lack the experience or the confidence to approach businesses. The truth is these partnerships can be very beneficial to both parties.
Less can be more. A small group of volunteers to spearhead the fundraising effort from local businesses is generally best to avoid duplication of efforts and the ability for everyone to stay in communication with one another. One individual should act as the leader and one person should be in charge of keeping track of all business partnership activity. Recording what letters have been sent, what companies have been contacted and what donations or pledges have been received is very important. You certainly don’t want to have these individuals or companies approached again if they have already made some commitment. That would be uncomfortable for both entities. Good record keeping is essential for follow-up and ultimately acknowledgements and thank you letters.
Around the neighborhood. Targeting local businesses within the reach of the school, park or municipality in which the playground will be located can be a great place to start. There is a good chance that these business owners or employees will have relatives, friends or know children who will benefit from the playground project. You are likely to find business owners that played at the local park or school playground when they were children and are eager to participate. Although you may not be able to obtain cash donations from some businesses, often they may be able to provide coupons which could be used to reward large numbers of others that participate in some of your other fundraising activities.
The ask. Be direct and specific about what you are asking for. Businesses do look for non-profits to support. Don’t direct the businesses on what to donate, but provide examples and provide reasonable options for them to consider. Be careful about what time of day you approach certain types of business. It probably isn’t a good idea to contact a local coffee shop during their morning rush. Also, make sure that you ask in plenty of time and not only within a week or two of the event. Some companies will only be able to make donations at the beginning or the end of their fiscal year. So be sure to ask if there is a better time of the year to have such a partnership as your fundraising efforts may continue through a more opportune time for them to participate.
Ready, aim, shoot. The best strategy for your team is to assemble a list of businesses that you want to approach. Then draft a request letter outlining the parameters of the project and the fundraising efforts. Before any letters are sent, make phone contact first. Calling and asking to speak to the manager or owner and probing with some simple questions can save much time and effort. Learn whether the business accepts requests for donations. Then send a personalized request letter on your organization’s letterhead. Your ask letter should also tell the business what you can offer in the way of benefits, or exposure for their business. Make sure that you include a clear contact method in case the business has any questions.
You may be able to offer the business mentions in your organizations social media mentions, which could be a huge incentive for them to be involved, especially if you are part of a larger organization such a school PTA or PTO. Offer several levels of mentions depending on their commitment level.
Show appreciation. A handwritten thank you note is imperative. Divide the business sponsors and other donors up between your team members and get this done soon after the your efforts conclude. If you end up with a large number of thank you notes to be written, that was your goal, you can then reach out to other committees in your organization for assistance. If you organization is a 501(C)(3) organization, be sure to provide that information in you appreciation letter.
A well-organized team of volunteers, a timely and well thought out letter of request delivered in a timely manner, and a sincere appreciation for support and donations are the basic keys to garnering support from local businesses. If you can manage these, you are well on your way to partnering with local businesses and having a successful fundraising effort.