Meet our Expert

IlanaIlana Jackman – Senior Consultant, Mira Kelly Fundraising Consultants

Ilana joined Mira Kelly, a strategic fundraising consultancy, in 2013. Prior to that, as a fundraiser, Ilana has raised in excess of £20m during her career across small to large organisations, including The NSPCC and Jewish Care. She has in-depth senior experience across fundraising markets including corporate partnerships, major donors, volunteer boards, events and initiatives. She is currently working with Kingston University to set up their major donor fundraising programme.

“I often hear about charities receiving corporate donations but we never seem to have any success with these. Do you have any advice on approaching companies for donations?”

The answer

Corporate fundraising is a fantastic way to raise income, gifts in kind, pro bono support and volunteers for your cause. Trends show that corporate charitable giving has suffered in the downturn, but companies are still donating. Therefore, if you get your prospect and ask right you could secure a whole new stream of income.

The single most important question is ‘who do you know?’

Statistically, the most successful way to secure a corporate partnership is through senior buy-in*. Countless charities approach companies, especially the most well-known, so they need a reason to meet with you. An endorsement from someone they respect opens doors.

Action: investigate your networks of volunteers, trustees, lay leaders and staff to understand who they know and who they are willing to introduce you to.

Who should you ask?

Consider your size and locale. For example, to secure support from a national retailer, you have to operate in every city where they have a store. If you only operate in one city or area, then a company headquartered there might be excited about partnering to connect staff to local projects.

What should you ask them for?

As with any donor, the focus has to be on what they want to achieve through giving. With businesses, the motivation is clear – they want the best value for their company. Charities often offer benefits that businesses don’t value: £500 of marketing budget spent on an advert in your event brochure will get them exposure, but is your audience the right audience, and have they ever had any enquiries from similar event advertising? The same goes for the proposed PR value of appearing in your magazine or having signage in your head office. Staff morale is another soft benefit that you would have to quantify to sell. Most companies are not looking for ways to distract their staff from doing their job!

Action: consider what you know about their business and what value might appeal to their core business objectives. Do you have a close relationship with hundreds of young people who could give them a valuable insight into the shopping habits of that demographic? Would your database of parents like you to sell their contact details so they can receive exclusive discount offers? Are you a mental health charity with research and expertise which could help their HR department tackle sticky personnel issues? Do you have family-friendly facilities that could add value to their staff loyalty package, driving down the cost of staff turnover? Could a gift to your environmental charity encourage their staff to participate in a competition to drive down electricity overheads?

Start slow. You may need to engage them with your charity before you make your full ask. Is there something small you can use to start a relationship? For example, law firms have fluctuating levels of work, but constant numbers of staff. This means that staff aren’t working on contracts all the time, and is therefore why law firms offer pro bono – they would rather that their staff are getting more and different legal experience. Gifts in kind are a fantastic way of engaging a retailer, as there will be stock that they need to shift and it may be cheaper to give it away than warehouse it. At first they will just offer you free things, so you may feel more like the Head of Volunteers than the Head of Corporate Fundraising. You need to know how you will field actions about volunteering and in-kind gifts and where possible you need to embrace the opportunity in order to develop the relationship.

Action: start slow and stay focused on your target so that you can keep re-evaluating the likelihood of success.

Do your sums!

Factor in full cost recovery in any package. Your staff time spent on this is an opportunity cost to your organisation. And understand what the company would pay for your package on the open market.

In brief:

Get a senior introduction.

Offer them something that helps them achieve core business objectives.

Draw them and their staff into a mutually enjoyable mutually beneficial long-term partnership.

* Some companies won’t be lobbied and want all charitable adoptions to come from staff recommendations, but that is unusual.