Fortune 500 companies have budgets dedicated to philanthropy and social responsibility. They are actively looking to sponsor non-profits. This is excellent news for your non-profit organization – as long as you know how to approach Fortune 500 companies. They are a completely different beast to small businesses or individual donors. Here are 5 tips for approaching Fortune 500 companies to secure donations for your cause.
Brevity is Key
Decision-makers in Fortune 500 companies are busy people, so brevity is the name of the game. A common mistake that non-profits make is that they need to send an email that encapsulates their mission and why that company would be a good fit. They put pressure in that initial email, thinking they only have that one chance to close the deal.
That's the wrong mindset to have. You wouldn't expect to get married by the end of the first date, would you?
Instead of expecting to get a commitment from a Fortune 500 company the first time you contact them, approach the decision-maker with the goal of establishing a relationship. Send a brief email of 150-words or less telling them:
Being brief will set you apart and increase your chances of getting a response.
Approaching cold outreach as relationship-building has the added benefit of allowing you to get to know the Fortune 500 decision-maker before the time comes for your ask. Every person and company is unique and will see different benefits to donating to your cause. However, you won't see that uniqueness until you've moved past that initial engagement.
Research the Decision-Maker
Research is what sets you apart from every other person who cold contacts decision-makers. We've all received those messages on LinkedIn telling us that they think we'd be interested in an opportunity irrelevant to our profile. Those messages don't get responses.
Start by spending a little bit of time researching who to contact. LinkedIn makes this really easy to do. For example, you can find out who the company's CSR or Corporate Philanthropy Officer is. Once you know the decision-maker, you can also use LinkedIn to learn about that person. People talk a lot about themselves on LinkedIn, so take some time to browse their profiles and learn about them. You'll likely be able to find something in common that you can reference.
This connection, coupled with focusing on the relationship instead of the ask, will likely get a response.
Outreach When You're Not Fundraising
The best time to engage Fortune 500 decision-makers is when you don't need anything from them. This will separate the relationship building from the ask. It will be a pleasant surprise that you want to develop a relationship with them instead of asking them for money shortly after meeting them.
Once you have established the initial contact, the next step should be to continue to build that relationship. The best way to do that is to ask them if they would be interested in a 15-minute Zoom meeting. This is more personal than just sending a link to your website or a standard information pack. It is also respectful of the decision-makers' time and effort. There is no extra time for commuting and parking, so they are only committing to 15 minutes.
How Much Money to Ask For
It is easy to get analysis paralysis when it is time for the ask. Fortune 500s often have large philanthropic budgets, but how much can you ask for?
When researching the company and the decision-maker before outreach, research how much they usually donate to non-profits. Large publicly traded companies need to list their charitable donations in their annual report, so you can get a lot of information there. In addition, the amounts they donate to similar causes or similar size non-profits will give you an approximate idea.
Don't bring up this research when you are in conversation with the decision-maker. You will know when they are thinking about donating when they start asking questions that allow them to calculate their donation size. For example, they might ask about the resources you need for a project or how many people you need. When they ask questions about resources, they are doing the math in their head.
Let the decision-maker talk when they're deciding their donation amount. In many cases, they may even volunteer information about how much they have donated to other non-profit organizations. It might be worth creating a proposal if they can't decide in one meeting.
Don't be afraid when asking a Fortune 500 company for a donation. They have a separate philanthropy budget and want to donate to non-profits. Their deeper pockets mean that the numbers will often be more significant, which can cause a lot of nerves around the ask. One of the things that non-profits need to remember when fundraising is that while we may not be able to write a check of that size, that check could be a small amount for the donor you are speaking to.
Fundraising is About the Relationship
There is no secret formula to sales and fundraising; it is all about the relationship. If you get a no, then move on and look for someone else who resonates with you.
Relationships already exist in your non-profit, even if you have not done any outreach. Look at where you get supplies for your non-profit work and contact them. Look at the vendors or service providers who already work with your business. You never know where you may find funding or introductions.
Growth Owl's Lori Zoss Kraska joined HGA's Jason Ledlow and Trevor Nelson on our free webinar for non-profits to discuss how non-profits can partner with Fortune 500 companies. Listen to Episode #102 of the HGAFundraising webinar for more advice on how to ask Fortune 500s to support your cause.
Watch on YouTube
Listen on Apple
Listen on Spotify
Subscribe to stay up to date with new articles, webinars, and podcasts!
At HGA, we're dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations Raise More Money through coaching, auction items, and auction software.