This past Saturday, a group of SALTers went out to businesses in downtown Valpo and asked for support for our $15,000 World Relief Campaign. Getting businesses on board is a great way to get a lot of people involved in your project. You have a public event? Make sure to utilize the community bulletin boards around town or leave some brochures on the tables. You need prizes or silent auction items? Businesses can donate a monetary or in-kind donation for the event. It is always helpful if you can create an incentive for the business’ support. One example is that we put the logos of the 5k sponsors on the back of the t-shirt for the runners. Another suggestion is to make sure you go to the businesses that are most relevant to the specific project or event (like going to the sporting goods stores to advertise a 5k).
This type of outreach can get the community involved in ways that a solicitation letter can’t. Personally, I think talking to business owners is less intimidating than talking to donors directly. But the ask itself is pretty similar. Yes, you need a spiel to summarize your project in 2-3 sentences, but it doesn’t have to be a dreaded part of community outreach. The reason solicitations are annoying to businesses is because there are a lot of possible causes to give to. You need to stand out, but go back to the basics. Be polite. Be patient. Be responsive. Not every business is able to give you a stack of gift cards right away. You may need to follow up with businesses at a better time. In everything, it is important to remember that you are the one asking for the favor. But the cool thing is that if it is done right, reaching out to businesses can be mutually beneficial.