MY RULES FOR GETTING DONATIONS
On several occasions, I've been asked how I've gotten the amount of donations I have for banquets and fundraisers. I've been asked for advice, help writing emails, and help reaching out to people I know. Approaching business owners and companies can be daunting. People don't want to bother them and worry about rejection, but in the grand scheme of things, the worst thing they can say is, "No." There is nothing to lose when it comes to asking for donations. Below are my rules for getting donations. I'll talk success, failure, how to get donations, what can come of them, and give you an example of a message to send!
RULE #1: GIVE IT TIME, DON'T BE LAST MINUTE!
I'll probably say this about most of my rules, but this one is important! Don't procrastinate! If you only give a company a week or two to decide, there's a large chance they're going to say no. Don't rush them. To be on the safe side, I usually contact companies a month or two in advance. Sometimes, I'll even ask the moment I find out what the date of the event is. It can be a lengthy process, so don't stall. Depending on who you contact, they may need to discuss it with their team, decide what they have available, decide how much they want to give, and send their donation. In some cases, they may tell you they would like to donate, but then forget or procrastinate on getting it sent out. You may need to remind them, and that's fine, just make sure you allow for enough time.
RULE #2: Keep a list of donors, and don't be afraid to check in!
This rule goes with what I said above. If you keep a list, check off what you get and when you get it. This will keep you organized, and help you to not forget who all is donating. Don't be afraid to check in. Often times, we have had a list of sponsors and donors at our banquets. One way you can check in, is to let them know you're putting together that list or a banner, and ask them if they are still interested in donating so you can add them to it. They may just need a reminder. By keeping a list, you can also use it to send "thank you's" if you choose.
RULE #3: IT MAY NOT BE YOUR PAID JOB, BUT ALWAYS BE PROFESSIONAL!
First impressions are important. Whether its via messages or in person, how you portray yourself, matters. If you're approaching a company about a donation in person, dress like you care. Don't approach them in sweats. Nice jeans or pants and a nice top (blouse, polo, button up, whatever) should do the trick. If you're talking to them over the phone, talk like you would in an interview. Don't cuss or use slang, and my biggest pet peeve, don't ever address them with a pet name like "Sweetie." If you're approaching them via email, make sure to use correct grammar and punctuation and don't use abbreviations. You would think these are all obvious and go without saying, but you would be surprised.
RULE #4: EMAIL IS UNDERRATED!
Email is a perfect way to get in touch with companies and I had a lot of success using it. Providing you're following rule #1, this gives them time to reply. It doesn't put them on the spot, and you can give them all the information right off the bat. Using email will give you both a thread to look back on, and remember what was discussed. For example, I approached a company about donating via email, and originally, they had to decline because they had met their donation cap for the month. They told me to ask again in the future because they were still interested. When I messaged them a few months later on the same thread, they were reminded, and agreed to donate. Again, if you keep it professional, you're more likely to have success.
RULE #5: DON'T BE AFRAID TO REACH OUT TO EVEN THE LARGEST OF COMPANIES!
It might be intimidating, and they might say no, but that's okay. Often, I think people assume larger companies will reject the idea, but depending on what you offer, sometimes you can get them to donate. You can offer to display their logo, have them on a donor list in a program, and even give them a "shoutout" at the banquet. Although you want companies to donate out of the goodness of their heart, swinging it so it benefits them, can help. Ultimately, it can be a win-win situation for you both. Now, some people might say, "If they aren't going to donate just for the cause, I don't want their donation." It's important to keep in mind that banquets can't happen and would be unsuccessful without sponsors and donors. Organizations like Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation team up with companies like Sitka and Yeti, to raise large amounts of money on big ticket products. Those sponsors supply merchandise for the majority of banquets in the country, so, if all you have to do is use their logo, it's the least you could do to say, "Thank You."
This past year, I asked a taxidermist to donate to several events, and he was more than happy to. He even ended up purchasing a tables worth of tickets to attend one of the events. After he donated, he asked if anyone brought any animals to display, and surprisingly, no one ever had. I told him he could absolutely bring some pieces to help promote his business there. He ended up bringing three whitetail shoulder mounts to display, a banner with his logo on it, and business cards. Another example of this rule, a friend and I recently got a large company to donate bows to The Raise 'Em Outdoors Summer Camp. He started by emailing them, and we explained what we needed, what it was for, and told them what would happen if they donated. They agreed to donate and sent out a handful of bows to the camp. It can be beneficial to think of it as a business exchange. Don't assume that just because they have a large customer base, that they aren't interested in donating! Additionally, if you have ties to companies, use them! If you help them, they will usually help you!
RULE #6: SOCIAL NETWORKING IS JUST THAT, NETWORKING! AND IT'S HELPFUL!
I've used Instagram to get in touch with companies. If the person running the Instagram can't answer you in regards to donations, they usually point you in the direction of someone that can! This may seem unprofessional, and counterproductive to rule #3, but it's been proven to work!
RULE #7: TELL THEM ABOUT YOURSELF, THE ORGANIZATION YOU REPRESENT, AND WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR!
Again, a very important rule. If you send a message saying, "Hey, would you like to donate to so-and-so organization," first, they're going to think you're too aggressive, and B.) they're going to have a lot of questions. You want to get your point across in your original email, but you need to provide all the information they need. By filling in the blanks for them, you're not wasting their time, and overall, you seem more professional. Go into detail by telling them who you are and your place within the organization. Tell them about the organization, what the mission is, the benefits of the organization, and what the money raised goes towards. More importantly, do not assume that because it's a hunting company, the person in charge of donations knows what your organization (Whitetails Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, RMEF, etc.) is. There are plenty of people working in the hunting industry, that aren't actually hunters themselves! Lastly, tell them what you're looking for in the way of donations. See rule #8.
RULE#8: GIVE THEM IDEAS-YOU CAN BE SPECIFIC!
Tell them what you're looking for, and if you can't, give them a list of what you've already received. Some companies have never donated, so you may need to assist them. I've had companies ask what I want or need, what I already have, and if the items have to be hunting related. I've had fishing products donated before, and they have done well! From something as small as a can coozie to as big as a gun is helpful (see rule#9). You can always throw out the idea of a monetary donation as well. With monetary donations, you can either purchase items, or put the money directly into the organization.
RULE #9: ALL DONATIONS MATTER!
All donations matter. Even if it isn't what you initially had in mind, the smallest donations still matter. Donations bring in money, without costing the organization a thing, and that's the point. We want to raise as much money as we can for our cause, whether it's $0.05, or $500. Be thankful for whatever companies are willing to give you. Which leads me to my last rule...
RULE #10: THANK THE COMPANY, REGARDLESS!
Always thank the companies you reach out to. Whether they donate or not, thank them for their time and consideration. Even if they don't donate when you originally talk to them, they may in the future! Sending a simple thank you card to the ones that donate, can also potentially seal the deal for that company donating down the road.
Follow these rules, and I guarantee you'll have success! It takes a lot of time and dedication, but ultimately pays off for you(in the form of good feelings) and your organization(in the form of money). It may seem daunting, but the worst thing they can do, is say, "No." There are plenty of companies that want to donate and I've even had several companies mention that they want to work with me, and donate again in the future. I've also had the business owners ask for pictures from the banquets, and have been just as excited as I was to see how much money was raised.
Hopefully, you've found this to be helpful! Below I've included an example of an email you could use. If you have any other questions or anything you'd like to add, comment below! Good Luck!
Hi (Person or Company Name),
My name is (name), (member/committee member/founder) of (organization). Our organization...(talk about what your organization does, and why it matters. Talk about your banquet/fundraiser/event, what it is like (talk raffles and auctions), and how many people attend (they will ask if you don't tell them).
The reason I am reaching out to you today, was to ask if you would be interested in donating to (your organization). Examples of items we currently need include:..., however, any sort of donation helps. (You can also give examples of items you already have).
If you choose to donate, we can include your logo on hand-outs, banners, t-shirts, and other types of advertisements.
I appreciate your time and consideration. Let me know if you have any questions.
Your Phone Number