A Non-profit Primer Part II (How to Succeed With Businesses Without Being Trying)

This is the second installment of a series of articles on how non-profits can work better with businesses. To read the first article, click here.

In the previous article we talked about creating Clearly Stated Needs (CSNs) But you need to know how to use those CSNs effectively. So I’m going to give you some tips on a systematic approach to raising more funds, volunteers and awareness for your cause.  And you can do most of it while eating lunch (or dinner).

First and foremost, become a member of at least one Chamber of Commerce.  Attend Chamber events and participate in chamber activities regularly–at least one time per month.  Read the Chamber newsletter and be strategic about which staff is going to the events.  Volunteer to help with a Chamber event.  You can meet a lot of people if you are helping with registration or name tags.

Only give out your business card if asked for it.

When you go to Chamber events and take members of your staff with you.  Make sure they understand in advance that they each have to sit at a different table and (scary!) talk to people they don’t know.  Prep all the staff on a “theme of the day” that you all talk about consistently.

Our agency’s “theme” or elevator speech was always loosely based on our agency’s mission statement and our most pressing CSN that we were trying to solve. Everyone you talk to at the event should get some version of the same information. We were often surprised to discover that we had resolved our CSN by the event’s end.

A couple of other business etiquette pointers to share with your staff:

  • Everyone should take business cards and only give them out if asked.
  • Be sure to ask your “sources” for their business cards (and follow the Japanese custom of making a positive comment about the card before you stick it in your pocket).
  • Each staff member should follow-up on any requests for information as soon as they return to the office.
  • Immediately send a Thank You note to each “source” who gives you a referral.

    Thank you notes are your "unfair" advantage.

Above all, the biggest key to making this work for your agency is the ongoing systematic approach.  You may have to go to several events before you can build up your business credibility.  You can accelerate that process by having a business-owning board member take you around and introduce you, but you must be physically present to make this work. If you only go a few times and quit or aren’t consistent about attending at least monthly, don’t even start going because you will lose credibility for your cause.

So find the closest Chamber of Commerce today and inquire about their non-profit members rates.  I guarantee that if you follow my plan you will make back your investment several times over.

Stay tuned for the next article on working with other organizations in your community to leverage your access to resources and help.

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