A Non-profit Primer (How to Succeed with Businesses without Being Trying) Part IV

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

Too many organizations make the mistake of only showing up at a business when they need something.  Keep in mind, every time you ask a business to donate something to your cause, you are probably the 20th person to ask them for something this year.  You have to treat this relationship as a two-way street.

Think about what you can do to help them. FYI–“free” publicity at your event just won’t cut it.  One of the easiest ways you can be creative about how to help a business, is to ask them what they need (novel, huh?). Then think about how you can help deliver some or all of their needs to them.  For example, it they are trying to get in front of more business owners, invite them to your next Board Meeting and have them give a 5 minute presentation.

Here are a few other ideas to help you “farm” for resources instead of having to go hunting each and every time you need something.

1.     Offer to speak at any Rotary, Kiwanis or Sertoma clubyou can lay hands on.  They are always looking for speakers and they are more likely to support causes they know about in the future. Don’t ask for money the first time you go speak unless you have ok’d it with the program chair. Make sure to follow-up your speaking engagement with a thank you note so you’ll be remembered.

Attend as many business events as you can.

2.     Find trade groups that fit with your mission and work with them.  Attend their functions and volunteer on their committees.  One example for the flood recovery group I worked with was the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis, but for a youth agency, a trade union might be a great fit.

3.     Business or professional groups are also a great place to give talks to pre-prep a group for a future need.  Make sure that you have a clear idea of how your organization’s mission and Clearly Stated Needs (CSNs) fit with their group’s mission.  For example the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) is a good fit if you work with an organization that promotes self-esteem in young girls. Chambers of Commerce can offer access to a large business audience all at one time at their monthly meetings.

3.     Don’t overlook churches.  Many of them have groups that are interested in knowing more about the programs that your agency may have.  They can be amazing resources and they have access to lots of people available to volunteer for events or programs. One local group who is trying to raise awareness about homelessness is working with church youth groups to hold an homelessness simulation event. They have so many willing participants, they are trying to work out the logistics of doubling the size of their event.

Bonus Tip: Stack the deck when you attend or speak at a meeting by having one of your Board Members who is already involved in that group introduce you. You can “borrow” some of their credibility and put it to work for your organization. Just make sure to treat their reputation as the valuable resource that it is.

The important thing is to think long and hard about how you want your organization to be perceived by the business community. Avoid being thought of as a mooch and focus on being a helpful partner to the businesses that support you.

I’d love to hear any ideas or challenges you’ve had in working with non-profits.


Filed under Non-Profits

2 responses to “A Non-profit Primer (How to Succeed with Businesses without Being Trying) Part IV

  1. Great post! I agree that non profits can hit businesses too often and I like your suggestions for generating interest in their causes.

    Win, Win is always a good approach!

  2. Mickey

    Those are all really good ideas, Jill. It would be good to see some non-profits take a closer look at how they’re interacting with the business community.

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