The follow-up is the key to long-term funding


November 23, 1992|By LESTER A.PICKER

Two previous columns on getting corporate donations examined planning and the initial face-to-face meeting with company officials. On the latter issue, one point was left out.

Whatever you do, get a face-to-face meeting. Use your network, board members, family members of clients, your children -- but get a personal meeting with those who control the corporate purse strings.

Giving is largely based on personal factors. If you've been diligent in planning, the personal meeting is extremely helpful. It also gives you information to include in your follow-up proposal, which will enhance your chances.

Suppose your meeting is successful and, six weeks later, a big, fat corporate donation arrives in the mail.

Once the jubilation is over, sit back down at your computer. You now have a chance to beat eight out of 10 non-profits in the game of corporate solicitation. Most corporate donors never hear from many of their beneficiaries until their next request for funding.

The key here is to nurture a single gift into a long-term supporter. That is the best way I know to make corporate solicitation pay dividends over the long haul. First, fire off a thoughtful, sincere letter of thanks, restating the need and exactly how the money will be used to benefit the client. Keep this first thank-you to one page and promise to get back to the donor within two weeks. Then, do it.

Within two weeks, after you have met with key staff, set your time lines, finalize objectives and write a detailed letter indicating how and when you will meet the marketing goals you agreed to address with the corporate funder. Again, thank the donor for the gift.

Now, based on the old fund-raising maxim -- involvement leads to commitment and commitment to resources -- design a comprehensive follow-up system that involves all your corporate funders in your agency's good works.

Just what does a comprehensive system involve?

Develop a mailing list of those who should receive press clippings that describe the work of your agency. If the article is long, include in your cover letter a one-paragraph summary of the salient points.

One word of caution here: If you receive negative publicity, don't waste your time hoping your donor won't see it. He or she undoubtedly will. Instead, send the clipping, along with an accurate account, even if that involves an admission that the agency goofed. Indicate what you plan to do to rectify the situation. Follow up with a phone call.

Send the donor copies of significant committee findings. Ask for advice. Samuel Johnson once said that "people are like stone jugs. They may be lugged about wherever you like by the ears." People like to be asked for advice. It also shows your willingness to incorporate other viewpoints.

Invite corporate representatives to kickoff ceremonies and project openings. Ask your corporate contact to breakfast or lunch if you will be in their area.

Do you have an agency newsletter? Send a copy, along with a personal note pointing out items of interest. Mention that you are available to respond to questions, and include your telephone number.

Send your corporate sources copies of interim and final reports and evaluations, especially if, through the company's efforts, significant accomplishments can be touted. In any reports of corporation-funded projects, be certain to credit your corporate funders.

If you intend to seek additional funds, let your corporate contact know well in advance. Again, document program successes and how the company's resources helped achieve those gains. Be flexible in discussing new funding opportunities. Above all, on the heels of your initial successes, try to get your corporate sources to commit to helping your future project fund raising.

While corporate funding might well be part of your financial mix, be sure to diversify your revenue stream. No company will continue supporting a non-profit organization indefinitely.

(Les Picker is a philanthropy consultant. Write to him at 71 Bathon Circle, Elkton, Md. 21921; [410] 392-3160.)

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