Go Ahead… Ask! The Art of Finding Donations

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Let’s say you’re in charge of your school’s annual blood drive, or you’re setting up a 5K to benefit leukemia research. Or maybe you even want to launch your own non-profit organization—like so many of the go-getter teens we’ve highlighted on Like a Boss Girls. (Go you!) In any of these situations, you’ll need to rely on generosity by finding donations to get your event or cause off the ground.

Sure, money from donors certainly helps, but so do other types of donations. Say, for example, you want to provide snacks for your blood donors at the annual blood drive. Or you want your race-day volunteers to wear matching tees for the 5K. If you’re just starting out (and short on funding), a smart strategy is to look for businesses who can donate your pizza, your shirts, a set of speakers—anything you need.

Convinced? Good. But getting goods or services donated is a tad different than asking for a straight-up monetary donation. Here are strategies to get you going:

1) Offer free advertising in exchange for the donation. Ways to do this include listing the name of the business on your organization’s website or featuring their logo in the program for a particular event. Since many businesses consider “word-of-mouth” a great way to snag new customers, they’ll often consider this type of advertising totally worth it. Plus, they get to look good by associating with your cause. This beefs up their do-gooder rep, and you score the free pizza. Everybody wins.

2) Reach out to small companies first. Here’s the sweet spot where you’ll be most likely to connect with the owner or decision-maker with very little effort. The larger the company you’re soliciting donations from, the longer it will take to get an answer and the more hoops you’ll have to jump through to get a “yes.”

3) Prepare your spiel. Be ready to provide detailed info on who you are, what you’re asking for and how it will benefit your organization or cause. You’ll also want to articulate how a gift in support of your cause lines up with their mission statement. The more compelling a case you can make, the more likely you are to secure the donation you need.

4) Send a thank-you note. This is just common courtesy, right? You write a thank-you note for birthday presents (that you may or may not like), so the least you can do is craft a sincere “thank you” to the individuals and businesses who donate goods and services. They’ll feel like their contribution was important and appreciated—and you just might turn them into a long-term supporter.

5) Think outside the box. Suggest novel ways a company can support you. Can you use some of their old inventory or discontinued items? Or how about being the guinea pig? You can encourage them to promote a new product or service through your organization.

6) Ask in person. We know—email, text or phone might make for quicker and less intimidating, options, but we really can’t understate the power of an in-person request. Why? No matter how great your cause, it’s really easy to ignore an email. But how can someone ignore YOU with your passion and enthusiasm!? You might also considering priming the company with an email, and then following up in person.

7) Find a hook. In other words, if you’re seeking donations to support an animal shelter, don’t just rattle off dry facts. Lead off with a heart-wrenching story of one animal’s journey. You don’t want to meander into cheesy territory, but find an honest and powerful story to convey your organization’s needs.

Need help with fundraising, too? Here are 10 creative fundraising ideas to get you started.

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