A major challenge for corporate fundraisers is how on earth do you start to build a relationship with a company that would be a great strategic fit, but where you don’t currently know anyone, (and which is reluctant to talk to you on the phone or answer your emails).
So how do you secure meetings with key companies from scratch?
The Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme includes strategies to solve this and dozens of other challenges that corporate fundraisers face. On the last programme I shared four tried and tested strategies for securing meetings with key companies. Here is one – The Ambassador Strategy.
This is something that Hannah Glasgow from Parkinsons UK, who attended the Mastery Programme in 2015, has used to excellent effect.
Option 1 – Create an ambassadors group.
Because she didn’t have enough contacts at key companies, she set about creating a volunteer group of senior business-people who had already helped Parkinson’s UK, for example as major donors, participants on events or from previous corporate partnerships. She did this by explaining the purpose of the new group – the London Business Network – to her colleagues, and seeking their advice on which existing supporters would be able to bring value to a voluntary business group to assist fundraising.
Two senior business people, both of whom cared deeply about the mission of Parkinson’s UK, chaired the new group and signed invitations to around 50 names the internal discussions had generated.
At the first meeting which was attended by 20 interested individuals, brief presentations about the charity’s and Business Development team plans were put forward. Around 12 well-connected business people then agreed to meet regularly to find ways to help Parkinson’s UK’s fundraising. A key element of this was in opening doors to key companies on the Dream Partner List.
- In around six months, the group has facilitated meaningful introductions (eg at least first meetings), through their contacts, to 6 of the 20 companies on Hannah’s list, and many of these relationships are progressing well.
- One of the companies, a law firm, has offered pro bono support which will be worth around £150,000.
- They have also helped the charities’ fundraising in other ways, for example leveraging their contacts to create innovative materials, which will be worth in excess of £40,000.
There are several reasons why The Ambassador Strategy works, including the power of the group to keep people motivated. But most importantly, this strategy works because powerful CEOs and Directors are able to pick up the phone and influence other senior business executives (at companies on your Dream Partner List), in a way that is very difficult for most fundraising staff to do.
So what can you do if you like this idea in principle but fear the extra level of work involved in managing a business group?
Option 2 – Appoint individual ambassadors.
At its simplest, as corporate fundraising expert Jonathan Andrews pointed out when I interviewed him last year, you could call up just three of your existing warm well-connected supporters. Ask them to meet you for coffee to give you some advice.
Over coffee, explore whether they would like to become ambassadors to your charity, which would mean meeting you eg once a quarter to help you find introductions to companies on your Dream Partner List. Be prepared to steward these people with plenty of feedback and attention, as appropriate, but in return you create a system that helps you create the valuable partnerships you really want.
Need to increase corporate or high value fundraising income? Find out how the Corporate Partnerships and Major Gifts Mastery Programmes would help.