Asking Businesses to Invest in Your OrganizationFeb 23, 2021
You have your list of business prospects, you have your materials ready to go, and you’ve cultivated your prospects. Okay, now you’re ready to ask for funding. But wait. Are you sure you’re ready and the prospect is ready? And who is going to make the ask? How many people should go on the call? How many is too many? How many is not enough? And what do you need to take with you?
When Is It Time to Make the Ask?
Often the prospect will indicate that it’s time to ask!
After you’ve been doing this for a while, you will usually know when you are ready to make an ask. General rules of thumb say you are ready to make an ask when the following is true:
- The prospect knows enough and cares enough about your organization to be motivated to give (often after attending a cultivation event).
- You know enough about the prospect to know how much to ask for (you’ve done your research).
- This is a good time for the prospect. (For example, if the company is ready to file bankruptcy, it is not a good time. If it has just declared record earnings for the quarter, it is likely a good time.)
- You’ve strategized on who should make the ask (you’ve held a strategy meeting with the “ask team”).
- You have a good idea which of your programs or projects the prospect is likely to support (more research on your part).
- You ask team is comfortable making the ask (they’ve been trained and have rehearsed the ask).
Who Should Make the Ask?
The right “ask team” is just as important when approaching businesses as it is when approaching major individual donors—maybe even more so. During your strategy session before the meetings, determine who should be part of the team. You typically want to send two people to see a business leader. Most often, that will be the CEO of your organization and the volunteer who can open the door. The best rule of thumb, always: Send the person who has the best relationship with this prospective donor. Some questions to ask can help you choose the rightask team:
- Who has a relationship with this business leader?
- Who does business with this company?
- How much and what type of business?
- Who has information this prospect will likely be interested in hearing?
- Do we have any employees of this company involved as volunteers for our organizations?
Once you have a list of potential connections, you can select your “A Team” to visit with the prospective corporate donor. Look for the following:
- A staff member who will have relevant information to give the prospect
- A volunteer who has a good connection with the prospect
- Possibly a third person who will arrange the meeting
Materials to Take Along
Okay, you’ve selected your team. Now to choose what to take along on the call. Should you take a proposal, or will this be a preliminary meeting before the final ask is made? Often businesses will not want to spend as much time in the “courting process” as perhaps an individual donor would. So you should plan the ask meeting with this in mind. You might want to take a proposal and give it out if the prospect indicates the company is prepared to make a decision quickly on this project.
Depending on how familiar the prospective donor is with your organization, you might want to also take supporting materials, such as an annual report, an economic impact statement, a case for support, organization brochures, or fact sheets. If you are talking to this prospect about company volunteer programs, also have your organization’s volunteer program information available. As we’ve discussed, you don’t want to bombard a business leader with a lot of information. But have these items ready in case it comes up in conversation.
The two key things many business leaders will want to see are your annual report and a quick and easy-to-read fact sheet.
Are You Ready for the Ask?
Okay, you’re geared up now. But before the visit, be sure you’ve rehearsed the ask. How much time do you have with the prospect? Who will start the small talk? How long will you spend on chitchat before diving in? Who will present the case? How long will this take? Who will actually make the ask? Who will schedule the next step (if there is one) with the prospect?
Even if your volunteers and staff have done this before, you should have some “training” for them in making the ask. Although role-playing might sound corny to some, it does help people feel at ease. You might need to have an outside facilitator come in to train your staff and volunteers in making the ask. Here are the major differences in asking for business gifts, as opposed to individual gifts:
- It is easier because the prospects aren’t parting with their own money.
- If the prospects are qualified, it probably won’t take as long because the business leaders will be prepared to make decision or at least refer your request to the appropriate decision makers.
- Volunteers will have an easier time “getting in the door” because they will be calling on companies with which they already have a relationship.
- If you’ve done your homework, you (and the volunteers) will be meeting with the decision maker(s).
- It is generally easier to determine the appropriate ask amount for a business based on public knowledge about the company’s giving patterns and the volunteers’ judgment.
- Business leaders are typically able to make decisions on their own without consulting advisors, partners, spouses, etc., and without talking it over (unless there is a giving committee that makes the final decision).
So, now you should be ready for the ask.
To learn more about raising money from businesses, take my course, Raise More Money from Your Business Community. Sign up here