It can be super easy to fall into the trap of doing things like your group has always done things for a few reasons. First, it’s easy to do the same thing you’ve always done. Second, it’s comfortable to do what you’re used to doing. But as easy and comfortable as it may be, it can be big time limiting.
For example, with fundraising, the vast majority of schools rely on school families as the primary vehicle. But that’s a huge mistake. Here’s why:
1. Families only have so much money.
2. Families with multiple children are getting called on multiple times.
3. Families are the low hanging fruit, but have shallower pockets than other funding vehicles.
The solution to this problem is easy: look beyond families for fundraising!
I really should’ve called this post How to Partner with Businesses, but that doesn’t sound like such an exciting post, right? Anyway, the rest of this post is all just that.
First, do some research.
Look at companies and businesses that are in your town/city/region. Figure out what companies would be a good business to approach.
Not sure who to approach? Companies that serve children the same age as your PTO services are a good match!
Likewise, don’t forget about the parents. Basically, include any business or company who has a service or product that your school families probably want or already use!
Second, draft a letter.
In the letter, you should:
Be clear on who you are.
All letters to companies should include a short introduction of who your group is to give the company an initial idea of why your group is a good candidate for a donation. Are you a 501c3 non-profit where donations are tax deductible? Don’t forget to mention that gem of information in the letter.
Be clear on what you want the donation for and why they should participate.
If your group isn’t crystal clear on why you want a contribution, then your request is going to get denied in an instant. You have to be exceptionally clear on what you’ll do with the money and the more specific you are, the better.
For example, if you’re running a 5k run/walk to raise money for new playground equipment and you’re looking for sponsorships, say just that. But also don’t forget to mention that your playground is in disrepair and has recently been deemed unsafe to play on by the school district service department. The details matter!
Be clear on what the business will get in return.
If you’re asking for anything more than something in the $50-100 range, I would definitely provide something more than a thank you letter to the company. You’d be best off offering some kind of public acknowledgment of the contribution.
Maybe all sponsors are listed in the email newsletters in the weeks leading up to the event. Perhaps you’re doing a sponsor of the week post on Facebook for all to see. Maybe their name/logo will be printed on the back of the t-shirt for the event. For significant contributions, companies are going to want to see something where it is clear that they were a major contributor with publicity. And don’t for one minute discount the huge value of companies getting to directly target this publicity to everyone who the school reaches. It’s no small thing. Advertising, no matter the platform, save word of mouth, is expensive and no small thing.
Be clear on what you want.
If you want a donation of $500, then ask for it. If you want $10,000, then ask for it! You can’t beat around the bush. Ask for what you really want and need and since you’re being clear on why you want/ need it and what the company will be getting in return for their contribution, it should be an easy give for the business to make. And don’t be afraid to go for it! The answer to an unasked question is already no, so there’s nothing to lose by asking.
Want the specific language to use in a fundraising letter? That and so much more is available in the Fabulous Fundraising Guide for PTA/PTOs.
Third, decide on the method of your ask.
Will you go in person with the letter in hand? Mail it? Submit an online request? Depending on what companies and business you’re asking, you’ll have to tweak how you’ll ask. You’ll probably have to invest some time into figuring out what is appropriate.
Generally, for independently owned businesses, you’ll want to go in person and for bigger companies, they’ll likely have formal request submission process you’ll have to follow. Check out their website to learn about the details.
Fourth, follow up and follow through!
If you don’t hear back from a company, don’t let that be the end of it. People are busy and it’s easy for donation requests to be lost in the shuffle. Make sure to follow up within a few weeks of submitting your request.
If you do get a contribution from a business, make sure to send acknowledgement of the donation right away and also follow through on the publicity, etc. you promised to the company.
Over to you!
Have you had success partnering with businesses? Do tell below!