By Lawrence H. Trachtman courtesy of CharityChannel
In tight economic times we need to think of all possible funding options. Corporate partners can help with funding events or special projects. Unlike government or foundation grants, businesses are less likely to fund established programs, research or operating expenses. Instead, companies like to support one-time events or new initiatives that reinforce their community involvement.
Businesses give to charitable organizations for many reasons. Someone influential in the company may have a personal connection with your mission; the company may want to contribute to the community in certain areas like education or health care; strategic giving may be part of the company's long-term plan (for example job training); or the company may want to erase negative publicity it has received (such as giving to environmental causes by a company that was found polluting). Whatever the reasons companies decide to give, the tips below will increase your success in securing corporate dollars.
Your first step as the grant writer is the same as with all other types of funding requests: research. List the target companies you think will be more closely aligned to your project, event or program. Consider businesses geographically close to your organization, but don't rule out companies that have corporate offices elsewhere but plants or other facilities in your area. As with most research today, the Internet is a great place to start. Most large companies' Web sites will have a page on community relations, corporate giving or other charitable work. Look carefully at the focus area(s), the types of programs they fund, the locations where they fund, as well as contacts such as community relations staff or board members.
A personal connection is a tremendous asset to a request to a large company. This can be one of your board members or donors who knows someone, or a client of your agency who is employed by the company. Call and discuss your program with this person and ask if it is OK that you include his or her name in your request.
Most corporate grant requests are written in letter form, usually to the head of community relations, corporate giving or the company's foundation. Sometimes there may be a standard form to complete. These forms can be very limiting in space and content, so try to include a cover letter if possible.
The letter proposal should be one or two pages maximum and written on board letterhead. The following format is replicable across many types of requests. Begin with the most important information: the purpose of your request, how much you are asking for and, if possible, the name of someone who referred you to the company or an individual connected with the company. If you can, identify other committed sponsors to demonstrate broad support for your project.
The next paragraph should contain your statement of need - the problem you are addressing. Be concise but try to relate the need to the company's product or community interests. In one or two following paragraphs, describe what you are asking the money for, how it will be used and how the sponsors will be recognized. Give as much information as possible but not all the details of a larger grant request.
In the next paragraph, provide a short summary of your organization, your mission or purpose, brief history and recent accomplishments. Remember, your organization might not be a household name among the business community. Finally, conclude the letter with a thank you and a reference to additional materials you are enclosing. In a nice folder, include your 501(c)(3) letter, a list of your board members, a project budget if the request is for partial funding of a larger program, a recent newsletter, brochure and any articles featuring your organization. Some companies limit attachments so follow their guidelines.
Companies vary on reviewing grant requests at specific times during the year or as they are received. This information should be on their Web site, so time your request accordingly. For a larger request (above a few thousand dollars), you will want to meet with the community relations or grant making staff. Call to discuss your program and ask to schedule a visit. Finally, encourage your board member or other person connected with the company to follow up your written request with a personal phone call or letter.
Companies have limited dollars and many worthwhile causes to consider, give yours the best possible chance by keeping it simple and following good grant writing practices.
CharityChannel was established in 1992 as a volunteer-driven on-line community of voluntary-sector professionals just like you. Today their on-line community consists of more than 100,000 participants, with nearly 35,000 direct subscriptions to their forums and eNewsletters. Operations at CharityChannel are sustained by forum and eNewsletter sponsorship, as well as fees generated by their Resource Guide which includes a career search, classified ad section and a consultants registry. There is no cost to subscribe to any of the CharityChannel forums and eNewsletters.
Grants and Foundations Review™ is a domestic and international trademark of CharityChannel LLC. Copyright © and Trademark ™ 2002 CharityChannel LLC. All rights reserved. The article in this issue, "A Formula for Corporate Funding" is Copyright © 2002 Lawrence Trachtman.
For more information
For specific project examples and demonstrations, or more information on interactive displays, digital messaging systems and integrated donor wall projects, please contact Planned Legacy.