The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

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How to make that first call to a potential corporate partner

telephone1.jpgWhen targeting corporate partners, it's crucial to make a good first impression. Alex Hayes is here with a step-by-step guide to making the first approach

 

You’ve done your research, and you’ve put together a list of potential corporates you’d like to work with. You know why you want to work with them, what you’re hoping to achieve with the relationship, and have a good idea of what you can offer them in return.

So, you’re now ready to make your first approach. But what is the best way to do this? And how can you ensure you make a good impression that will form the basis of a lasting relationship?

 

Pinpoint the right person

 

You first need to decide who in the company to speak to. The best way to figure this out is to think of whose problem in that company a partnership with you will solve. If you are offering a volunteering opportunity, try HR. If it is increased publicity, try PR or marketing. If it is sponsorship that might lead to greater sales for them, try sales. Always aim for the head of the department.

 

Research and rehearse

 

But, before you make your approach – do your research. This will depend on the type of relationship you are looking for, but can you find information about their past partnerships or areas that are important to them? Check through their website and see if they have produced any reports on their charity work or their new strategies – they will probably publicise these.

Next, prepare a script or put together a list of questions you would like to ask them. Having this in your armoury will not only help bolster your confidence to make the call, it will also help to ensure the call is as productive as it can be.

 

Pick up the phone

 

Once you have done this, pick up the phone and start calling. We all get a huge number of emails these days which in a busy department are all too easy to overlook or ignore. Done right, a phone call is the quickest, surest and most personal way to start a good relationship.

This might not be your favourite task of the week, so block out time in your diary each week to ensure you dedicate enough time to it. Think about when you call – avoid the beginning or end of the day and lunch times.

 

Open with a qualifying statement

 

Always qualify your call by asking if they have a couple of minutes to chat. If they don’t have time to speak arrange a time you can call back. We all know what annoys us about cold calls so try and avoid doing these things. Start the call by briefly introducing yourself and explaining the purpose of your call – be upfront and honest.

In making that crucial good first impression, it is important to sound positive. So, although they won’t be able to see it, if you smile while you’re talking it will have the effect of lifting the whole tone of your voice.

 

Use open questions – and listen

 

Once on the phone, try to find out about what they are looking to achieve using open questions. Listen to what they have to say, rather than simply telling them lots of facts about your organisation.

Using the information they give you, you can then show them the benefits of working with you. These will depend on the type of partnership you are looking for but if you are speaking to HR, then this could be around employee motivation or skills development, if you are speaking to marketing it can be about the audience they will be exposed to.

 

Secure the next call/meeting

 

Most importantly, secure your next call or meeting with them. This can be as simple as asking them when is best for you to call again or saying you would like to discuss your ideas with them in more detail face to face. You will have to use your judgement about when is best to ask for a meeting as this may not be during your first call with them.

Remember this can be a long process so don’t get disheartened if you don’t hear from them immediately. The purpose of most calls is to get a meeting with the organisation, and this can take months.

 

Be clear on next steps

 

Once you have secured a meeting, make sure you are fully prepared for it and try to match with them as much as possible – consider the language you use and even what you wear to the meeting, this should fit with their organisation as they will be buying into you as a fundraiser as well as the charity.  

 

Discuss their objectives and any problems they may have during you meeting. You can use this information to work up an attractive business proposition which you can send through to them. This should evidence the benefits to them as an organisation.

By following these steps, you will give yourself the best chance of securing a mutually beneficial relationship in a competitive area of fundraising.

 

Alex Hayes is head of projects and fund development at the Foundation for Social Improvement. Alex regularly trains on corporate fundraising and the courses are free for charities with a turnover of up to £1.5M. Click here for more information.

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