Local businesses are a great source of donated goods and money for school and club fundraisers. Particularly with supermarkets and restaurants, donating to school fundraisers can be a useful marketing tool, as local families could become customers.

Here are some tips from Katrice who has been P&C Treasurer at her local school for a number of years, and has plenty of experience in seeking donations.

What are the different ways you can approach businesses to donate goods and services? Is one method more effective than the others?

I usually approach businesses directly or send letters in bulk letter mail out to local businesses. The letter should explain where you are from, what you are requesting the donation for, and what you can offer in return by way of promoting their business.

I think the mail out is preferred by businesses as they can deal with it in their own time and get back to you if they want to support you.  It puts very little pressure on the businesses that feel they aren’t able to assist.   I don’t often follow up by a phone call as there is usually a reason the business hasn’t responded.

Another effective way of generating donations from businesses is by asking other parents in your community to contact business contacts they may have.  Businesses tend to be more open to donating if they know the person who is asking or if they have a certain affiliation.

As most of the fundraising I have been involved in has been for schools, it’s amazing the support that you can also get from local councils.

Is it better to ask for something specific (ie a voucher worth $50) or should you leave it open?

In most cases, I find it is best to ask for something specific but without requesting a dollar value, for example, a meal voucher from a restaurant or tickets from a performance organisation.

The majority of places I have requested items from are smaller businesses that only provide a single service.  If you are asking a larger, national organisation it is sometimes best left open as they may have certain items available that you may not necessarily be able to anticipate.

What are some of the more unusual donations you have received?

The most unexpected item I’ve received is a kid’s bike from a large grocery store leftover from a Milo promotion.

The most successful items we have received for silent auctions have been holiday homes, spa vouchers, and popular restaurant vouchers.

Do you recommend going to larger corporations or smaller local businesses (or both) and why?

It is best to cover as wide a base as possible, and not to rely too heavily on small local businesses whose profit margins are already stretched.  There are so many people approaching all sorts of businesses on a daily basis that you have to anticipate you will only receive donations from a small percentage of those you approach, so the more you are able to approach the better.

Should you offer anything in return – such as signage, public acknowledgement, certificate of thanks etc?

A certificate of appreciation or a letter of thanks is a must.  Signage and general promotion will depend upon the type of event you are fundraising for. For example, at a quiz night, you can have ‘sponsor’ boards where all the businesses and donors are explicitly promoted.  You could also offer to add their logos to your school website or newsletter.

Keep in mind that there should be something in it for businesses – if you know how many people/families you expect to attend your event, you can present this information in a way that the business can see as exposure and free marketing.

What advice would you give to a school who needs to approach local businesses for donations?

You will no doubt hear ‘No’ (or silence) more than ‘Yes’, however that is no reflection on you or what you are trying to do, just persevere and you will be rewarded for your efforts.

The more parents you can get involved in seeking donations the better.

Use contacts at other schools as you are usually in the same position when it comes to fundraising and sharing your knowledge can make life so much easier.

Other things to consider

Make sure you leave your name and contact details on any letter/paperwork you leave with businesses. If they cannot get in contact easily to let you know they have something to give you, they may not go to any extra effort to google the school’s contact details.

Make sure you are very clear about a) the date of your event and b) the date you need donations by. If you plan on wrapping your donations into a hamper and then having it on display in the school office for a week or two, you need to be clear that donations must arrive by a certain date.

For the ultimate list of places to find unexpected sponsors and donations you never thought of click here.

For a different perspective, click here to read about what it is like to be on the other side, and be a small business who is constantly approached for donations.

And for some tips on how to get donations from parents click here.

Author: Shannon Meyerkort

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