How to build your corporate prospect pipeline, without the cold call!

Fundraising of all kinds is about relationships. And this is just as true with corporate fundraising as it is with any other type of ask. In the end, you are always better off pitching sponsorship to, or requesting corporate support from, someone that you know.

Of course, the challenge is that you don’t always know who you need to know in order to get enough corporate revenue to meet your short-term targets and long-term organizational goals.

So, where do you start? How do you build your prospect pipeline?

Step One: Open with the “easy” ask
Start by having conversations with those already invested in your business. Connect with current corporate partners and see if they can introduce you to vendors, subsidiaries and affiliates who might be interested in getting involved. Then move onto Board Directors and Key Volunteers, keeping in mind that even these individuals might need a bit of prompting – don’t be shy. Prepare a short list of 3-5 companies you’re eager to approach and see if they can facilitate an introduction.

Top tip: Encourage colleagues to perform their own LinkedIn search to see who they know and where.

Step Two: Connect the dots
Research those industries that currently give to you. Industries with your most successful corporate partnerships. Are you finding support from those in retail? Banking? Food? Sport? Create a list of companies that dominate each particular space.

Figure out how to connect with people working with companies on your list. If you aren’t able to obtain a direct introduction from colleagues, brainstorm other opportunities to network. Attend key industry events, award ceremonies and conferences within each sector. I spent a lot of time at food industry award banquets and new product conferences when I was at Food Banks Canada and it wasn’t for the content – it was to build up a focused network that I could access in years to come.

Step Three: Research like it’s your job (because it is)
Scope out the competition. You might be running a charity – but you’re also running a business. Do a competitive analysis and get to know brands sponsoring or entering into partnerships with your top three competitors. Do they represent a new industry you haven’t considered yet? Are there similar companies who might be looking to support your cause?

Pay attention to corporate and charitable events taking place within the sector. Who are the sponsors? In what ways are they offering support? Attend these events and make as many connections as you possibly can.

Step Four: Back to the drawing board
If the conversations you’re having aren’t getting you any closer to landing potential corporate sponsors, it’s best to go back to square one. Sign yourself up for a conference on corporate charity relationships.

Here you will have the chance to mingle with community investment and CSR representatives from a variety of industries. In fact, if you’re new to corporate fundraising, this is a great place to start.

Take time to learn the lingo and get a feel for what companies are looking for when it comes to choosing a charitable partner. These folks spend all of their time building great initiatives between charities and companies – and, as an added bonus, they speak about it! Take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the experts.

Check out conferences such as: Companies and Causes, Corporate Sessions at AFP Congress, CSR conferences with Board of Trade, etc.

Now that you have a list of companies and contacts, prepare yourself for the outreach and discovery process that follows. Why should these companies work with you over the competition? Advice on how to prep your pitch – coming soon!

Let me know how your list-building is going by commenting below or email me at heather@bridgeraise.com.

You’ve got this!

Heather