Earlier this year I read a great blog by expert fundraiser, Gail Perry, called “10 Power Questions Your Donors Will Love.” It focused exclusively on building genuine relationships with donors and offered some great tips for major gift fundraisers.
As you know, I believe a mind shift is required to move from major donor fundraising to corporate fundraising, and as I read Gail’s blog, I thought how useful it would be to have an equivalent set of questions available for the corporate fundraising crowd.
For those of you who are new to both major donor and corporate fundraising, this list serves as a way to start a knockout conversation with your sponsor. Some of these questions could be used as part of an introductory call, while others could be used to build your discovery meeting agenda. Either way, they are sure to prompt a meaningful conversation with any potential corporate sponsor.
10 Questions to Ask Your (Future) Corporate Sponsor
- Are you familiar with my charity? What are your impressions about us? If yes, what experience have you had with us?
This type of open question is a great place to start and allows you to know exactly where you (and your charity) stand when approaching the negotiating table. Has the person had a personal experience with your charity? Or are they familiar with a company connection? If yes, ask them to elaborate and share their store. You will immediately find out if there is good or bad history and consequently a positive or negative bias going into the initial discussion.
While you’ll hope for a positive reply, a negative one provides ample opportunity for you to turn the relationship around and prepares you for any hesitation or lack of trust you may feel coming your way. If your potential sponsor has no experience with your organization, DO NOT leap into a long explanation. Offer up 1-2 sentences about who you are at the VERY HIGHEST level and then move on.
- Did you know that my charity has [fill in the blank] in common with your company?
This particular question demands that you do your research and identify a connection between yourself and your corporate sponsor. It could be an employee volunteer engagement that has taken place, a board member that works at the company, or the fact that your charity responds to their priority in community investment. If you are selling a sponsorship, the best thing you can share is a target audience. Not sure? Sit on it, fish around and bring it up in conversation further down the road.
- What part of our work interests you most?
I borrowed this one directly from Gail Perry’s list, and you know why? Because it enables you to quickly identify corporations who are interested in investing in your programming and allows you to hone in on one or two key programs of interest.
Keep in mind, their interest may not stem from the fact that you do great work. It could be because your beneficiaries are meaningful in some way to the company, or it could be that they have identified your cause as a key priority. Avoid making any assumptions and, when appropriate, make sure you cover the why.
- Do you have a particular target audience that you have prioritized engaging as part of your plans this year?
Learning about your corporate prospect’s target audience is critically important. If you don’t have overlap here, or the ability to create it, you will be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to winning sponsorship support. If you do have community investment alignment and a great program initiative, the conversation might be worth continuing but your value add would be far greater if you had target audience alignment too.
- Could you tell me about how you normally work with charities? OR could you tell me about your current key sponsorships?
Now if you have done your homework, it’s likely you already know the answer to this question. Still, this will give them a chance to tell you where they’d like to increase or lessen their focus; where relationships are growing or where they are wrapping up. You will hopefully also get a sense of what they understand to be both important and successful.
- What do you like to see as part of a sponsorship package? What do you like to see as part of your corporate partnerships?
These questions will get the ball rolling in the direction you want, but if they don’t feel quite right, then my recommendation is to turn the conversation around by asking your contact for their input. Ultimately, you are getting to know the person by asking for their feedback. If they have even the slightest connection to your charity then you should leverage that; if they don’t, build off their expertise and ask for advice. Some possible follow ups include:
- I know you were involved in sponsoring [fill in the blank] conference, we are thinking of running a similar conference; was there something that you really appreciated about the way the conference recognized its sponsors?
- I understand that you aren’t currently accepting proposals in this area, do you know of any companies that you think would be interested in our program/event?
And finally, you need at least a couple of questions that will lead to another meeting.
- Based on what I have learned, I would like to bring forward some ideas that I believe will meet your business objectives. Can I send you a draft for comments?
- We are pulling together a small focus group to discuss this initiative further and to ensure it is as effective as possible in fulfilling our mission, would you be willing to respond to a few follow up questions?
Your goal with corporate prospects is to build a relationship and position yourself as a solution provider. Just like in Major Giving Fundraising, the early calls are all about listening to what the other person has to say. With these two fundamentals in place, you are on your way to building a prosperous relationship with any corporate sponsor.
If you want to talk more about what it takes to shift your mindset from Major Donor to Corporate Fundraiser, drop me a note firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk it through.
You’ve got this!
PS – I recently developed a workbook that helps set you up with an agenda for corporate calls and has some of these questions worked in. If you want it, send me a note and it’s yours!