When I first started working for a small charity, I wanted nothing more than to hold in front of me a concrete prospect list. In my mind, this list was the one thing separating me from quality leads and corporate dollars.

Well, I was wrong (sort of). Years (and many long lists) later, I now know that just having a list will get you nowhere – it’s what you do with the lists that counts.

All that being said, you need to start somewhere. That’s my first job: getting that monkey off your back, so you can move on to the good stuff – building relationships with the people on your list!

Creating a Quality List

A year ago, I shared a blog called Building your Corporate Pipeline <here>. In it, I gave you 3 ways to add businesses and corporations to your prospect pipeline. I challenged you to:

  1. Start with having conversations with current corporate partners or contacts and see if they can introduce you to vendors or affiliates.
  2. Look at the companies and businesses that currently give to you and then make a list of other companies in that same industry. Keep an eye out for workshops, conferences, events and other networking opportunities within the sector.
  3. Scope out the competition and find out which companies or types of companies are supporting them. Then think about why, so you can leverage that information to add more companies on your list.

I stand by those suggestions to get things started – and now it’s time to take things one step further.

Many of you have reached out, telling me that your prospect pipeline still needs help. You have told me you are struggling to get enough companies on your list and struggling even more to engage with them once you do. I hear you – and I’m here to help.

Over the next few weeks, you will be able to access a series of blogs and tip sheets that will help you add more corporate prospects to your list. You’ll also learn how to engage them successfully in order to build a healthy prospect pipeline from scratch.

Building Your Corporate Pipeline from Scratch

Okay, so conversation with partners, lookalike donor research and analysing the competition – are 3 great ways to get your prospect list up and running. Why stop there? Here are 3 more ways to keep it growing!

  1. Leverage your board.

Warm connections through staff, committee members and board members have significantly greater success than cold outreach. Yet we all know that accessing board connections is harder than it looks.

The solution? Go slow and be intentional. This is not about sending one email targeting the entire board. It is about reaching out to the one board member you have identified as being someone who could make a handful of quality introductions. Ask for a meeting and talk to them about what you want to do and why. Together, make a plan of who they can introduce you to and how you can support them in bringing 1 or 2 new relationships to the organization. Don’t start with money, start with alignment and potential when choosing the best candidates, and the rest will follow.

  1. Leverage your senior program team members.

I remember the first time I took the Senior Research Director on a corporate discovery meeting with me. He and his counterpart from the company, in this case it was a Government Relations Director, immediately started discussing the size and scope of the social issue. It soon came to light that both of them were having similar conversations with representatives in Ottawa. By the time the conversation turned to me, and about how we could all work together, a relationship had already been forged.

The point is, you don’t have to look far to find people who have relationships with potential corporate partners at your organization. From members of the program team, to the research team and to members of the executive, sometimes it just takes a good conversation to get things rolling.

Bonus *** From that time onwards, my Senior Research Director had a different appreciation for what fundraisers really do when it comes to building quality relationships with potential corporate partners. This understanding would help me build my case when asking for introductions in the future.

  1. Build your list based on networking.

I’ve gone on the record preaching this before and here I go again: you will be more successful if you get out there and meet people than if you spend tons of time researching companies to put on a list. Talking to representatives of companies and trying to engage them is a much more direct line to getting a meeting than almost any other approach.

So, get up and get out! Identify some industry-related events and sign on up! Meeting people and talking passionately about your work more often than not turns into something good for your charity.

If you are a local organization, go to the local Chamber of Commerce networking breakfasts. Find conferences, workshops and events that align with your cause and companies that might connect with it.

It’s important to be visible with the people you want to connect with so they have an opportunity to connect with the work you do. Being seen at the right events builds credibility for you and your charity.  After all, conversations can’t happen unless you’re around to have them!

What Comes Next

Now that we’ve started to add the names of companies and businesses to the prospect list, here’s what we’re going to do:

  • April 4: Build your introductory messaging
  • April 18: Connect with your corporate prospects
  • May 2nd: Expanding the relationship with your corporate prospects and partners

Phew – that’s about it. Felt like a lot didn’t it? Don’t worry, I’ve created a summary of these tips with some specific steps to make them happen. Just click on this link and I will send you Building your Prospect List like a Pro!

And the next step is coming soon! Look for it in the upcoming called: The Curse of the Elevator Pitch – and what to do about it.

You’ve got this!


P.S If something I’ve suggested isn’t quite working, I want to know, send me a note and let’s figure it out [email protected]. I want to make sure you have a list of corporate prospects that works, so that we can take the next step together.