Heather, I’ve tried everything. I have sent so many emails (okay, more like two) and Kathy (my prospect) is not responding. When she didn’t answer the first one I sent, I fired back a short proposal on how her company could sponsor us but I still haven’t heard back. What do I do? Should I just move on to a new prospect?

No. NO! Absolutely not. Nope!

There are a lot of things you can do when you don’t hear back from a prospect. None of them involve moving onto the next name on the list.

Autofill = Autofail.

So, let’s say you’ve sent an email or two and haven’t heard back. I bet you were planning to skip right to filling out the generic online form. Am I right? Or maybe you planned to send an attachment with a bit of information to pique their interest – is that what you are thinking?

As corporate fundraisers, relationship-building is a huge part of our day to day job. It doesn’t matter whether you are seeking sponsorship or a corporate foundation grant: do not fill out the form until you’ve managed to have a conversation.

The answer to silence is more outreach, just not the same outreach. Make it different. Make it creative. And make sure it adds value. If you have to, send it to someone else in the same company – whatever you do, just don’t stop trying. Your job is to connect before proposing. PERIOD. And until there is an actual reason why that prospect is not a prospect any more, you should continue to reach out. I mean, you did put them on your list for a reason… right?

Rethink Your List.

Let’s back it up for a second. Any prospects deemed worthy enough to make your list should be in a position where they are open to connect for one reason or another. If you haven’t heard back, PAUSE and ask yourself if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • You’ve met the contact before
  • You have a clear, values-based alignment with their company
  • You have a definable solution to a business problem they have
  • Your audiences align and you can prove it
  • You have a program or service that fits their community investment priorities
  • Employee engagement is their thing and your can help them with it

If you’re not hearing back but you’ve confirmed the alignment is there, it’s time to strategize.

Option 1: Rethink the Hook

Did your first outreach really give them a reason to call back?

When I am strategizing on how to get a response from a company contact, I always suggest a thoughtful hook. This means that you are explaining why they want to respond to you. It needs to be short and clear. It may take longer than any letter you have written, This isn’t the time to cut and paste the boilerplate for your organization, or opening paragraph from great individual giving letter that just went out.   The most bang for your buck will be investing a bit of time into crafting 1-2 sentences that intrigue them enough to call you back. That’s it!

For example: “Hi Megan, We are revamping our employee volunteer program and I wanted to get your advice on a new idea. Can I have 15 minutes to talk about it with you?”

In order to come up with the right hook, you have to do your research and know how to thoughtfully connect their company and your charity. And be BRIEF.

Option 2: Stay Visible

When I am trying to get someone to answer me, I make sure I take advantage of every opportunity to get in front of them. How you go about it will vary depending on each situation, but try things like:

  1. Using social media to like their personal and company posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. Go where they are most active and start to engage.
  2. Going to an event where they, or representatives of their company, are likely to show up. Be seen! Say hi, ask a question from the audience, and introduce yourself to them or people connected to them. Stay relevant so you’re not easily forgotten.

Option 3: Get Creative

If your awesome brief, hook-based email did not work, please do not start sending them more information about you. Start sending them more information about them!

Consider shooting them a short article about the importance of employee volunteerism or link to an article about your cause or tweet them the link to a conference that you will be attending that may be of interest to them as well. Think outside the box and brainstorm creative ways to connect with your prospect on a monthly basis. Keep the relationship warm and buy your time until you (finally) get a reply! (This workbook is full of ways to help make this process easy for you. Download it here: Corporate Partner and Prospect Workbook)

After a few months of soft engagement, then maybe, just maybe, it’s time to reach out again with a more proposal oriented, (oh-so-short) email.

Remember that quality corporate fundraising takes time and remind yourself that this part of the process is about connecting and moving forward, and getting the relationship unstuck! With a little persistence and creativity, you can help your corporate partner prospect see the alignment you know is there.

Do you need help coming up with the hook? Or thinking of ways to get unstuck? I love sorting this out. Send me an email [email protected] and let’s do it together!

You’ve got this!