Supporting charities in developing great proposals for their corporate prospects is one of my favorite things to do! I have seen and put together so many proposals that I know just how to catch the eye of corporate sponsors – and I am excited to share this with you!
First of all, by now you’ve probably heard me say (forcefully, but with love 😉 ) that NO proposal should be written before you’ve had a conversation with your corporate contact. (You can read here about the importance of a Custom Proposal, and here about Not Filling out the Form). A formal proposal is just the opportunity to put in writing what is required to close the deal. It is not a conversation starter.
Now, once you’ve had the conversation, ensuring that you’ve sketched out objectives and key messages and have supporting documentation in place, you’re ready to start pulling together a killer proposal. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:
1. Focus on the Client
From the very first sentence to the closing line, your proposal is all about the prospect. Focus on how your event supports their values and what benefits they will receive from partnering with your charity. When it comes to describing the work your charity does, less really is more. You don’t need pages of background, history, or profiles on existing programs.
Make a case that shows your charity is credible and does good work, and let the numbers speak for themselves.
2. Make it Easy to Read
Many companies have rules about how short an email or proposal has to be, and usually, these limits are short – super short! So, as you write, think about how you can distill what you want to say into the shortest number of words, coupled with lots of white space and pictures that make your proposal easy to read. If it’s a form, don’t use every single available space. If it’s a PowerPoint deck, see if you can keep your proposal to 4-6 slides.
I have never met a corporate partner that was afraid to ask for more information if they needed it. NEVER. The easier your proposal is to read and the clearer it is, the easier it is to say yes.
3. Tell a Story
As you layout your proposal, be sure to create a thread; a story that builds throughout. What’s the arc of the PowerPoint? Where does the impactful client story fit? How do the marketing benefits support what you’re trying to say? Think about the main points to be covered and then how a reader would want to absorb this information. And don’t forget, the hero of the story… is the company!
I can already hear some of your objections to what I am proposing, so let’s talk it out. Here’s are some alternatives you may be toying with – and why they just won’t work:
The “Kitchen Sink” Approach
This is the proposal that includes all the things your charity does as well as a menu selection of ways the company can support them. If you can’t decide what you need from them, how are they supposed to? You work on this every day! Take responsibility and put your best, most aligned offer forward. Don’t know what that is? Don’t write a proposal.
The “We Are Awesome” Approach
Yes, you are! And your work is too. And as result, you probably have many philanthropic supporters.
However, there are ALOT of awesome charities out there, and companies have to choose between them! So they need a reason to choose you, a point of differentiation. And usually that reason is about them and how you meet their needs.
The “Send Something” Approach
Don’t. Just… don’t. This approach is the kiss of death, especially when submitted before having that initial conversation. If the company rep is not willing to give you any time to discuss the best fit, what are the chances that they are going to read a big long proposal and decide to give you money? LOW, so low!
So, don’t send “something”. And if you really feel you have to send “something”, I have been helping my clients develop a “sizzle deck”. This is a preview of the proposal and organization, designed to pique their interest. It does not include detail or price. It’s about getting them excited and willing to set up a meeting.
If you’re starting to throw ideas together, be sure you touch upon these key points:
- Why you align and work together or should work together
- What you are working on and where it is going next
- Why it matters and how you are measuring it
- How the company can make it happen
- How you can share the impact together with others
Notice there is no in-depth history or background about the charity? That’s because you don’t need it. If you feel like you have to include it, make it a sentence at the beginning – keep it short!
I hope this helps you with your next proposal, but if you need more, I’m here. Call, ask, reach out. We can make your proposals better, together!
P.S. I have 2 spaces left for 6-months of coaching and corporate moves management support! Need someone to review your proposals and ensure you get the callback? Or better yet, do you need someone to help with the conversation before that? Building alignment between companies and charities is my not-so-hidden super-power. We can make more corporate revenue happen, together.