Casting a Broader Net - Requests for Support

Using Business Letters to Get In Kind Donations

Dear Mrs. Sanderson,

I think reaching out to local businesses for donations is a great idea. I think you should start by sending out 'requests for support.'

A 'request for support' is a kind of business letter that asks for a specific gift for the food pantry. They are kind of like grants except that you're not going to be sending it to a formally established grant maker like a private foundation or government agency. They don’t need a formal structure like a grant…a simple business letter works just fine. Since the food pantry is a ministry of the Church, we don't need to send proof of our non-profit status. Sending it on Church letterhead should be sufficient, though you should mention that the donation will be tax-deductible.

Fishing for Donations

Requests for support typically ask for in-kind donations - for equipment or product rather than funds. The cost to a business of an in-kind donation is less than for cash donation, because they are only donating the wholesale value of the item requested.

We can request equipment or food with this kind of solicitation. For instance, we can write to Lowe's and ask them for a refrigerator to keep perishable food cold. Or racking to store food. Send me your list of necessary equipment and we'll figure out a matched list of businesses to ask for each item.  We might also reach out to our Saturday Farmer's Market and ask if we can pick up what's left over at the end of the day.

To get the best possible success from this effort, we'll need to plant some seeds ahead of time. Talk to Mr. Jenson and let him know that we're going to send him out 'visiting'. Once we have a list of business names that we're going to contact, we'll send him around to introduce himself and our mission. His job will be to make a good impression (something he does very easily) and get the name of the person who is able to make decisions at the store. This will usually be either the store manager at a big chain or the business owner at a local business.

When we're preparing the list, we'll want to look to see if the businesses have websites and if their websites have a 'community relations' section. Many of the bigger ones do. Companies will often tell you what kinds of ministries they will or won't support. Feeding people falls under ‘basic needs’ and is generally well received, but some businesses like to focus on things like education, job skills, etc. That's their prerogative, so we should focus our attention on asking businesses that like to support what we're going to be doing.

Giving our story a hook

Once Mr. Jenson gets us the name of the person we'll be sending our letter, we can tailor a letter like this to request the equipment that we're looking to get:

Dear (Insert name),

While most of the city seems to be thriving and growing, on the South side of town, life is a little bleaker. Crime rates and drug issues have pushed out many of the businesses, making it difficult for many of the locals to find good jobs. It's hard to believe, but many people struggle just to get enough food to eat.

Over the past couple of years, St. Catherine's Catholic Church has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people coming to ask for help. Dozens of families visit every week, just looking for enough food to get by. For this reason, St. Catherine's is starting a food pantry to meet their needs. The goal is to provide for their basic human needs while also helping them to get back on their feet. Sometimes a little bit of help and some compassion can make all the difference.

We need your help to make our new food pantry happen. Would you please consider donating a Frigidaire 18 Cu. Ft. Freezer Refrigerator to store frozen and perishable food items that will be given to people in need? Frozen meat and vegetables and fresh produce are some of the healthiest items that we can provide, but without the right kind of storage, we won't be able to provide it to our clients.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. A new refrigerator-freezer would make a tremendous impact in the lives of people in our community who are struggling to get enough to eat. We expect that we'll be able to serve 50-100 families per month right off the bat, and we expect that to grow. The food pantry is a ministry of St. Catherine's Catholic Church, a tax exempt organization, so your donation will be tax-deductible. Please let me know if you need any more information or have any questions. My email is (email) and my phone number is (phone number).


Mrs. Sanderson

You see the basic structure is 1. explain the need, 2. tell what we're doing to meet the need, 3. explain how they can help. We can adjust the letter to reflect the different equipment that we'll be requesting.

The one that got away

One thing that I have to warn you on this approach. Some of the people that we ask will say 'no'. Actually, most of them will say 'no'. That's ok. We just need to plan to ask enough people so we can get to some 'yeses'.

If you haven't figured this out yet, one of the core virtues you need for fundraising is humility. You have to be willing to get up and dust yourself off after a 'no' and go ask someone else. Or even ask the same person again.

Not that I think you'll lose heart after your first 'no'. I've already seen how determined you are to make this work. Be encouraged. We'll be celebrating our first success sooner than you think


Nathan - The Almoner

P.S. If this letter doesn't sound exactly the way you want, feel free to make some changes. Or you might ask Mr. Jenson to send it out after he's met with people. The better connection we have with a PERSON at the business, the better our chances of bringing in a donation.

Also, let's see if Fr. Zagloba will put the list of equipment needs in the church bulletin. It only makes sense to ask the people who are closest to the ministry.

Need some new ideas on how to fundraise? Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook and find the fundraising strategy that will work best for you!