Write a letter – get a donation
A simplified version of a grant is called a ‘request for support.’ Like a grant, you will be sending a written request for some kind of financial or in-kind donation. An in-kind gift might be a cooler from a sporting goods store or a hand truck from Home Depot. Requests for support are typically for items or amounts that are less than $1,000.
The request for support is unlike a grant, because you are writing to someone who doesn’t have a formal grant program in place. They can usually be sent at any time, whereas a foundation or government grant typically has a strict submission deadline. The letter will typically be addressed to a small business owner, store manager, or HR manager. It will be important for you to find out who should receive it before you send your letter. “To Whom It May concern” letters often wind up in the trash. Instead, go into the store and ask to speak to the manager.
This kind of fundraising is also different from direct mail fundraising because you are not sending it out to a broad audience. You will want to very specifically tailor your request to the business you’re soliciting. If they have a website (and most businesses nowadays do) go there and look to see if they have a page on ‘community relations’. This page will typically tell you what kinds of organizations and programs they like to support. If they don’t support what you do, sending a letter is often a waste of everyone’s time.
You will need to send your letter on your organization’s official letterhead and include a copy of your 501 (c)3 letter. If you don’t have letterhead yet, you should take the time to make some, because looking professionalism makes a big difference.
If you do get a positive response, remember to promptly send a thank you note. Even take the time to respond with a phone call or personal visit. You have just acquired a new donor for your cause! You might be able to get a donation from the business next year if you invest some time in keeping up the relationship.
A Sample Letter
Here’s a sample letter that was used by the Food Bank to get donations of equipment that was going to be given to some of our food pantries. You can see that it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just explain what you do, what you need, and what their gift will accomplish.
June 28, 2017
Re: Donation Request
Dear Mr. Person:
My name is (your name) and I am the (title) for (organization). Our mission at (organization) is simple: feed the hungry! We do this by working with more than 300 partner agencies in 30 counties. Last year, our donors made it possible to distribute more than 14 million meals to families and individuals in need.
(Organization) and our agencies rely on volunteers to do the work, and we have more heart to serve the poor than wallet to make it happen. That’s where you come in.
I’m hoping you can help us in this good work by donating (list the goods). This equipment will be used by our agencies to (what will it do?). Your donation will make a huge impact: feeding the hungry, encouraging the hopeless, and building our community. Please give me a call at (phone number) if you have any questions, or e-mail me at (email address).
I will be in touch next week to follow-up with you.
Fundraising got your head spinning? Don’t know quite where to start? Check out Key Concepts and learn the basic ideas that will help you build and maintain a strong and growing donor base.