Getting the new business process right for corporate fundraising


I have spent a lot of time working with charities to help them hone their corporate fundraising effort. One issue that comes up regularly is the challenge of how to create a new business approach that gets results; this challenge is especially acute when teams are smaller. For me, much of the solution lies in three key ingredients: having a tightly defined target audience; developing a clear proposition; identifying where prospects will come from. This blog unpacks a few key tips for putting these things in place.

Have a tightly defined target audience

Many charities often have either an ill-defined target audience or too many segments to aim at. This results in teams becoming too thinly spread and not understanding their market deeply enough. Having a tightly defined target audience, with a small number of clear segments, means teams can focus time on understanding the segments and then targeting them appropriately. Before attempting to define the target audience segments, it is useful to recall the things that drive a company to support a charity. These vary depending on the nature of the support. For example, sponsorship is about boosting sales or building brand awareness (in order to boost sales down the line), whereas charity of the year or employee fundraising relationships are driven by a desire to impact employee motivation and the employee perception of the company.

In the sponsorship example, the charity needs to show how a partnership can help the company engage customers. In the charity of the year / staff fundraising example, the charity needs to demonstrate its ability to build a partnership that engages employees. By identifying those sectors and companies where your charity can create customer synergy, and those sectors and companies where your charity can create employee synergy, you can start to define some audience segments.

Develop clear proposition(s)

When you think about how you will target the different audience segments, you must have a clear and compelling case for support. When corporate teams struggle with new business, it is often because they don’t believe in what they are selling. This happens when the proposition is not clear or compelling.

To take a corporate sector example: imagine someone working in sales at logistics firm UPS. When pitching logistics services to other businesses there would be an absolute clarity about, and confidence in, the proposition. The sales person would be clear on the benefits they are selling (e.g. the coverage of the population, reliability, real time tracking etc.). The point is that those who are driving new business are clear on the offer and confident in pitching it.

For a corporate fundraising proposition to work it needs a number of components. These can be dialed up or down depending on whom you are seeking to engage but all the components should be evident. When I develop cases for support for charities I work through a tried and tested series of questions to define the proposition. As a minimum this delivers clarity on:

  • The problem or need that your charity seeks to address
  • Your solution for that problem or need i.e. how you plan to address it
  • The outcomes that will result if you put your solution in place
  • The business benefits to the company if they choose to partner with you
  • The point of difference that working with your charity will deliver

At the end of this process you should have something that is clear and simple. It should not need further explanation. Developing something robust with all of these components gives corporate fundraisers a proposition that they understand, believe in and can pitch with gusto.

There does need to be some self-reflection when doing this: can you really deliver the sort of business benefits you claim? For example, if you are looking at employee synergy, then your cause area should resonate with the workforce you are targeting and you should be able to confidently state that staff groups will find it easy to get behind your cause.

Identify where prospects will come from

Many charities don’t have trustees with great corporate networks. This does put a charity at a disadvantage - but it is quite a common issue, and it doesn’t mean you can’t create a prospect pool. Even with access to good trustee networks a charity should always look more widely for opportunities to cultivate relationships. Some good angles to consider are:

  • Publicized partnership opportunities such as charity of the year partnerships. This may seem obvious, but the research required to build up a good pool of these opportunities can be substantial. Therefore, you need to allow time for research or buy in a charity of the year database.
  • Cross-selling of leads from other areas of fundraising, such as the major gifts or community events teams
  • ‘Go where they go’ i.e. go to industry events and conferences, and network when you are there.
  • Media tracking – use keyword searches (your comms team may be able to help with this) and follow key decision makers from the target companies on social media; you can learn a lot about a prospect, and even warm up a cold relationship, via social media.

Putting it together

By being focused and clearly defining a few target audience segments, developing clear proposition(s) for those segments and thinking laterally to build a pipeline, you will be set up for success. Planning out the exact actions you will then take, and identifying the KPIs to track your progress, will enable you to complete the picture.

If you’d like to know more about how to create a strategy for winning new business,
contact us for details of our new business workshop.

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Grahame Darnell is an Associate Partner Consultant with THINK Consulting Solutions. To meet him, click here.