We are answering reader questions this week! There are many! I loved this one so much that I just had to share. Questions! They make us smarter! An incredible reader writes,


Dear Mazarine,

I work for a VERY SMALL nonprofit.  I am the first Development Director they’ve ever hired.  Needless to say, they have no large donors, no database, no corporate sponsors, etc.

They existed on an endowment and began to panic earlier this year when they realized they only had 1-2 years left of the endowment. I have 20 years of fundraising experience, but with that said, ALL of the nonprofits I’ve worked for previously had donor databases, major donors, fundraising history, and a fundraising committee to hold special events.  I don’t have ANY of that.

ANYWAY, here is what I would really, really like to get information on –

1) Cold calling on small businesses for donations – does this work?  I’m not having much luck.

2) Getting your foot into large major corporations – noone on the board is well connected.

3) Business networking – most of the chamber/professional events I go to have coupon book sellers, etc —


Thanks for asking!

If you want in-depth ways to get corporations to sponsor your nonprofit, I’m having a webinar coming up this week on how to get corporations to sponsor you, it’s September 6th, here’s the link: https://wildwomanfundraising.com/upcoming

Getting corporations to sponsor you is really tricky and takes lots of work. Even an older nonprofit that’s just been subsisting on their endowment is kind of out of luck if nothing has been done. That’s like one of the worst case scenarios, when no one asked for money because ‘we didn’t need it’ and now of course, you need it and no one knows or cares about you, because no one had been cultivating those relationships for the last few years.

Step 0. Get a database to help you keep track of everything and everyone you reach out to. This is fundamental and essential.

Off the top of my head, here’s the FIRST place I would look for potential sponsors and corporate donations:

1. Check out the website of a big successful nonprofit similar to you in your area. With your mission being similar to theirs, can you reach out to some of the corporations listed on their website?

2. I’d also check out the website of a nonprofit similar to yours but slightly different: Say you’re an orchestra, also look at theater companies, because performing arts patrons may like similar causes.

3. Read the Book of Lists for your area. It has the most charitable companies, it has the most successful companies, the fastest growing companies, the companies who employ the most people, and MORE! Go to http://bizjournals.com and find the book of lists. If you’d rather not pay for it, then see if there’s a foundation center cooperating collection in your town, (usually at the central library) (Go to http://FoundationCenter.org/collections to find it)

4. Go to the website of the chamber of commerce in your area and search for the category of “bank” or “insurance.” Those people do have money to give you.

5. Once you connect with the corporation, you’ve got to get in front of them. Ask to speak to their marketing director, corporate responsibility officer, or brand manager. Ask them if you could come in and speak about your organization, or do a performance for their employees during their lunch hour. This is how we got our foot in the door for a small nonprofit I worked for, and it really works. You don’t want to just ask for something straight off the bat. You want to show them what you’re about. Big corporations are FULL of people who are craving deeper meaning and deeper experiences in their lives, and your nonprofit can offer that.

When you go for your performance or speaking engagement with them, ask them if anyone would be interested in volunteering, serving on your gala committee, or even just coming to your next event.

While you are there, stop by HR’s office and ask if employee volunteerism is compensated by the company. Also ask if there’s a group of employees who like to volunteer, or if they’re looking for new projects to volunteer on.

Then you have to find things for them to do, but in a small development shop, I’m sure you can think of a few!


I know how hard it is to fundraise for tiny nonprofits with no processes and have no connections to boot! In a recent organization I worked with, they had no database, though they had a small list they hadn’t mailed to in 5 years, and they had no major donors, no sponsors, nothing. I did what I could with the time I had, and managed to get them to get a database. It took months to get them to agree to get a database, and another few months to get them to agree on how the data would be put into the database. And another few months for them to see that having a database was actually to their advantage, and of course, when the money started rolling in from appeal letters and emails, they got more genial about the whole thing.

SO! The 3 steps are! To recap!

Step 1: So, really, first you have to get organized. Get a database. That’s the first step.

Step 2: Then, research all of the corporations who could potentially give to you via the methods above.

Step 3: Put them into the database, and make notes about who you talked with, what their timelines are, and how they like to be involved with nonprofits, and when and how you followed up, thank you notes, etc).

(SEE? This is why having a database is important, because otherwise that information would just be in a spreadsheet somewhere or stuck on post-it notes all over your desk!)

Do you have another way you like to reach out to corporate donors?

Please leave a comment!