Asking for non-financial donations

Some time ago, I received an email from Paula Hink, Kansas City Metro, telling about how they ask for non-financial donations. In other words, how to get free stuff from businesses for use in outreaches and other ministry functions.

Asking For Donations
The great thing about asking for donations from local businesses is that you are serving them in two very significant ways:

  • You are giving them an opportunity for FREE advertising to one of their best up-and-coming markets- college students;
  • You are giving the business an easy way to fulfill their donation requirements to get tax write-offs for that particular month or year.

So it’s important to know that when approaching businesses so that you can approach them with confidence and ease. It’s mutually beneficial!

When going to a business, remember these things:

  • Respect business hours. Even though we’re doing them a favor, they are also doing US a favor by donating to our non-profit. I’ve found the best times are between 1pm and 4pm. It’s after the lunch rush and before the dinner rush. Another great time is weekdays that are not Fridays and Saturday afternoons can also be good.
  • Any business is a possibility. Both big and small businesses love to (and some have to) give. One locally owned Greek restaurant didn’t have coupons made up but asked if they could give me a free dinner right then and there. Who wouldn’t want that? Some big businesses might ask you to go through their corporate headquarters, but they will probably still donate at some point or another.
  • I’ve found from personal experience that going anywhere from the middle to the end of the month is best because businesses are trying to use up their donations at that point. The beginning of the month can be a tough time. (However, it may be that you find a place that donates solely to you because you came early. It just depends.)
  • Take materials with you to show legitimacy. I usually take a prepared letter explaining what Campus Crusade for Christ is, what event I would be using their coupons for, and the advantage to them. I also take my business card (unless I use my letterhead on the letter), an example of how their coupon might look with our materials, and a tax-exempt letter showing that I really am with a non-profit organization.
  • Anyone can do this! Students can do it, volunteers, staff, advisors, anyone. It’s so easy and fun if you can go in twos.
  • When doing “the ask”, I do these standard things:
  • I ask to speak to the manager or owner. They are usually the ones with the discretionary funds. I ask if they have about 5 minutes.
  • I introduce myself (shake their hand) as a person who works with a local non-profit (“local” is helpful as is “non-profit”) called Campus Crusade for Christ that works with college students all over ___________ (your area of influence, i.e. the Kansas City Metro area). You might even throw in the number of students in your area of influence to demonstrate possible advertising scope. I quickly explain what we are doing (doing spiritual interest surveys, having a weekly meeting, having a party) and try to use words less offensive words (“evangelism” conjures up images of raving lunatics on sidewalks forcing people to pray right there or they will burn in hell) to explain our purpose. I ask them to consider donating a certain menu item or dollar amount, then give them all the info I brought (explanation letter, my business card, tax-exempt letter, etc.). I then ask for their phone number and a time when I could call back for an answer. Some people are ready to give you coupons right then while others will want to think about it.
  • I thank them for their time and the possibility of partnering with us, and I go to the next business.
  • Always write a thank you from you and the students – include pictures of you all enjoying their product (if possible)!

Paula says that one day in a space of 5 hours and one city block, she was able to get over $200 worth of coupons for a weekly meeting outreach they did. Also Krispy Kreme donated 10 dozen donuts every week for a year for their weekly meetings. Why not consider doing a Christmas outreach and mobilize your student leaders to find donations during November to help give that outreach value.

If you would like to see Paula’s letter that she sent to businesses for non-financial donations, check back her in 24 hours and I will have a link to it and to a sample of a QuEST interview with a coupon from a local business.


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