Getting Started with Fundraising with Businesses

learning to bike
Photo via Capn Madd Matt on Flickr

It seems like everyone is raising money for a favorite cause these days. And while everyone asks their friends, family, and colleagues to support them, don’t forget to ask your favorite businesses to support you too. You can raise a lot of money from businesses if you can look beyond the corporate checkbook and instead focus on fundraisers involving customers and employees.

I’ve written a whole book on fundraising with businesses, but a great free source of inspiration and learning are my cause marketing Pinterest boards. You can see plenty of examples of everything from charity pinups to donation boxes to digital fundraisers like hashtag programs.

Whatever kind of program you choose, keep the following in mind.

Keep your program simple.

Especially if it’s your first one. Try to choose something that’s a simple extension of the business. If your business partner is a busy ice cream shop, pick an ice cream flavor to support your favorite cause and tell customers every time they buy it you’ll make a donation. Simple. Another example of keeping it simple is a fundraiser my my email newsletter provider. Current customers could nominate a kids charity to receive a free subscription so they could better communicate their message. Win-win and simple for everyone to participate.

Pathos should drive your program.

Pathos is just another word for emotion. Supporters want to connect viscerally with fundraisers that support causes. This means focusing on some aspect of the cause that will tug at people’s heart strings. If it’s an animal shelter the emotional tug is all the puppies and kittens that will be saved. If it’s an environmental cause focused on green spaces it will be the playgrounds and parks for children.

Make sure your program is easy.

Overly complicated programs are a drag for everyone. If you choose a charity pinup program, for example, limit your ask to one sentence. “Would you like to donate a dollar to help save the trees in Walden Woods?” Also, if your employees are required to ask shoppers to join your email list, if they need anything else (e.g. batteries, etc.) limit these additional asks during the cause marketing promotion period, which is generally two to four weeks.

Don’t give employees or your customers an excuse to say no.

Strive for a program that feels natural and spontaneous. Spontaneity may seem like a strange thing to expect of a cause marketing program. But so many program I see that are forced and unnatural. That’s why it’s important to pick a cause that resonates with your employees and customers.

Joe Waters blogs at