Finding Local Sponsors
One way of benefiting the neighborhood might include cosponsorship of activities with local merchants and institutions. Perhaps the clothing drive can be run from the front lobby of the library or the candy sale can take place in the local mall. Community banks are often happy to sponsor an activity that supports local artists. Retailers may team with you to provide space and resources, and your promotion will help them attract more business. The advertising and promotion done by such local sponsors can also help ensure a good turnout. You can use these relationships as both a networking opportunity and a way to get in-kind donations.
By getting different sponsors on board, you can help cover the costs of your event. For additional support, contact your local chamber of commerce, business improvement district, block association, or other local merchant groups. After one strong pitch to the chamber of commerce, it can then reach out to all of its members, which is more efficient than talking to a couple of dozen merchants individually. Once a few local retailers get on board, others will also want to be included, creating a snowball effect, particularly if a major store has agreed to be a sponsor.
There are also situations in which a major store or local business may donate money to, or sponsor the activities of, local nonprofit organizations. This keeps the business highly visible in the community and is an excellent means of public relations. By spreading the word about your work and letting everyone know you have plans that are significant within the community, yours can become such an organization on their list. For example, in 2007 Whole Foods made nearly $15 million in charitable donations, supporting causes that bolstered communities and the environment.
Selecting the right fundraising activities goes a long way. Often, athons are a great way to draw community interest and utilize local businesses. For example, a bikeathon can be sponsored by a local bike shop and draw people to the downtown area on a Sunday, a boost for area store owners. A bowlathon or aerobicsathon might include sponsorship from a bowling alley or fitness center.
Local associations are generally a good place to seek funding because they represent a segment of the community. You can also look for foundations that are dedicated to providing funding for community needs and request a donation or apply for a grant.
Neighborhood banking institutions, including local branches of major-name commercial banks, often pledge to return a portion of their profits to help the communities in which they are located. You might turn to a local branch manager or other bank officer to inquire about funding options. See what type of program they have and ask for an application.
Many major retail and fast food chains such as the Gap or McDonald's are also places to turn. The manager of a local franchise can often tell you how the corporation handles donations and how to apply for grants. The Foundation Center can help you find local sources as well.