General Question

pikipupiba's avatar

How do you ask a company for a handout? (see details)

Asked by pikipupiba (1629points) October 15th, 2009

I am starting a student organization at the University of Illinois called Dance Destruction. Our goal is to have awesome alcohol free parties at random places around campus. I am going to put together an awesome sound system, light show, and everything.

Out funding is very limited, so I was going to email several speaker companies (like Bose) and ask if they could either give us free equipment or maybe even just a reduced price on some stuff. In return they would get advertising (via logos, exposure, and testimonials from me).

My question is this… What should such an email include? How should I word the important stuff? How should I word the small stuff?

I just want to maximize our chances at getting a really good deal and getting this club off to a great start.

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13 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

It is unlikely to work unless you are both established and successful. They won’t won’t their name attached to a potential failure or worse.

pikipupiba's avatar

Any tips to try to make that not be the case?

tigran's avatar

fill out a business plan –

There is a section about funding, you can see how you are actually doing a business venture. Get some statistics for your audience. Then show that as your incentive to the companies that would get their logo placement at the event.

pikipupiba's avatar

Thanks @tigran ! That is exactly what I was looking for! That will help a lot.

Keep ‘em coming!

tigran's avatar

you’re welcome, start by filling that out and you’ll probably come up with 10 other questions :)

MissAusten's avatar

In addition to contacting companies through email, you might consider calling or visiting places in your area that supply what you will need. My sorority put on a big fundraiser once a year with a zero budget. We didn’t need anything as big as a speaker system (we’d just borrow one from someone), but we did need door prizes, flyers, decorations, and a lot of other little things.

I’d call a local printer and ask them to donate the flyers and brochures for the event. I’d call Wal-Mart and Target and ask if they could donate balloons and streamers. A lot of local restaurants would donate gift certificates for door prizes, and other stores would give us different products. When I called, I’d explain that the donated items or services were for our annual fundraiser with proceeds going to breast cancer research. I don’t remember anyone ever telling us no. It felt very strange to just call up a business and ask for things, but people were always willing to help. Also, we put the names of all the business in the event brochure and on the even t-shirts we sold each year. It sounds like you have a great idea—good luck!

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Don’t ask for money or support by e-mail. Ask to find out the process for getting corporate support or sponsorship, and then make your case in person. If you solicit through e-mail, you are more likely to get turned down. Hopefully your event is 4–6 months out.

You might even approach liquor companies for support, as many of them have initiatives related to supporting campus’ ban on alcohol and underage drinking. From a marketing perspective, sponsoring an underage, alcohol free event is a good way to promote your products to a pre-branded segment.

MissAusten's avatar

You can also raise money for your organization with a little creativity. Why not hold a Dance-A-Thon? Invite all of the campus groups to participate, and have their members sign up in one hour blocks over a 24 hour period. The idea is to have people dancing in a set location for 24 hours straight. Each group pays a fee to participate, say $25. The group who dances the most wins some sort of prize. You could also give out prizes for best dancing costume, best dancer, craziest dancer. Dancers can represent their fraternity, sorority, dorm, athletic team, or whatever other student organizations you have on campus. Use the money to fund your organization, while at the same time raising awareness for your group.

derekfnord's avatar

Rather than remote, faceless companies (like Bose), it might be worth approaching local audio/video stores, etc. They would probably find the good local publicity/exposure more useful than Sony or someone would.

Also, if you do a little networking and checking around, possibly through groups like MADD, SADD, etc., you may be able to find someone in a position to help you (a wealthy sponsor, or the owner of an audio equipment store, for example), who has a personal interest in helping your cause. If their lives have been negatively affected by alcohol in some way, they may be very agreeable to helping your worthy cause. This would take some research and legwork, but might have a better chance of success than just asking at random…

SpatzieLover's avatar

I like @derekfnord‘s advice here. Do some networking with organizations that already support your cause, let them know about your creation and ideas. They can assist you.

Also, you’re likely to get financial assistance/prizes from businesses that already benefit from college patrons. Local pizza places, coffee shops, 24-hr restaurants-etc. Is their a music/electronic/furniture shop near campus? They’d be more willing than a corporation to donate a physical or monetary prize to help advertise their store.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I’ve done this kind of work at the University level and had quite a bit of success.
I would recommend sending a formal letter and then following up with a phone call.
Email is inappropriate when asking for handouts. It is appropriate to make initial contact and perhaps find out who to send the letter to within the company, not necessary but certainly helps out.

If you are a formal student group then you should be tax exempt which will help you get donations. If not then have a formal student group sponsor you so the donations can still be tax exempt. Plus it’s always great to form partnerships.

Also do not forget to ask all the departments on campus, individually, for donations. They often have a certain amount of money set aside for just that.

Here is a link about how to properly right such a letter:

Good Luck. Plus sounds like a great group.

pikipupiba's avatar

Okay, this is what I am going to do as of now.

1. Get my shit together. (business plan and whatnot)
2. Find LOCAL companies that would want to be involved:
___a. For advertising
___b. To support the cause
3. Set up a meeting with someone at the company who can help me.
4. Get supplies.

One question left. Is sending a letter really the best way to set up a meeting? That is the only step I am wondering about.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@pikipupiba It has worked best for me. It gives the person you are talking with time to look over your request and your budget. It shows professionalism. Often when someone is put on the spot they will more likely air on the side of caution which is to say “no”. I suppose it all depends on how much you are trying to obtain. We were always looking to get the most out of our effort.

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