COMMENT: Fundraising Negotiating – Dark Art or Being Empowered to Get it Right?

With the on-going threats to funding within the museum, heritage and cultural sector the need to diversify funding sources has become a key concern for many fundraisers working within the sector, but if organisations want to secure long-term, sustainable funding from corporations their fundraisers need to be empowered to negotiate and build partnerships.

In response to this issue, Culturehive recently published a conversation between Sarah Winchester and Beth Upton who now runs the ever-expanding Money Tree Fundraising Consultancy; a group of talented fundraisers whose expertise lies in high value (major) giving – large donations from companies, trusts and individuals – and supporting charities to set-up, grow and maintain their income.  Below is an excerpt from their conversation in which Beth divulged her top tips for being a good negotiator and what she feels are the common down-falls in negotiating with potential corporate funders:

Like me Beth enjoys the thrill of a good negotiation but immediately understood why fundraisers might need support getting it right: “Often people take the first offer, not the best one”. In her experience, she went on to explain: “charities can be so grateful for any offer of financial support they do not negotiate at all”. In other cases the focus on financial targets for fundraisers can undermine the process: “some are fearful of losing vital income so may undervalue their organisation in a bid to hit the numbers”.
Too much emphasis solely on the financial target, for whatever reason, will leave negotiations dead in the water. A negotiation is the beginning of a partnership and as with any relationship it is important to be flexible. Although Beth and I acknowledged that flexibility was difficult for a lot of charities – limited resources often mean limited options – we also felt that there was another barrier facing many organisations when fundraising from businesses, that they are in control of: “charities don’t value companies, especially since the recession”. This idea that non-for-profit organisations have the moral high ground and therefore should keep a polite distance from corporations was something we both recognised.
In its worst form it can be a potent mixture of dislike and fear: “you can be business-like without being profit driven” Beth stressed. If charities want to secure long-term, sustainable funding avenues from corporations their fundraisers need to be empowered to negotiate and build partnerships with them, “we know how they (the companies) can meet our needs, but we rarely find out how we can meet their needs”. It has to be a two way street.

To download their full discussion from Culturehive’s website, Click Here.

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