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Javon Liburd: Get that money!

Javon Liburd: Get that money!

Persuading business to help grow your project

If you are not a millionaire – or you don’t have a millionaire backing your venture – sponsorship, funding, and grants will be your top priority. #LCJB16 winner and 2015 Queen’s Young Leader, Javon Liburd looks at how to approach a business to ask for finance and support.

I’m sure you’re aware of the adage, “a method to the madness”. Well it applies in this regard. Of course, there are some radical volunteers who apply to any and everywhere for assistance. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s the thing – it’s a gamble.

As a leader, you learn that taking risks and gambles are synonymous with the role, but strategic thinking and planning trumps spontaneity most of the time.

Time is of the essence, and your efforts stand victim to time wasted, which is why a clear and well-thought-out approach is ideal when seeking funding.

In my experience – confirmed in conversations with other leaders of humanitarian efforts – one of the most effective ways to get sponsorship is to seek assistance from others who believe in what you believe. Sounds familiar?

Find common ground

You find that theories put forward by world renowned speaker, Simon Sinek, can be applied to almost any and every situation.

Simply put, people will buy into your cause because they have similar beliefs, and your aims coincide with their services or products. This feeds into promotion and advertising for their company.

Take for example my charity, Joining Hearts, Heads and Hands or J3H for short, in my village of St Peters, St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean. When we first started back in 2013, the first persons we approached for funding were successful proprietors with ties to our community.

All these persons are passionate in one way or the other, to see social and educational change and improvements in the community. So their support came very easy, without too much deliberation.

Collaborate with like minds

The same applies with large corporations.

Finding a linking factor between your efforts and a company, allows you take advantage of the “empathy factor”.

You find that empathy is one of the strongest emotions, and once capitalised upon, proprietors and company executives always rule in your favour. In other words, the money is in the bag.

It is important for your cause, who you partner with as a financier, as some businesses and their messages aren’t always positive or relevant to your work. This can belittle your efforts or deter other potential donors from supporting your cause.

For example, if it’s a kids’ walk-a-thon you are probably not going to reach out to a luxury brand like Gucci.  Similarly, if it’s a designer fashion show fundraiser, soliciting the local bakery is most likely a waste of time.  Moreover, if that local bakery were to sponsor, it will deter a national brand from wanting to affiliate with you.

Build on each other’s strengths

These points are also supported by Sir Richard Branson, world-renowned businessman and philanthropist.

With his advice, Sir Richard highlights the importance of research, noting that it is important to align yourself with companies whose beliefs match those of your work, or are more driven to invest in your specific cause, based on their records.

He says, “Understand the business you want to approach. Why is it right? And does it have a natural connection to your cause? Look beyond the audience. How will it benefit from working with you?"

Sir Richard talks about aligning your cause with the cause of the business you wish to approach so that they will make your cause part of their business. That way you can "sell it and have no doubt you are selling your cause as a win-win situation."

Sir Richard also advises, "Have a strong vision. Stand out from the crowd. You're operating in a highly competitive market place. Define the nature and scale of the problem you're addressing. Outline what is different about the solution you are propososing. Be positive and don’t sell doom and gloom, sell a real difference a business can make.”

Also lending a voice to the topic is 2015 Queens Young Leader and founder of Leaders Endeavouring for Adolescent Development (LEAD) in Jamaica, Jerome Cowans.

He noted that organisations thrive in collaborative approaches, where they see that both parties can build on each other’s strengths to get the tasks done.

He added, that his organisation recently utilised this approach and was praised by the European Union, who noted that more organisations need to adopt this approach.

Mutual Benefits

After research, you write to the potential donors, again, capitalising and highlighting the "empathy factor" in your letter.

Show the donor you’ve done your research. Highlight past initiatives or things said, and link it with the aim and work of your movement. Highlight what they stand to gain and all what you can offer out of the partnership.

It is also very important that in your research you find out the name of the manager or best person the letter can be addressed to, so that the letter can be more of a personal one.

Do not give up

Now comes for real interaction. Most times, persons sit back and wait for a response. I would never recommend you do this.

It is important that you follow up with these individuals. Set times when you will enquire again. Your interest will highlight how important the cause is.

At this time, remember "no" is not the end of the road. Enquire as to why that was their decision. Ask for any pointers. Is it a financial issue for the company at the time? This will in turn assist you greatly.

Get out there and get that sponsorship!