How to seek corporate material donations for free workshops in Serbia?
March 6, 2007 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Ideas for seeking corporate donations of tech equipment and air travel? I'm one of the co-founders of a free arts/tech workshop happening for the first time this August in Serbia. We've already had some modest success getting funding for this through traditional channels, but I also want to approach hardware companies and airlines to see if they can help us.

I'm experienced with grantwriting, but this is the first time I'll be seeking corporate donations. It seems like free arts and tech training in this region is something corporations would be interested in supporting. We can offer them exposure on our website and press materials, as we document this first workshop and continue it as an annual project.

The five organizers are NYC-based; one of us is a Serbia [Yugoslavia]-born U.S. resident and four of us are U.S.-born U.S. residents. We are not incorporated but we're about to start a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsorship (an agreement with a major non-profit org that accepts grant money on our behalf). This is a standard arrangement that lets us apply for many foundation grants, but big corporations may not be interested in helping us until we have our own 501(c)(3) incorporation, which won't happen this year. So I may need to focus on smaller companies.

I'm looking to approach corporations for these three main needs:
1) either donated or discounted airfares, NYC-Belgrade-NYC or just London-Belgrade-London (since NYC-London-NYC can be relatively cheap even in summer);
2) donated Mac hardware (laptops or desktops of any vintage that can run OSX);
3) donated basic recording equipment (condenser microphones, usb or firewire audio interfaces).

The computer & recording hardware would be used in the workshops and would stay in Serbia year-round for the students' use.

If you've sought corporate help, or if you have any ideas, I'd love to hear either here or privately (email in profile). Thanks!
posted by allterrainbrain to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I used to work for a tech-in-school non-profit that operated in the Former USSR. We couldn't really take donations of equipment because of the high import tariffs. Rather, it was cheaper to buy them locally.
posted by k8t at 8:37 AM on March 6, 2007

Not-for-profit arts administrator here. Lead time is very important in the corporate structure. It may take months to get your package through to the right person, but once you do, they may move on it quickly. You are right, that the smaller the company is, the more approachable they are, and the quicker the turnaround. Your lack of incorporated status is also not in your favour. As for lead time, I hate to break it to you, but I would consider March - August a short turnaround for the sort of high-ticket items that you need. I'm not saying it's impossible, especially not if you connect with the right person with a passion for your project, but in my experience, your limited may be better spent on more unconventional ways to get the things that you need. My suggestions for more non-conventional ways of getting the things you need for your program:

1.Flights - Try an email campaign to your supporters etc. for donated air miles. then you can pool them and purchase flights. This works because these air miles expire, and someone may be more inclined to donate them to some artists then see them go to waste.
2. Mac and sound stuff - a detailed request on Freecycle or Craigslist? If you are near a fairly active group, old-but-still-good computers get posted all the time. And donators tend to want to see them go to a good cause.

Other things that we have done re: international travel, is piggy-back it with a local conference at a university or something. So for instance, an artist could be paid to present or lecture at a university at the destination, and would be separately funded for travel. Then we program our event close to the same time. Anyway, kinda sneaky things like that...

If you are completely and utterly gung-ho about approaching corporate, or have specific questions, I can try and answer them.
posted by typewriter at 8:39 AM on March 6, 2007

If you are gung-ho about getting some of this stuff donated: the Serbian community is your friend. Network relentlessly within that community to find out who could be in a position to help you. You never know, somebody's uncle's best friend runs a travel agency or has a whole basement of G3s. This personal connection is much more successful as this is their own community they are benefitting, and you can share your passion for your project more easily. This will also have better pay-offs in the long run as you continue the program. For instance, the travel agency is able to donate one flight this year, yeah! They love what you did, they love the footage, everyone feels good about the kids in Serbia, guess what? Next year they want to pay for all the flights and then 5 years later, they sponsor the Serbian kids to come over to where you are...I'm rambling now, but I guess what I am trying to say that personal investment goes a long way, and often much further than packages in the corporate machine. Okay I'll stop now.
posted by typewriter at 8:51 AM on March 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks so much, typewriter! I'm definitely interested in going for long-term relationships. It sounds like the bigger the corporation, the more I should make it clear in my proposal that we'd welcome EITHER help for this year OR, if the timing won't work, discussion about help for next year.

Do you know any sites where I could learn about how to pool donated air miles from individuals? What I'm finding by googling talks about national programs that pool miles but not how individual people can collect/use them.
posted by allterrainbrain at 9:23 AM on March 6, 2007

Yes, relationships, relationships, relationships. I have to admit with our air miles thing we had a bit of an insider, a friend of a friend. They arranged the donating and sharing. We pooled it a little differently. With our email campaign, we were topping up air mile accounts, so we asked for anyone willing to donate, and how many. Then we paired them with somebody else, and our insider transferred the points over. But, we came across the insider through our community outreach, if that is any help.

BUT - I would not preface your proposal with help this year or next, because inevitably that shoves your proposal further down the priority list. Go for it, like you are going to desperately need it/can't get the kids to make music in Serbia without it (but secretly know that you are looking at a building a relationship). The reason I say this is because you have no idea what is going on with their budgets etc. They may actually have some money that needs to be spent. Don't shoot yourself in the foot, by saying next year is okay too. It also makes you seem less committed to this year. If you get to a personal interview with corporate, and by the end of it you get a 'no', that is when you ask about their interest for next year. Also, ask them when is a good time to ask. For some companies, they like to allocate all their charity right away as soon as they get their budgets. Other companies like to stretch it out, waiting, in case something great comes along. The former, it is better to ask as soon as they have the budget. And the latter, they'll often have money at the end if the fiscal year. (And when I say 'money' it's because even a physical donation ends up being a number in the budgets.) Good luck and I hope you post in projects, so we can hear what the kids made!
posted by typewriter at 9:51 AM on March 6, 2007

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