Here's how your PTA can write effective letters to businesses that maximise the chance of a positive outcome – download our templates to make it even easier.
If you don't have any experience of asking for support then putting a letter together and keeping track of requests can feel overwhelming. Get organised: create a spreadsheet or Word document and list everyone you ask, including when you wrote to them and what the outcome was. Make the information available to the rest of your PTA to avoid duplication.
Local or national businesses?
At first glance it seems easier to write letters to national businesses. They are the ones with the most money and they have dedicated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) departments, right? Not necessarily, since national companies get asked for money every day and may have guidelines on what they give and to whom. Local companies might go that extra mile for their community, especially if they have ties (past or present) to the school.
What to ask for
PTAs often write to businesses to request raffle prizes and sponsorship but companies might also donate food, provide volunteers, send guest speakers or sponsor individual school projects. Make a list of the resources you need and who could provide them. Do any of the parents or grandparents work in unusual or successful companies and have useful contacts? Are there any large corporations based nearby whose business is relevant to what you're trying to achieve? Decide whether to ask for something specific or request something broader, such as a raffle prize, and leave it to them to choose.
What to include in your letter
When writing letters to businesses, address the letter to the person who will be dealing with your request. A quick call to the company's offices or some online research should provide the right information. Using a person's name shows you have put some thought into your request rather than sending the same letter to every company in town. Other important things to do are:
- use official headed paper if possible, and include your charity registration number, if you have one
- add your PTA logo, if available
- include a link to your website if you have any images of past PTA projects or events you would like to share
- include your email to make it easy for the recipient to contact you
- mention if you are planning a follow-up call
Most people want to help good causes, but it is only natural to hope for something in return. Each person who receives your letter will wonder 'What's in it for me?' Are you able to offer advertising in your summer fair programme, publicity at your event or a mention or logo on your list of raffle prizes? If you can, then make it clear in your letter. If you use social media, can you tweet or post on Facebook? Can you offer potential donors and sponsors free tickets to your event? If they come along, chances are they will spend more money than the ticket price. If you are asking for a specific item or a visit, explain why this company is the perfect donor and describe not only the impact the project will have on the children but how your suggestion fits in with the curriculum and what knowledge the children will gain from it.
When your event or project is finished, don't forget to thank everyone who donated. A handwritten note is a nice touch, but an email is still better than nothing. Keep in touch with your new business contacts so they can see how their useful donation of goods, services or time has helped the students.
Putting some thought into writing letters to businesses can really pay dividends. Asking companies for sponsorship, goods or resources can help out with PTA funds, bring something unique to your school and be the start of a great relationship between the commercial world and your school community.