Many companies are happy to help charities--either by providing material goods or cash assistance. While asking for money may be difficult the first time, you will feel progressively more comfortable. Eventually, you may even reach the point where you've developed such a rich network of providers to whom you can turn every time your nonprofit has a particular need.
Make a list of exactly what you need. For example, perhaps your charity is hosting a fundraiser and you need paper goods, appetizers, platters and coffee. Put each of these items on your list.
Match each item on your list with one or more possible vendors. Get the address and phone number for each vendor. The vendors could include local grocery stores, party supply stores and coffee shops. Many big corporate vendors such as Target and Walmart are difficult to work with because they require letters to be set to remote corporate headquarters. Other large vendors such as Safeway and Starbucks are much easier to deal with.
Prepare a generic letter that can be delivered by hand to each vendor. The letter should be on the letterhead of the charity. It should specify that your organization is a nonprofit. Include the 501(c)(3) number if you have one. The letter should state what you are looking for and how you will recognize your donors. Donor recognition can include mentioning the donor in the event program, thanking them at regular intervals from the microphone or similar gestures.
Put several copies of the generic donor letter on your clipboard, along with the addresses of vendors.
Approach the vendor in person. Begin by asking who you should talk to about asking for donations. For example, you can ask a sales clerk, "Can I please speak to a manager? I'm from XYZ charity and I'm hoping that you can provide us with fresh cut flowers for our fundraiser." Get the name of the person you should talk to if that person is not presently available so you can return later and make the ask.
Introduce yourself to the manager or shop owner and say who you represent. Clearly identify what you need. End your request by saying how you will recognize the store. Most managers are very familiar with this routine. Almost invariably, the shop owner will ask for a letter on the charity's letter head. Give him the copy of the letter and explain how you recognize the business at your event. For example you might say, "Hello, My name is Steven Murphy and I'm with the Association of Unsung Heroes who help students at schools here in town. We were hoping that you could help us by providing some fresh cut flowers for our fundraising gala. We'd be happy to include your name in the program." Many vendors will supply you with gift certificates to be used in their store to purchase what you need. Make a note of who you spoke to because you may want to go back to this person in the future.
Reach a decision with the store The Corporation for National and Community Service suggests following up immediately if the response is favorable. Either get the materials that you asked for or identify the next steps in getting them. For example, if the owner agreed to donate $1,000, ask him who you should be in touch with to get the check.
Write a thank you note to the store afterward and let them know how much their contribution was appreciated. Include a copy of the program or other material in which their name was mentioned.