Cold Calling for Donated Prizes – 10 Tips

Seeking donated prizes is an essential element of your role if you are a fundraising organiser. This task can be approached in two particular ways:

  • Contacting businesses with no discernible links to your organisation or anyone within it. This is commonly referred to as Cold Calling and is examined closely in the article below.


What is cold calling?

Cold calling is the act of contacting or visiting a potential customer who is not known to you and without prior arrangement.

Although it is an integral skill to possess in sales, most people run a mile at the thought of it! Like anything though, learn the right techniques and you will become more comfortable and effective at doing it.


Here are my top 10 tips for making cold calling easier and more effective

Asking for donations over the phone


1. Before you start

Let’s be clear before we go any further. Asking for donated prizes is a SALES CALL and needs to be treated as such. You are selling many things:

  • Your organisation and how it benefits the community.
  • Yourself and your passion as a volunteer.
  • Your fundraising event and the benefits you can offer potential prize donors.

Convey these aspects with enthusiasm and passion. The better you are at doing this, the more potential donors you will connect with. Spend some time developing your sales spiel!


2. Who to choose?

Select businesses that are in your locality, as this is where most of your members reside. This is an important selling point, as the payoff for them providing a donated prize is that you will promote their business to people who are also local and more likely to use their business.

Source businesses that can supply prizes that appeal to the majority of attendees. Restaurant and travel vouchers are examples of prizes that have high appeal to everyone. Don’t offer cricket equipment as a prize for a cricket club fundraiser for example, as it won’t interest everyone!


3. Research first

Research websites and social media pages first to determine who is the most appropriate person to contact. Reaching the right person will give you more chance of success. It also personalises the interaction.

Top tip: When researching a business, note down some points of interest that can serve as conversation starters. To show an interest in their business creates a personal connection and increases your chances of a successful outcome. For example, “I noticed you guys just won the Local Business of the Year award”.

Take a genuine interest in the business you are visiting, and the person you are talking with. Ask plenty of questions as most business owners / managers love to discuss how they are travelling. Many people make the mistake of expecting something from them before making a good connection. Consider how you will support their business in return, as there will be subtle differences between businesses. Plan all this out before meeting with them.


4. Put your request in writing

Finding prizes using a computer

Develop a letter on letterhead (or email) that:

  • Introduces yourself and your organisation and also outlines what you do.
  • Explains your fundraiser and what specifically you are raising funds for.
  • Advises you are seeking community support through donated prizes.
  • Outlines what they will receive for their donation.
  • Provides contact details so they can reach you if required.

Your letter should clearly outline the benefits they will receive in return for their donation. For example, offer to promote them on the event invitation and throughout the event. 

Top Tip: Personally drop off a letter to the business owner or manager so you can get the opportunity to build a relationship. Take this opportunity to show your passion for your fundraiser. If the conversation goes well, see if you can gain their commitment there and then for a donated prize.

Have a child who excels?

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5. Go Big!

Think as big as this building

Identify big businesses that will likely have a marketing budget for supporting community organisations. These businesses usually need to justify their spending and will often have an internal approval process. The letter becomes even more important for these prospects.


6. Follow up

State in your letter that you will follow up the request in a week. Note how you will do this. Will it be in person, by phone or follow up email? You will be rewarded more often by following up in person.


7. Be professional

When visiting a business in person, wear gear that identifies your organisation. Ensure your overall look is professional, as is the manner in which you communicate with them. Ensure all written communication is on letterhead or includes your logo.


8. Grab a business card

Always leave a business card

Ask for the business owner / manager’s business card so you have their details and can easily follow up. It also helps to remember their name and role if you have just met them.


9. Safety in numbers

Visit in pairs if it makes you feel more comfortable. This also shows how committed your organisation is to the fundraiser, and will often command more attention from the business owner.


10. Professional donors

Professional athletes, artists or musicians will often have signed merchandise that they can donate to support a good cause. Examples of these types of donations may be signed boxing gloves, a painting or a signed poster.

Professional sporting clubs can be a great source of prizes for amateur clubs in the same field of sport. They often have merchandising and tickets that they can provide, as a means of promoting their club. You may be lucky enough to get a signed players jersey.


Cold calling can be a challenge for many people, as it takes us well out of our comfort zone. Being prepared is the key to making business calls with confidence. If you take the advice outlined in this article, I have no doubt you will be lining up prizes in no time.


Bolsta helps volunteer led organisations to be more effective fundraisers. We share knowledge and experience, and aim to develop systems that are digitised, innovative and more profitable.

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