Fundraising Tips: Identifying New Businesses to Support Your Main Street Program


Fundraising can be a struggle for Main Street programs when the list of prospects remains unchanged. Many Main Streets end up calling on the same businesses year after year, many of whom are already giving all that they can.  So how does a Main Street program increase its budget if it relies on these same businesses? It’s difficult but here are some tips on how to reach new businesses that are not located in downtown or within the city but that still benefit from downtown revitalization efforts.

The first step is to talk to businesses in downtown and ask them who they do business with, and ask them if they would be willing to sign and/or write a letter requesting financial support. Another option is to gather this information yourself by conducting an informal survey of commercial vehicles that are making deliveries to businesses downtown. This might include trash haulers, restaurant and beverage wholesalers, landscaping or office supply companies, uniform suppliers, businesses that provide carpet runners or other products, and even contractors who are working for the city. Each of these businesses depends on the success of the businesses they sell to or contract for services with. Since those who benefit from the efforts of the Main Street program extend beyond downtown, it’s appropriate to ask these businesses to support the Main Street program.

Included in the Solution Center is a sample letter that a restaurant owner could write to its food supplier, on behalf of your Main Street organization. It must be modified to point out the vision for your downtown, and cite local examples of successes.  Your business owners might even want to add their own message. The response rate will be greater if this letter comes directly from their customer rather than the Main Street program, but Main Street can also act as the main contact and be successful.

Imagine a landscaping firm that earns thousands of dollars doing work at a downtown bank (lawn care, plant care, snow removal in the winter, etc.), receiving a letter from that bank asking them to support the Main Street program. The landscaper, desiring to keep its relationship with the bank strong, will likely want to be support your efforts. Odds are that they have never been asked in the past. And although not every business will assist with this project, a few key businesses could add quite a number of potential new investors.

Include your pledge form with the letter and ask for a three year commitment.  If possible, also include a self-addressed stamped envelope, or if your Main Street program accepts credit cards, you can direct them to your website for quick payment.

After these new businesses are added to your list of investors, add them to your contact lists so they hear directly from Main Street. Thank them and recognize their support publically, invite them to your annual meeting and add them to your mail and email distribution lists. You will be surprised how quickly your funding network will grow.

Happy fundraising!