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Finding River Clean Up Sponsors

So you have the information, the interest, the volunteers, and the place to do a river clean up or storm drain stenciling project. What more could you possibly need?

Sometimes it's helpful to have materials for a project donated (such as garbage bags or spray paint). It's also a great uplift for volunteers to have snacks or drinks during or after they've been working on a project.

We have included some general advice about seeking support from businesses for your community service project. Remember, although many businesses are willing to support local efforts, there are many valuable local efforts to be supported, so don't get discouraged if you aren't successful in getting support for your project right away.

You might also check out our "answers to frequently asked questions" pages to learn some tricks other groups have used to help plan and carry out their river clean ups and storm drain stenciling projects.

If you have tips to share based on your experiences, please let us know!



[ The Guidelines ]

Pre-planning for your request:


1. Plan in advance. Many stores require 5-8 weeks to process donation requests. Often companies must work through their corporate offices to make donations. Some have set budgets from which to make donations during each quarter of the year; These processes take time.

2. Decide what sort of support you're looking for - is it a donation of garbage bags? A discount on inverted marking paint for storm drain stenciling? Food for your volunteers? Something else?

3. Make a list of businesses or groups that exist in your area that might carry the supplies you need or that might have an interest in supporting environmental projects in the community.

4. It's definitely worthwhile to check to see if the businesses you've included on your list have websites with information about their methods of supporting community projects. A great place to do a search is from www.google.com. Often times entering the name of the business followed by the word "grants" will result in web pages with information that will provide guidelines about seeking assistance from that business. If you don't get any results from this search, you can also try searching within each business' website for a link to community support and/or grants programs.

The request letter:

5. If you find no information about community assistance at a business' web site, your next step should be to put your plans down on paper. Many stores require groups seeking assistance to submit a letter on your group's official letterhead (this helps give credibility to your request) in which you should:

Explain the project for which you are seeking support, including:

· the project's history
· the issue(s) the project is trying to address
· the date of your project
· expected outcomes from the project

Explain what it is you are requesting of the business (monetary donation, supplies, discounted supplies, etc.) and how the requested items will be used in your proposed project.

Describe your service group/who your volunteers are (school group, Scouts, retired persons, Friends of the River, etc.) and how many people you're expecting to participate.

State whether or not your group has non-profit status. If you are non-profit with 501(c)3 status, you should include a copy of your 501(c)3 form with your letter. Similarly, if you are a non-profit with 170(c)1 status, you should include a copy of this form. (These forms are needed for the businesses' tax purposes.)

State if and how the businesses that are supporting your effort will be recognized in publicity for your event.

Sign your letter and include a return address and contact information so the business can reply to you (also needed for their tax purposes).

The visit to the business:

6. Once you write your letter, plan a visit to the business during an off-peak time. (For instance, if you're requesting donations from a restaurant that specializes in lunch and dinner, plan to visit in the morning or mid-afternoon to avoid being bothersome during stressful times for employees at the business.)

7. When you visit the business, bring along your letter and copies of any non-profit forms your organization has available.

8. At the business, visit the customer service desk or ask to see the manager.

9. Some businesses will have applications that must be filled out to request their support. If this is the case, your letter should include the information that's needed on the application (Yay! Aren't you glad you wrote it?). In such a case, the business might also accept your letter as a supplement to their application.

10. If you speak with a manager, present the information in your letter to him/her verbally. You will likely either be asked to submit your letter and forms to the manager or you will be given an address of a corporate office to which you can send your letter.


The Business Response:

11. If your request has been approved, the response you receive from the business should give details of how to proceed to claim donated materials or funds. If your request has not been granted, and you still have time before your event, try again with another business! It might also be useful to ask the business for reasons why your request was denied. This information could help you with future requests.

12. Be sure to carry through on any publicity you stated you would provide the business. Keep copies of the publicity materials to give to the business after your event.

13. Always carry out your end of the deal if your request is granted with a share agreement (i.e., your group has to do something for the business in order to receive the donation. Some share agreements might require your group to match a portion of the amount of money donated from a business, other share agreements might require that your volunteers cleanup the business' parking lot as part of your cleanup effort).

14. After you've completed your project, write the business a thank you note and include publicity materials about the project or copies of any press coverage you may have gotten for doing the project.

That's right, we'll supply your group with free garbage bags to do your clean up.
(sorry, Wisconsin groups only)

Please be aware that bags are available in limited supplies, and will be distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Use the order form to register your project and request 50 garbage bags for your clean up effort. Please be sure to include all requested information when you register your project to help us keep track of ongoing projects. The requested information on the order form includes:

  • Group name
  • Group affiliation (Scouts, Rotary, Trout Unlimited, School, etc.)
  • Date of clean up
  • Expected number of volunteers
  • River or segment(s) to be cleaned up, and estimated length
  • Contact person
  • Contact's address (where you want the bags sent)
  • Contact's phone number
  • Contact's email address (if available)


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