Wayne C has some good suggestions.
When approaching a larger company, ask to speak with their corporate giving office. These are the folks who deal with requests for money. The very first question should be “What are your company’s corporate giving goals?”.
If they give an answer like education, promoting technology, or something else FIRST has in loads, then continue by explaining FIRST and how your team fits into the company’s charitable goals. Try to set up a meeting with them to explain it, rather than try it over the phone. Students should definitely be involved, not mentors or teachers, but the student should be extraordinarily neat, well-spoken, and professional. Gracious Professionalism. No company will donate to ‘a bunch of ill-mannered kids’.
Above all, do not be afraid. Worst they can do is torture you… er, I mean they will just say NO (very politely, of course). Grow a thick skin and don’t let the NOs discourage you. You only need one $10k YES, probably get a bunch of $500 Yesses instead, but hey, whatever…
If, OTOH, their goals differ wildly from FIRST - they focus exclusively on scholarships, or environmental causes - thank them for their time, and then ask if they might have any emplpyees who might like to get involved. Mentors are good to have, and might open other doors…
Also don’t forget about asking for donations of services or materials. Again, worst they can say is no.
As for other ideas,
- A car wash with pre-sold tickets is great when the weather is warmer
- The Board of Ed and/or PTA is often generous, once you explain what the goals are (Gracious Professionalism…)
- Each team member’s parents probably work somewhere, that might help open some doors.
Go to a local car dealer and see if they will participate in a car raffle. (They provide the car at cost, you sell something like 1000 tickets at $100 each (say it’s a $50k car) and you might be able to turn some serious money there.
Kind of depends on the type of community you have. What works in a wealthy NJ suburb might not work in a rural district. But, here on Chief Delphi you have access to some of the best experts in the field, make good use of it and you might surprise yourself.