With corporate philanthropy trending positively for businesses everywhere, companies are more excited than ever to support nonprofits like yours. Through sponsorships, employee giving initiatives, and other corporate social responsibility programs, businesses can improve their reputations, customer relationships, and employee satisfaction —and give your nonprofit a major fundraising boost.
But to access those corporate dollars and form mutually beneficial partnerships with businesses, you have to seek them out strategically. In this guide, we’ll explore what corporate sponsorships are and six steps you can take to secure them:
- Pick the right program or event
- Research the best prospects
- Collect contact information and reach out
- Put together a proposal
- Send your proposal
- Call to follow up
Let’s dive in so you can start your search for the perfect corporate sponsor!
What is a Corporate Sponsorship?
According to Double the Donation, corporate sponsorship refers to the financial or in-kind support that businesses provide nonprofits to fund a specific event, program, or project. These sponsorships can take many different forms, including:
- Event sponsorships: When most organizations think of sponsorships, they think of a company sponsoring a nonprofit event in exchange for advertising. If a pet supply store sponsored your animal shelter’s 5K, for instance, they might cover all the event’s costs if you include their name and logo in your marketing materials. Sponsorships for tabled events or auctions often come with a certain number of tickets for the business to distribute to employees or other members of their community.
- Marketing sponsorships: Some businesses support nonprofits by giving them more marketing exposure for their cause. For example, as part of Google’s corporate giving program, the company provides eligible nonprofits with $10,000 monthly advertising grants they can use to promote their organization to users searching Google.
- Financial sponsorships: Any large donation from a company to your nonprofit can be considered a financial sponsorship. Whether they pay for new equipment or fund the kickoff of a new program, businesses can provide valuable funds to your organization and receive positive publicity in return. Often these ongoing financial sponsors are highlighted on donor walls, either digital or physical.
- In-kind sponsorships: Instead of providing a financial grant to your nonprofit, a company might donate goods or services. This could look like a restaurant letting you rent out their venue space for free or a law firm donating pro bono legal services. These in-kind gifts often come in the form of auction item donations, but they can also be one-time gifts not connected to a specific fundraising event.
No matter what type of sponsorship your organization is looking for, following these steps will help you secure the corporate sponsorship you need.
1. Pick the right program or event
You don’t want to ask your local Starbucks to sponsor your summer camp for kids – you want to ask your local Chuck E. Cheese’s or your local Ronald McDonald House. It is critical to match the corporate mission and desired marketing demographic with your cause. Corporations want to sponsor programs that align with a cause that matches their desired branding image.
Corporations also want a lot of exposure. When picking the program for which you will request sponsorship, focus on a large-scale event or program that will have publicity and a good reach to many community members, to an entire region, or even globally. Galas, video projects, or, like Donna Karan, globally-supported marathons.
2. Research the best prospects
After you brainstorm a prospect list, research those prospects to see if they actually
- Give sponsorships
- Have an aligned “sustainability” mission
- Have a corporate foundation and/or formal request process.
You might find that Chuck E. Cheese’s might give a direct sponsorship, but would rather provide you with a “fundraising night” for your cause. Don’t waste your time and resources cultivating and then soliciting them if that is the case! Also, if the business does have a formal process, you want to follow it to be respectful. The best prospects are going to be the businesses where the support they have to give matches the support you’re looking for. You can always come back to prospects in the future if your needs change.
3. Collect contact information and reach out
While you are researching, find the most appropriate contact at the corporation for connecting you to sponsorships. Sometimes you need to go to the top, to the “Community Relations Manager” or even to the CEO or President herself, but sometimes local corporations have fundraising committees of volunteer employees that triage and potentially even select sponsor recipients. Reach out to that person and try to get a face-to-face meeting, or at least have a productive phone conversation to sell your program and discover the best method of formally inquiring for funding. If there isn’t an obvious choice for the best contact to reach out to, try reaching out to someone would be likely to know who that person is – maybe an Operations Manager or member of the HR team.
4. Put together a proposal
You should have a sponsorship proposal package ready to personalize and send to your contact immediately after your meeting. A solid proposal should include:
- Benefits the business will receive, such as advertising exposure, at specific levels of giving.
- A brief but powerful and confident statement of nonprofit impact and history.
- A thorough examination of how you connect to the corporation’s primary marketing demographic and stated corporate social responsibility strategy.
- Visually appealing pictures, graphics, letterhead, and overall professional presentation.
For example, a proposal that includes business benefits for a specified level of giving might look like this:
$10,000 Eagle Sponsors receive their corporate name on the Top Educator award, along with a table for 6 executives at our annual Gala dinner for 500 of the City’s top education executives. Their name also will be connected to the event as an Eagle Sponsor on our press release and Fox newscast, to reach up to 300,000 local viewers. Award winners receive an interview with the local PBS radio station, where the Eagle Sponsor will again be mentioned. The awards and their sponsors are posted for a year on our website and Facebook page, with 75,000 hits annually and 20,000 friends, respectively.
5. Send your proposal
Emailing is usually the best means of sending business correspondence. This means you want to send it as a simple, easy-to-download PDF file so that users of various email systems and phone applications can access it. You might have to send the proposal more than once or follow up with a receipt of proposal email without an attachment to ensure that it did not get caught in SPAM filters.
Also, make sure you include a direct, powerful, and summative cover email with the attachment. You should introduce yourself, provide contact information, and give a one-sentence summary of your proposal. Realistically, lots of emails go unread, so make sure that yours is easily digestible and focuses on only the most important parts of your message.
6. Call to follow up
Always call to follow up on your emailed or mailed proposal, within a week or two of sending it. If the contact wants to reject you outright, request a meeting, or invite her to visit your offices to renegotiate a different sponsorship concept. With businesses, a ‘no’ from someone who has expressed interest or bothered to speak with you can almost always be converted to a ‘yes’ with persistence and by changing your sales pitch until you find the right angle.
Break your fundraising down into these simple 6 steps, and you can easily attract business sponsors to your next event or big project!