From the DONNA Breast Cancer Marathon to the Purina Paws for the Planet, corporations seem to have their names on nearly everything charitable. Corporate sponsorship spending is directly tied to corporate earning – as earnings increase this year as projected, more money will be available for sponsorship. By following these simple steps, you can attract those corporate sponsors to your cause.
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 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 (See more about cause marketing here).
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; and
- 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.
3. Collect best 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 selling your program and discovering the best method of formally inquiring for funding.
4. Put together a proposal with many benefits
You should have a sponsorship proposal package ready to hone based on that direct input from the community relations manager/sponsorship triage contact, to send immediately after your meeting or as a follow up to your initial contact. A solid proposal always includes:
- Many benefits for sponsorship, at specific levels of giving, especially benefits of advertising exposure. For example: $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.
- 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 sustainability/cause strategy.
- Attractive pictures, graphics, letterhead, and overall professional presentation.
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. (More about writing a cover email.)
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 that 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!