As nonprofit fundraisers, we’re always thinking about our donors first. We’re focused on recruiting them, retaining, engaging, and so on. And it’s all worth the effort because our donors are part of the lifeblood of our organizations—they’re the people who financially fuel our missions and help us produce real results.
But donors aren’t the only people you need to reach out to when it comes time to promote your fundraising events and campaigns. In fact, before you begin recruiting personal fundraisers, asking for donations, or asking supporters to share your campaign with others on social media and through email, it’s great to have a head start.
One of the most effective ways to propel your fundraising event and campaign to the next level, both in terms of financial and promotional support, is through sponsorships. We’ve seen a number of highly successful crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns powered by CauseVox that relied on the backing of sponsors— and the results were nothing short of remarkable.
Sponsors help your fundraising efforts, so it’s important to think about them as you’re planning your next fundraising campaign. Learn about sponsorships and follow the steps below to ace your sponsorship request and ultimately raise more funds AND friends in the process!
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What Is A Sponsorship?
Sponsorships are financial, in-kind or product contributions made by a for-profit business or corporation to a nonprofit organization. In some circumstances, the charitable organization provides the sponsoring company recognition in the form of marketing and promotions.
What Types Of Resources Do Sponsors Provide A Nonprofit?
Companies provide a number of resources when they agree to be a sponsor, which are usually determined by an agreement between both parties.
Depending on the needs of your organization, you may choose to ask for one or more of the following from your sponsor partner:
- A financial contribution
- Pro-bono services (such as accounting services, media/marketing, printing, etc.)
- Gift match agreement
- Volunteer support
Keep in mind that this is, by no means, an exhaustive list. There are virtually an unlimited number of ways for a business to support a nonprofit.
What’s In It For The Company?
Sponsorships aren’t just a one-way street, businesses also reap benefits. In our ethics and value-focused corporate culture, companies are now proving that they care about causes through corporate social responsibility initiatives. This helps improve a company’s image, thus attracting employees and vendors interested in working with a socially responsible company.
Sponsoring businesses also bring in positive promotions and marketing, especially if a nonprofit adds the business’ logo to pamphlets or other marketing materials or names them as a corporate sponsor at media events.
Are There Any Tax Implications?
In order for the sponsorship to remain tax-exempt, it’s important that a nonprofit not provide promotions/services over the value of the sponsorship.
Also, a nonprofit isn’t allowed to promote/advertise a certain product sold by the sponsoring company. For example, if a beverage company donated cases of soda to your nonprofit, you could add their logo to your website and hand out that product at an upcoming fundraising event.
However, you are not legally allowed to tell people at the event to “buy the product” or link to that particular product in any event marketing.
What Do Businesses Look For When Choosing an Organization to Sponsor?
The relationship between your organization and the sponsoring business is a professional relationship. While a sponsorship appears to be a donation on the outside (and it is in every legal sense), it’s also a business transaction.
An Audience: Businesses like to see that you have a donor/volunteer/client base that will learn about the sponsorship. Maintaining a website, staying current on social media, and sending out a regular newsletter or direct mailings shows your organization is running effectively and that you have an active audience—things a business is definitely interested in knowing before sponsoring.
Impact: Facts and stats also matter, especially if they clearly show the impact of your nonprofit’s work. Of course, you know all about the importance of reporting your nonprofit’s results and following a strategic plan, so we won’t dive into the nitty-gritty of that here. Just realize that a sponsor is definitely going to want to know all about the positive impact your organization has on your community, so annual reports, client stories, and metrics like a donor’s return on investment handy.
A Plan: Possibly the most important thing your nonprofit can bring to the table is a detailed plan. Knowing what you plan to do with the sponsorship money/product/etc is essential. You’re not going to secure that contribution (and, in turn, build a relationship with that business) if you don’t operate like a business does.
The 411 On Recruiting Sponsors
Recruiting sponsors requires a strategy. Here’s how to recruit sponsors for your fundraising events and campaigns.
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1. Set a Goal
Start the sponsorship recruitment process by examining your nonprofit’s needs. Answer these questions:
- Why do we need a sponsorship?
- What is our ultimate goal?
- What do we hope to gain from it?
- What can we provide the sponsoring business?
- What is our timeline?
Then, create a concrete plan using these answers, incorporating SMART goal setting practices.
- Specific: A certain dollar amount, product, etc.
- Measureable: The sponsorship must be trackable
- Attainable: Make sure what you’re asking for is reasonable for both your nonprofit and the sponsor
- Relevant: The sponsorship should help you meet your nonprofit’s mission
- Time-Based: Create a timeline for the sponsorship process
Your goal may look something like this: Our nonprofit must secure assistance from 2 corporate sponsors and/or $2,000 before April 15th for our May online crowdfunding campaign. These sponsorships will help offset marketing and fundraising costs. Sponsor logos will be added to all promotional materials.
2. List Prospective Sponsors
Since getting sponsorships is just one aspect of fundraising, consider the relationship-building aspect of recruiting sponsors. At the end of the day, you don’t just need the money/products, you want a long-term relationship with that sponsoring business.
The best place to find sponsors is to start with those closest to your organization, namely board members, volunteers, donors, and other loyal supporters. In addition, make note of any relationships you also have with local businesses, such as those you purchase office supplies from and your telecommunications provider.
Make a list that includes the business’ contact information and any mutual relationships your organization has with that business, such as an acting board member who works/owns a company. Leveraging relationships may seem like an “old school” way of gaining sponsors, but it works!
3. Create a Sponsorship Package
Next, develop a sponsorship package. This document includes all the information a business needs to learn about the opportunity. Most sponsorship packages include all or some of the following information:
- The names of all sponsorship levels/opportunities
- Benefits of each level
- Cost per level
- Dates for event/activities/campaigns, if applicable
- Contact information
With a quick Google search, thousands of sponsorship package examples popped up, including these gems from the Greater Hartford Arts Council and United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.
Though both of these examples are different, they contain enough information for a sponsoring company to make an informed decision about participating.
4. Reach Out
You now have everything you need to start reaching out to your business contacts. Now it’s time to reach out to your contacts.
Phone Call and/or In-Person Meeting
In cases when you know the business owner/decision maker, it’s best to schedule an in-person meeting or make a phone call to discuss the opportunity. This is also a good tactic if some of your supporters also work at this business.
Go into the meeting or phone call with a clear plan. Most conversations will go like this:
- Meet and greet, introductions
- Casual small talk on topics such as the business climate or what’s going on in the community
- Discuss your nonprofit’s current impact. How are you making a difference in local lives? What are your organization’s plans for the upcoming year? When possible, talk about stellar employees/associates of the company who are helping in your nonprofit’s efforts (volunteers, board members).
- Transition into the sponsorship request. Give the decision maker information about the opportunity, including cost, benefits, etc. At this point, hand and/or email a copy of the sponsorship packet to the decision maker if they haven’t already gotten one. Explain the impact of the sponsorship.
- Leave time for questions
- Don’t expect an answer immediately. Decisions such as who/where to allocate funds are often left to employee committees or other governing bodies.
- Suggest a follow-up date to confirm the decision (a week to a month is completely reasonable)
If you’re unfamiliar with the business or are working with limited resources, a letter is sometimes the first point of contact between your organization and the potential sponsor. While it may not seem as ideal as a personal conversation, a letter is a great way to introduce your cause and start building a relationship.
A sponsorship introduction letter should include the following elements and look something like the example below.
- Contact information (letterhead information)
- Personal greeting
- Information about your nonprofit and your impact
- Your present needs (“sponsors”)
- How that business fits into the equation
- Request for in-person meeting/phone call
April 21, 2017
Dear Mr. Peterson,
Your company continues to make a positive impact in our community through new hirings and your philanthropic generosity. It’s businesses like yours that help make everyone’s lives in our community stronger and safer.
Here at XYZ nonprofit, we have the same goals. We want to see members of our city happy, healthy, and safe and that’s why we developed the L.O.V.E. Initiative. Through the aid of our generous sponsors and donors, we were able to prove wrap-around services for 100 families at-risk for homelessness right here in our county last year. The families we work with are just like yours and mine, and they are getting the help they need to not only survive, but thrive in school, their jobs, and at home. When one of us succeeds, we all do.
We are currently looking for sponsors to help fund our fundraising efforts for the upcoming fiscal year. If your company decides to participate, we’ll name you as a sponsoring partner is all the communications going out throughout the year. For reference, I also included a sponsorship packet below.
I would love the opportunity to discuss our future partnership with you. Let’s schedule a phone call sometime next week.
Thank you for your consideration!
Tina Jepson, CEO XYZ Nonprofit
5. Next Steps
Follow up with your contact 1-2 weeks after the first contact with a phone call or email.
If they do decide to become a sponsor, send an official thank you letter to show appreciation and to outline their benefits.
Whether or not they decide to sponsor, continue to build a relationship with that business. While something like a financial sponsorship may not be on their radar at this time, that doesn’t mean you can’t partner with them for corporate volunteer opportunities or another initiative down the road.
Building relationships of any kind takes time and effort, and the same goes for recruiting sponsors. And, at the end of the day, remember that it’s as much about developing a lasting relationship with local businesses as it is gaining a sponsoring partner.
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For more information on leveraging partnerships and building relationships, check out these CauseVox resources: