Most nonprofits are used to asking individuals for donations to support their run, walk, or ride fundraising events.
But asking businesses to sponsor those same events can be just as important! In fact, IEG, an organization that tracks corporate sponsorship of charitable causes, projects that total sponsorship spending by businesses in North America alone will reach $23.2 billion in 2017.
So how do you tap into that source of funds for your organization’s next event?
Check out some valuable tips and techniques that we’ve found work well for the nonprofits we’ve worked with over the years!
Who do you ask for a corporate sponsorship?
Approach the businesses in the immediate area of your event. They’re likely to see the value in sponsoring an event in their own community.
Search for lists of companies that donate to nonprofits. You might find one you haven’t thought of before.
Know your points of contact
In addition to working with the person who will sign the sponsorship agreement, ask to speak to someone about forming a team and getting more involved. Developing a relationship with both parties will ensure you get more out of the partnership and help the sponsor feel more involved.
Get human resources involved
Most organizations looking for corporate sponsors approach the marketing department of a business — but why not ask the human resources department?
Ask if they have a health initiative in place. If they do, asking them to form a team would be a great way for them to get involved. You can offer discount codes for employees, a designated meeting place on event day, volunteer opportunities, and/or other perks depending on the level of sponsorship.
How do you ask for a corporate sponsorship?
You can have a company sponsor just about anything — from the portable toilet area to your photo booth. Use aspects of your event that already exist, and turn them into sponsorship perks.
For larger events, know your worth
If you have an event with hundreds or thousands of people, make sure your levels are high enough (such as $1,000 and up). You don’t want to be so high that no one will want to sponsor, but by keeping levels elevated, sponsors will feel like this event is well-run, and that you have confidence in what you’re doing.
For smaller events, don’t leave money on the table
If you have a smaller event and have difficulty securing a large sponsorship, consider offering a lower sponsorship level with fewer perks. For instance, offer a $100 level, and several smaller businesses that were not interested in the larger sponsorship may be able to take part at that level within their budget.
Tell them a story
Explain to sponsors how their sponsorship/support can directly impact someone as part of your mission. For instance, $1,000 will help us do X for X number of people. Also, for your past sponsors, tell them how last year’s sponsorship was able to help your organization accomplish X.
Tailor your ask
Avoid using a one-size-fits-all ask for your potential sponsors. Customize each sponsorship for each company/business or person of contact. If there’s a natural fit between your organization’s mission and the company, use that to build your ask around.
Make them feel like you’re building a mutually-beneficial partnership toward a common good/mission, not just asking them for money.
Remember in-kind donations
If a business declines to offer a monetary sponsorship, ask for a non-monetary sponsorship such as coupons for free services on event day, or that a portion of their proceeds on event day to be donated back to the organization. A business in the area could also serve as a location for the kick-off party, packet pick up, or after-event party.
You can also reach out to companies to provide services you’ll need at the event, such as photography, DJ/entertainment, signage, food, portable toilets, and tent/chair rentals. The value of their goods or services can equate to a sponsorship level.
Find out what demographics a sponsor is targeting, and provide them with information about your event that would be relevant. For example, if a company tends to target women 50-60 years old, let the company know how many people or what percentage of participants attend your event that fall into this group.
Pay attention to your timing
The timing of your ask is important. A lot of larger companies earmark a specific amount of money each calendar year for charitable giving, so be sure to ask when is the best time for them to consider a sponsorship.
Oftentimes, you have to get your ask in very early to even be considered. Other times, you have to consider the business you’re reaching out to. For instance, if you’re reaching out to an accounting firm during tax season, you’re most likely not top-of-mind and your request may go unanswered.
Don’t give up
Always check back to ensure someone has received your call, email, letter, etc. If not, ask to speak to the best person at the company, and/or resend your ask to that person.
How do you work with a sponsor once they’ve signed up?
Treat them like participants
It may sound odd, but many sponsors will feel more engaged and like they’re getting more from their sponsorship if they hear from you more often. This doesn’t mean sending them an email every day, but rather treating them like you would a top fundraising team.
Use the same engagement tools and approaches you use with participants to connect with your sponsors. Offer them a free team captain registration, help them get their page set-up, and provide fundraising coaching. The more a sponsor fundraises and the larger their team, the more exposure they will get and will feel like they’re getting more out of the sponsorship.
Pay attention to the little things
Yes, big perks matter, but the little touch points make a big difference. Send a handwritten thank you or a note from a participant or beneficiary of your cause’s work. If the sponsor also fundraised, create a top fundraisers certificate that you send to them by mail.
These little touch points show that you acknowledge the importance of their support, yet they cost minimal amounts, demonstrating good stewardship in that you aren’t wasting the sponsor’s money.
Thank your sponsors publicly
Don’t underestimate how much companies and businesses like to see themselves online. Tag their company/business page on Facebook, and publicly thank them in a post. You can easily do the same on Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Most likely, the company will then re-post your original post to their full audience to help your event reach new constituents. You can also highlight your sponsors in an event program, marketing materials, and outreach (e.g., emails).
Securing corporate sponsorship may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Put these best practices to use for your next run, walk, or ride event, and corporate sponsorship will be within your reach.
Special thanks to Daniella, Laura, and Christina of Cathexis Partners for contributing the above advice! Cathexis Partners help nonprofits maximize technology for fundraising and supporter engagement.
Daniella Dowiak is an Account Manager who has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than seven years. With a deep understanding of nonprofits’ limited resources, she is passionate about helping organizations get the most out of their technology.
Laura L. Higgins is a Strategic Consultant who specializes in fundraising and community-building events, and has worked with nonprofits for more than 15 years in various roles including staff member, volunteer, and consultant.
Christina Relacion is an Account Manager who has more than 10 years of experience in digital marketing, website editing, video production, and social media. Before joining Cathexis Partners, she served as Communications Manager at the Scleroderma Foundation’s national office.