How to Bring in Corporate Sponsors

Date Published
07/24/2020

Fundraising is at the core of every nonprofit’s ability to support its mission. Without the necessary funds, none of the work such organizations do could be possible.

There are a wide variety of methods your nonprofit can use to attract donors who believe in your cause. From traditional ad campaigns to digital outreach and grassroots work led by your volunteers and supporters, every nonprofit has to pick the strategies that work best for them.

For many organizations, attracting corporate sponsors is a major goal in terms of fundraising. Corporate sponsorship offers a wide range of benefits. They:

  • Contribute money, often a substantial amount, either in a lump sum or on a sustaining basis.
  • Raise awareness of your cause through donations, both among their employees and customers.
  • May allow their employees to deduct a small portion of their paycheck as a donation, a simple and easy process that encourages additional giving.
  • May also encourage their staff to volunteer with your group or provide their services to your business, if those services align with your goals.
  • Can boost your own organization’s profile, if business is particularly well known and highly regarded.

Understanding how corporate sponsorship works and how to attract these powerful donors can make a major and positive difference for your nonprofit. Read on for some valuable and practical guidance.

What is corporate sponsorship?

Corporate sponsorship is relatively simple. The core action of a corporate sponsorship is a business donating to nonprofit. The goal is for both the business and the nonprofit to receive benefits in return for this partnership.

Corporate sponsorships examples include ongoing financial support for your nonprofit as well as a donation that helps to cover the cost of a specific event or series of them. If a sponsor realizes a strong return from an event-based sponsorship, they may be more willing to work with your nonprofit in the future or even start supporting it on a regular basis.

How do corporate sponsorships work?

Corporate sponsorships, when effectively managed by both the business and the nonprofit it donates to, create a win-win situation. We’ve already covered the major benefits for nonprofits: significant donations and increased awareness in a variety of forms. But what’s in it for the companies that sponsor nonprofits? What do corporate sponsors want out of this type of relationship?

The first consideration is corporate philanthropy – the desire for a company to give back to the community that helps to keep it open. Corporate sponsorship opportunities are effective vehicles for addressing this need. The business does its research, selects a nonprofit group with a mission that aligns with the firm’s charitable objectives and then makes some form of donation.

Marketing is another benefit for businesses that choose to enter into corporate sponsorship agreements. Sponsors are generally recognized by nonprofits in various forms – through physical marketing materials, on websites and on banners and signs used to promote and host events. There’s a clear positive association with supporting nonprofits, so it’s not surprising that corporate sponsorships are viewed as an effective marketing tactic.

It’s common for corporations to select nonprofits that are somehow aligned with or have a connection to their own products or services, which can make the marketing objective that much more effective by targeting a relevant audience. And, regardless of specifics, seeing a for-profit brand associated with a nonprofit organization will often enhance the perception of that company with potential and current customers.

How do corporate sponsors raise money?

Corporations can raise money for the nonprofits they sponsor in a variety of ways. The majority of the donation will often come from either the company itself or a charitable foundation it has created. Larger businesses that are open to the idea of sponsoring nonprofits usually have funds on hand that are earmarked for such use. If the company isn’t prompted to start the process by a request for sponsorship, it will determine if it has the extra money available to engage in this practice. Then, it will start looking for nonprofits that align with both its values and marketing goals.

However, this isn’t the only way a sponsor may bring in donations for the nonprofits they work with. While not a universal practice, it’s not uncommon for sponsors to encourage their employees to donate to or volunteer with a sponsored nonprofit.

The sponsor’s customers may find out about the sponsorship as well and decide to make their own donations. And the business may even provide information about or a link to a sponsored group that helps move this process along.

How do you get a corporate sponsor?

Corporate sponsorship and the contributions that come along with it can be incredibly valuable to your nonprofit. That means it’s vital to build an effective strategy that addresses a number of important considerations. Necessary steps include:

  • Preparing internally so your organization can put its best foot forward when the time comes to reach out to sponsors.
  • Building a workflow, centered around your proposal, which has the best chance of nurturing a relationship with potential partners, from first contact to securing a sponsorship.
  • Deciding how to approach corporate sponsors initially, begin the conversation and askfor corporate sponsorship when the time is right.
  • Taking steps to continue the relationship and creating attractive opportunities for sponsors to provide further support.

Internal preparations and making first contact

Remember these two things when your nonprofit starts planning to attract corporate sponsors:

  1. Sponsors need some special attention because they represent a single, large-value donor with interests and goals that differ significantly from your standard individual donor.
  2. Your existing marketing collateral, outreach plans, mission statement, list of achievements and similarly important pieces of information are still valuable. They just may need to be reformatted or repurposed to address a sponsor’s individual needs.

With that in mind, narrowing down your field of potential prospects for corporate sponsorship is a great place to start. Look for businesses that have philanthropic and marketing goals that align with your nonprofit’s mission. You can consider local businesses as well as large, nationally-known brands. Identifying businesses that hold values that align with your nonprofit’s mission will help you build an initial list.

Your research might involve checking in with connections in the local nonprofit community and discussing potential options with volunteers and staff when it comes to companies in your area. You can also reach out directly for some preliminary information. For larger businesses, you can conduct online searches to find out about past philanthropic efforts as well as any programs the companies or their foundations operate related to corporate sponsorship. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from getting in touch with their corporate philanthropy office or a similar department as well. You should also make sure larger companies have a local presence before moving forward.

After gathering your research, be sure to ask questions as you reach out to potential sponsors for the first time. Understanding their goals, priorities and needs can help you craft a more effective and unique proposal. Asking basic questions that help to identify their preferred customer demographics or their sponsorship goals can quickly help you determine if a prospect is worth further consideration – with all of the work that goes into it – or if it’s likely not a good fit for your group’s plan.

While every nonprofit’s mission and goals are different, you can easily customize  your approach based on your organization’s unique needs.

Workflows, proposals and building your approach

Make roles and responsibilities clear within your organization. Who will work on securing corporate sponsorships? Deciding how and when your organization plans to present a proposal as well as the process for assembling it is also vital. Having these conversations early on allows everyone to get on the same page and work toward a common goal.

Your proposal is central to convincing potential partners to take action and sponsor your nonprofit. You likely already have a good idea of how to promote your nonprofit to individual donors, whose main goal is generally supporting a cause they believe in. This is also an objective of corporate sponsors, although not the only one. Your organization needs to make the case in terms of exposure and marketing potential as well as how the money contributed will support your nonprofit’s mission.

Quantify the expected attendance at an event, the number of prospects who will see the sponsor’s logo in marketing materials and the general demographics of those groups. Businesses pay keen attention to not only overall exposure, but the relevance of the audience to their products or services – and that isn’t all that different from the outreach efforts of nonprofits.

Building a proposal takes time, but it can be relatively straightforward. Women’s Small Business Expo organizer Linda Hollander told Entrepreneur that starting with a story that builds an emotional connection is crucial. Other steps to take she urged fellow nonprofit leaders to keep in mind include highlighting the benefits to the business, including a request for a specific amount of funding and adding personal touches, like reaching out in person or on the phone whenever possible.

Network For Good highlighted the importance of selling the benefit to potential sponsors first. Building an emotional connection via storytelling shouldn’t be ignored, but the first segue in your proposal should detail what’s in it for potential sponsors. From there, you can discuss event specifics and make a defined request for funding.

Nurturing and building the relationship

Corporate sponsorship doesn’t have to end after one event or a mutually agreed-upon series of them. A follow-up conversation after the event or events that highlights the value your nonprofit brought to your sponsor can set the stage for further support. You can gauge your sponsor’s reaction in the moment, especially if staff from the business attend the event, as well as in the days, weeks and months afterward. You should absolutely consider proposing future sponsorship opportunities if the reaction is generally positive.

If you secure a continuing sponsorship with regular donations from the start, you have a stronger base to work from. However, your organization still needs to check in about your sponsor’s level of satisfaction and validate the benefits that come from the partnership. A strong return could mean looking for more substantial sponsorships or opportunities to include the business’s employees in volunteer days, among many other options.

If the results didn’t align with your sponsor’s goals, considering how and why that situation arose can help your nonprofit make more effective decisions in the future. Perhaps projected attendance at your event was higher than the actual number of guests. Maybe the target audience desired by the sponsor didn’t align with your supporters as strongly as your organization thought it would. Look for learning opportunities that can make your next round of outreach and proposals more targeted and effective.

Securing sponsors is within your reach

Not all nonprofits can secure the backing of the largest multinational corporations for upcoming events or on a continuing basis. However, every nonprofit has the opportunity to connect with both local and national companies to support their goals through corporate sponsorship.

Whether your organization is just starting on the path to sponsorship or is retooling its existing strategy, remember to focus on the value your nonprofit can bring to potential partners and take the time to identify companies that align with your mission.

Allegiance Fundraising provides a wide variety of solutions that make nonprofit management, from agency services and technology solutions to support for loyalty and incentive programs. To learn more, get in touch with us today.

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