Corporate Sponsorship

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Part of a series on
Corporate Giving
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1. Corporate Giving
2. Cause Marketing
3. Corporate Sponsorship
4. Employee Giving
5. In Kind Gifts
6. Matching Gifts
7. Corporate Giving Books
8. Corporate Giving Case Studies
9. Corporate Giving Vendors

Sponsorships leap to the top of the list when people think about raising money from corporations. They see logos on Nascars, on golf shirts, on the latest materials from the next community marathon. Part of the reason that sponsorships leap to the top of your mind is that sponsorships are about visibility.

What’s the focus?

In most types of fundraising, the fundraiser’s focus should be on the mission. “There’s this problem that exists, but your gift can solve it.” Sponsorships include this, but they also exist to provide positive public relations for companies that have money to spend. Sponsorship donations are marketing dollars, and typically come from a company’s marketing budget. XYZ company believes in the mission of your organization and thinks that their customers do, too. So they’ll invest money in putting their logo on your event to make a visible connection between what they do and what you do.

When you’re looking at trying to find sponsorships, know that you’re competing with a significant number of organizations for a limited amount of money. Corporations exist to make money, not give money away, so they are going to be judicious with what money they give to whom.

The key to sponsorships mission AND visibility.

Ultimately, you’re not going to get a donation from anyone who doesn’t connect in some way to your mission. Bigger companies (especially public companies) have Community Relations departments that decide their philanthropic focus.

A computer company might focus on STEM education, while a grocery chain might focus on feeding hungry children. This is especially true if they have a corporate foundation that awards grants. Keep in mind, though, that corporate grants are different animal from corporate sponsorships.

With sponsorships, you also need to provide some bang for the buck. Are you hosting an event? How many people are going to attend? Who are they? Not trying to be cynical, but you’re going to find better sponsors for your golf tournament if your hosting a bunch of lawyers than a bunch of teachers. How many media impressions are you going to generate on TV and social media? Where will the company’s logo be visible and for how long?

Sell your mission (and event, project, etc.). You will need to create a sponsorship packet. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it needs to have two crucial pieces of information. These can be printed out on two sheets of paper. The first sheet will focus on the mission and the second will focus on the sponsorship opportunity.

Mission

Your mission sheet should describe the need that exists in your community, how your organization meets that need, and the impact that a sponsorship will have. On this sheet, the impact should be described in lives touched, situations changed, and suffering alleviated. You need to tell a potential sponsor the reason for your fundraising event, and you should not be ashamed about hitting some emotional notes here. Don’t rely solely on facts and statistics to convince them to give. You should also try to inspire their generosity using stories that describe an urgent opportunity to do good.

Visibility

The sponsorship sheet should give a breakdown of what the business will be sponsoring and what kind of visibility it will provide. Is it a golf tournament, a dinner, a concert? Break down the number of people who will be attending and tell something about their demographics. This page is the appropriate place to describe different levels of sponsorship and what kind of exposure each level provides. An example sponsorship levels grid might look something like this:

Sponsor Level Gift Website Social Radio Television
Sower $0-500 x
Planter $500-1,000 x x
Gardener $1,000-5000 x x x
Harvester $5,000 + x x x x

You can add more benefits like tickets to the event, a table, t-shirts, and other specialized swag. Just know that these kinds of benefits reduce the total value of the sponsorship by adding to its cost.

Landing the sponsorship.

Sponsorships are often associated with public events, giving you a limited time window and a definite deadline by which all sponsorships must be finalized. You’ll need a team of people to go out delivering packets to businesses asking them to sponsor the activity. It’s best to limit the number of businesses that each volunteer visits to 10 or less. 5 businesses per person is probably optimal. Volunteer burnout is a very real thing, especially when it comes to fundraising.

The first year you go after sponsorships will be the most difficult because you are asking donors for the very first time. It gets easier every year that you do your event because you have a base of sponsors that will be willing to renew their sponsorship, especially if your event went well and you did a good job thanking them. Make sure that you’re asking every business who has already participated every year.

If you’re just starting out, create a list of local businesses and business franchises that you can ask for a sponsorship. Create your list with your volunteers in mind and with their help. Good volunteers will have relationships with business owners that they can use when making the ask.

Think about the right scale

The amount of money that you plan to raise through sponsorships needs to be reasonable. The size of your organization makes a big difference to the size of the sponsorships that you can request. The size of your organization is a fairly good predictor of the value a sponsorship brings to a business.

If your organization is this big: This might be your gift range:
Less than $100,000 $100-250
$100,000-$1,000,000 $250-5,000
$1,000,000-$5,000,000 $5,000-25,000
$5,000,000 or more $5,000-1,000,000

Follow through is essential.

Asking for the money is just the first part. The second part is delivering the results. This means getting all of the sponsor logos, putting them in the right places, throwing an awesome event, and then showing your sponsors what an awesome event they supported.

Neglecting any of these steps will make it more difficult to get sponsors in the future. It’s a mild disaster if the sponsor doesn’t get tickets to the event, and a major disaster if they aren’t notified that the time or venue has been changed. You need to make sure that you’re communicating with your sponsors and making them feel connected to what you’re doing.

After the event, make sure that you thank your donors profusely. Share your successes with them. Send them pictures of the event and tell them how many people it touched. And especially share the impact.

Non-event sponsorships.

Not all sponsorship opportunities will be tied to events. They might be tied to a building (like the Verizon Wireless Arena), or a piece of equipment (like a tractor trailer that sports a sponsor logo). If you are seeking sponsors for building and equipment, you just need to adjust your sponsor materials to reflect it. Your mission page in the sponsor materials can remain the same, however.

Program sponsorships are another route that you can go. In this case, you are tying the gift to a specific program that your organization operates. This enables you to focus in on the philanthropic priorities of the donor and get them excited about doing something that is important to them.

In each of these cases, your process will be similar to finding event sponsors. You’ll need to have materials that describe the sponsorship opportunity, a team of people to reach out to business leaders, a list of potential sponsors, and an organizational structure that will follow up with volunteers and sponsors.