Teaming up with a corporate sponsor

In addition to individual donors and foundations, businesses should also be included on your roster of potential benefactors. Corporate sponsorships can help you expand your organization's marketing wheelhouse, said The Network for Good. Companies can give you a wider audience for publicity, in addition to offering financial support. The relationship between a nonprofit and a corporation is a two-way street: Businesses also stand to benefit from contributing funds to your organization. Sponsoring nonprofits lends exposure and helps companies improve their brand. 

However, corporations view the partnership strictly in business terms. In order to gain a corporate sponsorship, you'll need to suit your strategy to your audience. Rather than writing an appeal or proposal, you'll be submitting a pitch. No matter how valuable your vision, a business executive still wants to know how the company will benefit in return. You need to apply just as much time and effort to pitching a sponsorship as you would cultivating any other major-capacity donor. If you're unsure of where to begin, take in the following tips:

Know your audience
As with any other fundraising appeal, prior research is a necessary step. First, confirm that a company offers corporate sponsorships. You don't want to spend time crafting proposals that won't yield results. 

Second, nonprofit blog Fundraising IP suggested you take into account a company's marketing demographics. Can you match a business' goals with your charitable mission? Ideally, you want to center the partnership on a single large event or program. This gives you some flexibility in tending to corporate interests. Like most nonprofits, you probably host a variety of events. While a toy company is not a probable sponsor for a silent auction, it is a good fit for a youth field trip. The more you know about different companies, they better you can pitch a particular occasion for sponsorship.

Know what you can offer
Think about what you're prepared to give back. Will you include corporate names in your press releases and advertising? Do you have the budget to bestow your corporate patrons with VIP tickets to a formal event? Can you secure a radio interview with an agency spokesperson? Businesses hope their good deeds will draw in more customers; they want as much positive exposure as they can get. Before writing your pitch, you need to know what you're able to promise.

Craft the request
Submitting an appeal for sponsorship is different from asking an individual donor for financial support. For the latter, emotional connection is usually your focal point. Corporate audiences want to instead know your business strategy. 

Before typing your letter, check whether the company already has a formal sponsorship request process in place, and respect their format. Make sure to address your correspondence to the appropriate point of contact. Begin with a concise statement of your organization's history and successes. Tell the company how your cause aligns with their target audience.

List all the benefits you'll offer in exchange for sponsorship. This could include the promise of giving recognition in Facebook posts and on landing pages, tweeting the company name and spreading the word about the good nature of a business throughout your email campaigns. If you have the budget, offer logos on event giveaways, such as t-shirts and water bottles. Your goal is to promise recognition and visibility for the corporate brand name.

Pay attention to the visual appeal of your letter. Even though you're a nonprofit, your audience sees this partnership as a business-to-business transaction, according to Gail Perry. Your sponsorship request should be sharply presented, including professional letterhead, polished pictures and infographics. Send your pitch as an attachment, with a short cover letter typed into the body of the email. This saves your reader some work, and shows that you value their time.

Follow up
It can take a while for companies to respond to your request, but it's fine to make a follow-up call. If someone answers the phone, that indicates some degree of interest. Even if you hear the word "no" on the other end of the line, it's possible you could persuade a change of heart, said Perry. Regardless of outcome, it never hurts to touch base after you've emailed a pitch.

If a company agrees to sponsor you, keep the framework of a partnership in mind. Let them have a say in how you brand their business. For example, ask for approval on all logos before printing. Corporate support doesn't have to be limited to a single event. Do what you can to cultivate a relationship with your sponsor. If you can show them results, they're likely to stick around for other programs. In turn, individuals working for the company could become regular donors - don't forget to use your donation management software to keep track of your prospective support.

Publicly thank your sponsor
No matter the tenure of the partnership, your sponsor deserves recognition for their support. Before a formal thank-you note reaches their office, you can send immediate gratitude via social media channels. Gratitude cements the positive experience, helping you stay on the radar for future opportunities. 

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