A 2018 study by Cone/Porter Novelli found that 77 percent of Americans have a stronger emotional connection to ‘purpose-driven companies.’ These are companies that stand for something beyond sales and profit.
Purpose driven companies have become much more popular over the past decade, and more corporations are looking to support nonprofit organizations as a way to shift their own position in the minds of consumers.
This is good news for nonprofits. With more companies interested in supporting good causes, nonprofits are more easily able to find corporations willing to partner up and sponsor important events like fundraisers and charity balls.
But nonprofits shouldn’t be expecting corporations to show up at their door. You still need a solid sponsor acquisition strategy if you want to secure these partnerships. Jump to proposal letter sample.
How to Attract Sponsors for Your Nonprofit Organization
The best way to attract sponsors for your nonprofit’s event is by having a solid, well-planned sponsor acquisition strategy. While corporations doling out nonprofit sponsors may genuinely believe in supporting a cause, a corporation’s first priority is reaching more customers and making money.
If you’re a nonprofit organization that’s just starting out, or if you’re having trouble attracting sponsorships, perhaps it’s time you upgraded your acquisition strategy. Read on to learn nine ways you can appear more attractive to corporate sponsors.
1. Determine who your audience is
Before you start looking for corporate sponsors, you need to identify the target audience for your event. This is so you can determine which companies would benefit the most from sponsoring your event. For example, if your event is a fun run targeted at fit young adults ages 18 to 30, you can look into contacting gyms, sports drink manufacturers, activewear brands and water brands.
Why is this important? Matching up brands to your target audience doesn’t just bring more cohesion to your event branding, it also makes your event more attractive to potential sponsors.
Pro tip: Prioritize companies with a strong local presence as well. Again, it creates a win-win situation for both you and your potential sponsor. These days, audiences love supporting local businesses, and when they see a local business invested in a good cause, it can greatly increase patronage.
2. Come up with a budget and a sponsorship package plan
Arguably the most important step in planning an event is coming up with a budget. After all, without funding, there is no event. Figure out how much you’ll need to cover the venue, food, entertainment, lights and sounds, equipment and manpower. Don’t forget to account for advertising, printing costs, uniforms for personnel and security too.
Once you have a budget, you’ll also have a clear picture of how much money you need to raise to make your event happen. With that in mind, you can start putting together your sponsorship package plan. This is a set of optional sponsorship levels that companies can choose from, depending on their budget and desired level of involvement.
For example, for a fun run, you can offer four sponsorship levels: Helping Hand, Ally, Partner and Hero. Here’s how you can categorize their benefits:
- Helping Hand sponsors can provide $600 in exchange for logo placement on the sponsor’s board, the event website, and the T-shirt giveaway.
- Ally sponsors will give $1500 in exchange for the aforementioned benefits plus 10 free passes to the race.
- Partner sponsors who give $3000 will enjoy all of the above benefits plus logos on mile markers and media materials, an information booth at registration and 20 free passes.
- Hero sponsors who provide $5000 can enjoy everything plus a prominent logo on the start/finish banner, a “presented by” credit and 30 free passes.
3. Consider non-monetary options
Some companies, though willing and interested in supporting your cause, may not have the means and capabilities to shell out the kind of money you need. However, they may be able to provide sponsorship in other ways.
Consider adding a level to your sponsorship package plan that allows for ‘in-kind donations’ or ‘x-deals.’ This can be anything from products that can be given away during the event, catering services, manpower, training and even consulting.
For example, a sports drink supplier may be willing to provide 500 small bottles for a fun run. Instead of just providing water for runners, you can supply the sports drink bottles at drinking stations spread out across the trail.
Pro tip: Consider getting a media sponsor. While media sponsors won’t be able to give you money to fund your event, they can get the word out for free. This can significantly cut down on advertising costs and can attract bigger sponsors who know enough to take advantage of media coverage.
4. Make sure the sponsor’s brand is seen and heard
When coming up with your sponsorship package plan, make sure that the sponsor’s brand cannot be missed on flyers, banners, websites, T-shirts, and other materials where branding was promised. At the end of the day, corporations care most about making money. If their logos aren’t clearly visible on your collateral items, they may not be getting the returns they’re looking for.
How else can you incorporate sponsor branding into your event? Try to include sponsorship mentions in the following:
- TV spots
- Radio guest appearances
- Print and online banner ads
- Email newsletters
- Social media posts where the sponsor is tagged
- Event invites
- Mentions by the event host before, during and after the event
- Thank you posts online
- Press interviews
- Follow-up email to attendees
5. Draft a proposal letter
Formalize your request with a carefully written proposal letter. Your letter should include an overview of your nonprofit, details of the event, details of past events if possible and the sponsorship package plan. In your letter you should assert how beneficial the partnership would be to both of you.
Here is a sample proposal letter for a fun run:
The Good Food Company
123 Main St.
Dear Mr. Smith,
I am Amanda Reyes, the project manager of The Cancer Warriors’ annual Cancervivors’ Race – a 3, 5, and 10 km fun run mounted to raise funds for individuals and groups battling cancer. This year’s race will be held on July 24th at Grace Park, Southwest St. Registration starts at 4 am. The race begins at 6 am.
Last year we raised $40,000 for the children’s cancer ward at St. Patrick’s Hospital. This year our goal is to raise $60,000 for the renovation of the oncology department at Trinity Hospital.
We couldn’t have reached last year’s milestone without the help of our generous sponsors. This year, we’re hoping that The Good Food Company would be interested in coming on board as a sponsor. We believe that this partnership could greatly benefit your company, as our target audience consists of cancer survivors, cancer patients and their friends and family – people who are invested in making better choices when it comes to nutrition.
Attached is our sponsorship package plan where you can choose from four sponsorship levels. We hope you’re able to contribute to our cause and we thank you for the consideration.
Thanks in advance!
Cancervivors’ Race by The Cancer Warriors
6. Create a signup form
Along with your proposal letter, send a link to an online sponsorship signup form that companies can immediately fill out if they are interested in sponsoring your event. You should also create a spreadsheet to serve as a database that records potential and confirmed sponsors. Use this list to track which types of companies confirm right away, which ones take time to pay and which ones deny your request.
Pro tip: Formalize your deal by sending your sponsors a contract indicating everything agreed upon in your discussions. In case of any disagreements or concerns, both of you can just refer to the contract instead of engaging in disagreements.
7. Know when to reach out
Just because you have a carefully-crafted sponsorship package and letter, it doesn’t mean that you’re a shoe-in for a corporate partnership. Knowing when to reach out is also integral to sealing the deal. Obviously you should reach out earlier. Give companies ample time to review the package, assess their budget and seek approval from upper management. This can take anywhere between three to six months, so it’s good to start early.
You should also consider planning your events around the summertime. Most companies have limited budgets and are usually more willing to shell out around summer than they are during any other season.
When looking for sponsors, call friends and family for potential leads. Exhaust all your immediate connections first before moving on to making cold calls. Having somebody on the inside can make it easier for you to strike a deal with a company.
Pro tip: Social media is a great tool for researching and reaching out to potential sponsors. Look up past events that are similar and take a look at their sponsors. Then look for similar companies who might be willing to do the same for your event.
8. Personalize and update
Make sure that all letters, packages and materials are personalized to the companies and point persons you’re reaching out to. Adding a personal touch doesn’t just make companies feel important, it creates a relationship between the two of you. Once the deal has been made, make sure to send a thank you letter and a token of appreciation to the company.
You should also keep your sponsors updated regularly. You’ll be placing their logos on flyers, banners and other materials, so it only makes sense for you to seek their approval on the final design. While you don’t have to send them weekly progress reports, you can invite your sponsors to big pre-event activities such as a pre-event receptions.
Pro tip: In the process of updating your sponsors on the progress of your event, try to establish a relationship with your point person. Instead of firing off cold and impersonal emails, get friendly (but still remain professional) with your sponsors. Being someone who is both efficient and pleasant to work with makes it easier for companies to consider you the next time you ask for help.
9. Provide ample documentation
Finally, make an effort to document the sponsors’ presence at your event. This means taking photos of banners, T-shirts, signage and other collateral items featuring sponsors’ branding; documenting booth activity and audience participation; and even involving your sponsors in the post-event video.
Send over photos and videos along with a detailed report on the event. What should you include in the report? You can talk about attendance and media coverage as well as the amount of money raised for the event. Don’t forget to inform your sponsors about where that money will go. If possible, send documentation to sponsors when you finally use the money for your cause.
Lastly, show sponsors how grateful you are for their participation. Send your sponsors a token of appreciation for making the event possible. If you do everything right, you’ll likely be able to encourage your sponsors to come back and support your cause next year.
As intimidating as it seems to request sponsorship from corporations, all you really need is a well-thought-out plan. With enough preparation, you can impress companies into believing that not only is your event worth investing in, but that you also have the foresight and expertise to take care of them and make sure they get their money’s worth! If you pull it off, both you and your sponsors will benefit greatly from your partnership.