Sponsorships are different than regular organization donations because they are essentially business deals, with mutual benefits for both nonprofit and for-profit. While the corporate sponsor contributes to an organization to help further its mission (usually monetarily), the nonprofit then promotes the sponsoring corporation’s connection to its cause, offering positive publicity and a boosted reputation. Both nonprofit and for-profit acquire access to the supporters and customers of each respective company, expanding their audiences. And, luckily for nonprofits, for the sponsorship to be legal, the benefits to the sponsoring corporation cannot outweigh the benefits to the tax-exempt nonprofit.
Seems like a win-win, especially for nonprofits! But since you are handling a business deal and not asking for donations from supporters, the process for getting sponsorships is different than your year-round fundraising.
So how do you approach a potential sponsor, and what pitfalls should you be aware of?
Find the right match.
Do your research and seek sponsors that relate in some way to your cause. You are most likely to mutually benefit from the relationship if you find a sponsor compatible with your organization, and partnering with the wrong for-profit can in fact hurt your organization. Know the demographics of your supporters and what kinds of businesses they would approve of. Ideally, your supporter base and the customer base of your corporate sponsor should be aligned.
Consider the reputation and values of the business you are partnering with, since that will reflect on your organization. Choose wisely – if your nonprofit promotes health, don’t partner with a sugary soda or candy company, and instead partner with a for-profit that truly values wellness. A conservation-related nonprofit would be smart to seek out a sponsor that is ecologically responsible, and an animal rescue should look into partnering with a business that ethically considers animals.
It is not always obvious how your sponsor will benefit, so it is important to outline specific incentives to compel a business to partner with you. Generally, corporations benefit through the positive publicity of supporting your mission, and your organization helps them achieve this publicity by promoting the business on your campaign assets, newsletter, website, and social media. Show the business your pre-existing press kits, press releases and other promotional materials so they will get a sense of where their own business will get boosted. Demonstrate that you have an effective marketing program in place.
It is also helpful in your partnership proposal to break down the demographics of your supporters so the business will have a clear idea about who their expanded audience will be. Your target audience should be similar.
Create giving levels.
If you are seeking multiple corporate sponsors, break sponsorships into groups according to support. This motivates sponsors to increase their overall support to get into the top tier, or to maintain a certain level of support. Each tier can be tied to a certain benefit package, which can include perks like promoting the company’s logo on various materials and providing special event tickets. This can be done easily with the customizable Sponsorship Tool on Flipcause.
Be creative in your proposal for partnership.
Remember, sponsors can give more than just money. They can offer in-kind donations, workshops for your staff, volunteers for your event and more. Engaging the business with your organization in this way can help build a lasting and productive relationship.
Make use of your personal connections.
Before you make your initial ask, connect with your board members, staff, and volunteers to see if they have any business connections, since a personal connection will make it much more likely that a business will partner with you. Ask if your connection will do the direct outreach for you, or if they would be willing to make a follow up call to the business.
Communication with your sponsors is key.
Don’t forget to ask your partnering companies what you can do for them in return for their support. They will appreciate the consideration. Your nonprofit’s marketing team can meet with your sponsor’s leadership team to make sure the company is getting promoted in the way it wants.
Show your gratitude!
Make double the effort when it comes to thanking your corporate sponsors. Recognize your corporate partners at your events, as well as on your media and materials. Give shout outs on your social media, your website, and your printed assets.
Does your organization have a successful sponsorship relationship? Are you a business with tips for organizations wanting for-profits partnerships? Tell us about your experience in the comments!