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Corporate sponsorship for nonprofits: 7 steps to secure more funding

Everything you need to know about nonprofit corporate sponsorships, including their benefits, how they work, and seven steps to secure a solid sponsor.

Rachel Ayotte
December 28, 2023
December 23, 2020
Nerd Mr Butter

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In 2022, for-profit businesses gave more than $21 billion to nonprofit organizations. While several kinds of contributions make up that huge number, corporate sponsorships—a sustainable, efficient way to bring in more funds to an organization—play an enormous role. 

To jumpstart your corporate sponsorship strategy, dive into our guide below. You’ll find everything you need to know about this lucrative opportunity, including how to obtain corporate sponsorship for your organization in seven steps.

What is a corporate sponsor?

Corporate sponsors are for-profit organizations that donate money or other resources to a nonprofit, whether as an ongoing financial contribution or a boost for a single event or fundraising campaign. In exchange, sponsors receive opportunities to increase brand awareness. 

More specifically, corporate sponsors gain:

  • Recognition ⭐️ Nonprofits use sponsorship logos on promotional materials (website, press releases, flyers), on merch and gear (t-shirts, uniforms, or water bottles), as well as on signage, programs, or event materials.
  • Positive press 📣 Corporations can improve their public image when they are seen supporting nonprofit causes.
  • Tax incentives 💸 Businesses can write off as much as a quarter of their taxable income for contributions to nonprofits with tax-exempt status, including 501(c)(3) organizations.

What are some corporate sponsorship benefits for nonprofits? 

The top 10 most generous corporations donate over $2 billion a year to nonprofits. But aside from bringing funds in the door, corporate philanthropy, specifically corporate sponsorship, has a few additional benefits for nonprofits:

  • Visibility and publicity ✨ Being associated with well-known corporations can enhance a nonprofit's credibility and raise awareness about its mission and activities.
  • Access to resources and expertise 🎁 Corporate sponsors may offer volunteer assistance or access to professional guidance. 
  • Partnerships and networking opportunities 🤝 Sponsorships can extend beyond financial contributions, leading to long-term collaborations—which could result in access to other organizations, new donors, and a broader volunteer network.

How do corporate sponsorships work, exactly?

Corporate sponsorships are an agreement set in place by you (the fundraiser) and a for-profit entity, such as a national retailer or a family-owned restaurant. The corporate sponsor often makes a financial to your cause, and as a thank you, the fundraising committee offers something in exchange—typically in the form of free advertising. 

A corporate sponsorship could look like the following:

  • Organize a 5K race 👟 For your walk/run fundraiser benefiting an elementary school, you offer prizes to the top three finishers in each age group, paid for by a sponsor. In exchange, you feature the sponsor's name on your website and on the back of each race T-shirt.
  • Deliver meals to those in need 🍲 Your nonprofit offers meals to seniors in need. A local grocer pays for your expenses, including fuel costs for deliveries and packaging for meals. You include the grocer’s logo on the side of your delivery trucks so the organization gets free advertising on the road.
  • Host a golf tournament 🏌 To raise money for your local cheerleading squad, you host a golf tournament. You offer nine corporate sponsorship slots—one for every hole on the green. Each local business can decorate its hole, sell new products, play music, and otherwise make it a fun, memorable experience.

What are the four types of corporate sponsorships?

There’s no one corporate sponsorship definition—in fact, there are a few different kinds that serve a variety of purposes.

  • Contributing funds 💰Whether given as a lump sum or in smaller, regular payments, a monetary donation is often the simplest way for businesses to contribute. Nonprofits often charge simple sponsorship fees in this kind of arrangement.
  • Providing in-kind donations 🛍 Businesses may also donate products and services, like free t-shirts, event tickets, prize packages, auction baskets, or catering services.
  • Covering marketing costs 📢 A corporate sponsor can support your overall marketing strategy or take care of campaign marketing and advertising entirely (TV or social media ads, printing promotional materials like flyers, and more).
  • Encouraging employee participation 👷 Many businesses will encourage their staff to support their cause through things like automatic payroll deductions for donations and corporate matching gifts.

How to get corporate sponsors in 7 steps

Follow these seven steps to zero in on sponsorship candidates and prove that partnering with your organization is good for business.

Step 1. Self-evaluate 🔎

Self-reflection and taking stock of your mission and goals before you approach potential sponsors will enable you to put your best foot forward and help you determine if a corporate sponsorship is right for you.

To do so, make sure you can clearly answer the following questions:

  • What is your fundraising goal (for the year, quarter, event, etc.)?
  • What do you hope to gain from a corporate sponsorship?
  • What can we offer businesses in exchange for their help?
  • What is your unique value proposition?
  • Are we looking for a one-off event sponsorship?
  • Do we need a partner in cause-related marketing? 
  • What does success look like for your organization?
  • What could success look like for your sponsor?
  • What demographics do you serve?
  • Who is your target audience for donations and volunteers?

Step 2. Craft your sponsorship program 💭

Complete the following tasks to build your sponsorship program:

  • Create a workflow 🤝 Make a plan for how you’ll engage with businesses from start to finish, including the initial outreach, request follow-up, and acknowledgment.
  • Designate staff for sponsorships 👥 Decide who will take the lead on managing these relationships, whether it’s a board member, an intern, or another member of your team.
  • Prepare your internal documents 📋 Compile the information, impact stories, achievements, and data that define your organization so it’s ready to share and easy to digest.
  • Develop your corporate sponsorship packages 🎁 Establish your sponsorship levels and benefits for each one. Create a sponsorship page on your website and a handout that includes all the important details.

Step 3. Create a list of potential sponsors 👥

The best corporate sponsors will match your core values, have a reputable brand image, and have goals that align with your organizational activities. 

In addition to searching for corporate backers online, an essential place to look is right in your local community. Small businesses won’t get nearly as many sponsorship requests, so your appeal can get to the top of the pile faster. To help you get started, we suggest making a list of corporate sponsors that fall into one of three categories:

  • Those who care about your event 💛 Research other causes that your potential sponsors have supported. Maybe your mission is related to their interests and passions.
  • Those who care about others impacted by your event 🫂 If you're raising money to end breast cancer, search for business owners who are survivors or who have family or friends affected by the illness.
  • Those who have the same audience as you 📣 Are you raising money for a local club or sports team? Make a list of every sports store and organization in the area.

Step 4. Write and send a strong appeal 📩

Once you have your prospect list, it’s time to craft your pitch. Your proposal should be easy to read and straight to the point—explain what the opportunity is, why you’re asking, and how it benefits them. 

Every appeal you send should include at least one or two customized sentences, showing the recipient you did your research. Here’s how to get started:

  • Do a little digging 🔎 Read up on the organization, study its website and social media channels, and view any press coverage they’ve had. You’ve got to know them to woo them.
  • Learn their goals 🥅 Who is their target customer? Do they have a new product they’re trying to promote? Make sure your appeal speaks directly to these business motivations.
  • Look up past sponsorships 💰 Do you know where the corporation donated funds in the past? See if the causes they support align with your campaign in any way. 

Some worthwhile tips for drafting your sponsorship proposal:

  • Keep it to a single page
  • Use distinct bullets or sections
  • Address the decision makers by name when possible
  • Cover your specific programs and services
  • Explain the concrete benefits of sponsoring your cause or event

💡Pro tip: If you’ve worked with a corporate sponsor in the past, or partnered with a community group, see if they’ll give you a shining testimonial. It’ll add an objective but positive voice to your request.

Lastly, feel free to get creative with your proposal, thinking of innovative ways to entice the decision-maker to sign on the dotted line. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Use an influencer network 🤩 Will local bloggers, press, or social media influencers be at your event? Let the sponsor know that each influencer will tag them in Instagram posts or tweets.
  • Offer incentives to event attendees 🎫 Can you give away coupons, BOGO (buy one, get one) deals, or merchandise from your sponsor's establishment?
  • Design custom experiences ✨ Top-tier sponsorship opportunities might include a themed parade float, a lounge at a conference, or a 21+ pop-up bar after a race finish line.

Step 5. Keep tabs on the metrics 📊

Tracking the success of your sponsorship outreach strategy is essential. To do this, utilize a contact relationship management (CRM) system to keep tabs on your potential sponsor email list as you send out your pitches. 

Your CRM data does not need to be overly complicated. To start, track the following data:

  • Contact information (potential sponsor’s name, phone number, and email address.
  • Activity notes (phone calls, emails, or sponsorship letters sent)
  • Donor history (whether they gave in the past, or have already pledged an event sponsorship this year)

Step 6. Follow up on your request 👋

Getting donations from companies is a big task—and securing sponsorships is much the same. Large, recognizable companies are inundated with hundreds of requests. That’s why it’s your responsibility to follow up.

Reach out by email or phone every few days, and be prepared to hammer out details when you get to a decision-maker. Don’t worry if you get a rejection. A “no” doesn’t mean “never” and neither does radio silence. You can always follow up again or send another request.

Step 7. Keep the relationship strong 💙

Once the event has come and gone, the work isn't quite over. Continue to shout out your sponsor on your social media accounts, send a handwritten thank-you note, and strategically ask for their continued support in upcoming years.

A proper send-off for your sponsors should include:

  • A one-to-one thank you 💌 Send this within one week, whether it's a handwritten card, a gift, or a framed, signed photo of the event.
  • A one-to-many thank you 📣 Create this within several days of your event, whether it's a social blast, mentioning your sponsors in a podcast interview, or singing their praises on your website.

Secure more sponsorships with Givebutter

Asking for sponsorships is nothing more than building human relationships. Therefore, don't make your outreach strategy a burn-and-churn process—do your research, draft unique emails, and design creative proposals.

The best fundraising events combine the power of grassroots individual giving and large corporate sponsorships. With Givebutter, organizations can access a full suite of fundraising tools, including event management and built-in CRM, all in one place. 

Create a free Givebutter account and set your nonprofit on a path toward fundraising and corporate sponsorship success today.

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