How to get sponsorships for a fundraising campaign in 5 steps

Written by
Rachel MillsWhite arrow icon

How to get sponsorships for a fundraising campaign in 5 steps

We know the power of individual giving. Every day, we get a front-row seat to incredible grassroots organizations making a real impact in their communities. 

We witnessed a local meals program raise over $30k to provide food security during the pandemic and a high school raise $189k in a single day. We understand how a few individuals can light a fire within their community, leading to jaw-dropping fundraising campaigns.

But with all of that being said, we also know that corporate sponsorships make fundraising a heck of a lot easier.

Corporate sponsorships provide considerable funds upfront, allowing you the freedom to plan your dream fundraiser.

These sizable donations can help cover the costs of your campaign, including advertising costs, materials, permit fees, graphic design, or even tech support.

With these tools and resources now covered in your budget, your campaign has an increased likelihood of reaching more people — and sending your fundraising goal across the finish line.

Below, we explain how to get sponsorships for your fundraiser. We'll walk you through different outreach strategies, how to customize your offering, and how to make a sponsorship beneficial for both parties.

How do corporate sponsorships work, exactly? 

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Here's the short answer to the above question: however you want. 

Here's the longer answer: Corporate sponsorships are an agreement set in place by you (the fundraiser) and a for-profit entity, such as a corporation, local restaurant, or your mom's hair salon. The corporate sponsor makes a donation to your good cause, ideally in advance of the actual fundraising event. As a thank you, the fundraising committee will offer something in exchange, typically in the form of free advertising (like writing the sponsor's name on pamphlets, T-shirts, or tents at the event). 

There are countless ways to get a sponsorship, so feel free to get creative in how you approach a potential relationship.

The best sponsorship packages are those that benefit both parties (fundraisers and sponsors).

Therefore, try to offer sponsorship packages that serve the corporate sponsor, the fundraising event, and the demographics of those in attendance.

A corporate sponsorship could look like the following examples: 

  • Organize a 5K race 👟: You organize a 5K walk/run to raise money for your local 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 🍲: You create a fundraiser to offer meals to seniors in need. Your expenses include fuel costs for deliveries and packaging for meals, paid for by a local grocer. You include a coupon for $5 off a $50 grocery order with each meal, driving new business toward your corporate sponsor.
  • Host a golf tournament 🏌: You organize a golf tournament to raise money for your local cheerleading squad. You offer nine corporate sponsorship slots — one for each hole on the green. Each local business can decorate their hole, sell new products, play music, and otherwise make it a fun, memorable experience.

5 steps to getting sponsorships for your fundraiser 

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We said it once, and now we'll say it again: The best sponsorship deals are those that benefit both parties.

In other words, to effectively attract corporate sponsors, you need to make sure their investment pays dividends later on.

To do this, you need to thoroughly research each potential sponsor, understanding who they are, what they care about, and who their target audience is. Once you know those three things, you can put together an enticing proposal they can't refuse. 

Sound complicated? It's not. This is one-to-one outreach, which you are perfectly capable of doing with the tips below.

1. Write a list of potential sponsors ✅

The best sponsors are those who are already interested in your event.

Sit down and write a list of businesses who care about your cause. To help you get started, we suggest making a list of three types of people:

  • Those who care about your event: If you're raising money to end breast cancer, search for female business owners who were directly impacted by the illness (e.g., survivors or those who have family or friends impacted by the illness).
  • Those who care about others impacted by your event: Are you raising money for a local club or sports team? Make a list of every parent who also owns a business, and reach out to them.
  • Those who have the same audience as you: For example, if you're hosting a virtual walk, then a shoe store, running store, or nutrition supplement business might be interested.

2. Draft your cold email (and make it count) ✍

Once you have our prospect list, research every business on your list to craft your cold email. While we 100% support making an email template to speed the process along, we do not recommend simply copying and pasting without any customization. 

Every cold email you write should include at least one or two customized sentences, showing the recipient you did your research. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Look them up on LinkedIn: Has the individual commented on or published anything related to your cause? Make a case as to how you have similar goals.
  • Do a little historical digging: Was the individual involved in any sports, clubs, or groups in high school or college? If you're raising money for a similar organization, perhaps they might enjoy reminiscing over their glory days.
  • 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.

3. Keep tabs on the metrics 📊

​Every marketer, sales person, and ambassador knows that you need to track your outreach strategy’s success. To do this, we encourage you to choose a customer relationship management (CRM) system to keep tabs on your potential sponsor email list. We recommend picking one that integrates with your fundraising platform.

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

  • Contact information: Including the potential sponsor’s name, phone number, and email address.
  • Messaging notes: Including any phone calls, emails, or sponsorship letters sent (many CRM systems track this information automatically).
  • Donor history: Including whether they gave in the past, or have already pledged an event sponsorship this year. (This is critical if you have a full corporate giving team — there is nothing worse than reaching out to a sponsor who already promised to give.) 

4. Make your pitch 📢

With your outreach strategy well underway, it’s time to draft a sponsorship proposal for interested parties. Just as with your initial cold email, we highly encourage you to make these as unique as possible.

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 people, or social media influencers be at your event? You can let them know that each influencer will tag the sponsor 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.

5. Follow up 🤗

Once the event has come and gone, the work isn't quite over.

Now is the time to thank your sponsors for all their hard work and support. Continue to shout their praises 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 on a podcast interview, or shouting their praises on your website.

Wondering how to get sponsorships? You make it personal 

If there is one takeaway you get from this post, let it be this: Asking for sponsorships is nothing more than 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. To launch your own campaign, create a Givebutter account to start fundraising.

Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.