As a nonprofit organization, you’re probably always on the lookout for new ways to secure revenue for your cause, and better ways to improve upon existing efforts. One of the most underutilized sources of nonprofit funding is corporate giving—and within that subcategory, corporate sponsorships can be a great way to go.
But what exactly are the opportunities available, and how can your team go about securing corporate sponsorships to help fund your mission? This guide will provide you with everything you need to know by exploring the following key topics:
Partnering with for-profit businesses can often be one of the most lucrative and impactful fundraising strategies for organizations of all shapes, sizes, and causes. And don’t forget—participating companies benefit greatly as well.
Let’s begin our exploration of corporate sponsorships for nonprofits with the basics.
What Are Corporate Sponsorships?
Corporate sponsorships are an extremely popular form of corporate giving program in which companies provide funding or resources to nonprofit partners. This often takes place in the context of a particular fundraising event, campaign, or project.
For organizations looking to diversify their funding sources by exploring new streams of revenue, sponsorships can be a great place to start. And there are different types of corporate sponsorships available, too! These include:
- Financial — A business provides a monetary contribution to a nonprofit organization.
- In-kind — A business provides donated goods or services to a nonprofit organization (these are typically, but not always, related to the businesses’ industry).
- Media — A business contributes by funding the promotion of a nonprofit’s upcoming event through paid advertising channels.
Regardless of the kind of sponsorship agreement between an organization and a corporate partner, the common denominator is that the nonprofit receives some sort of support from a (typically for-profit) business.
Who Benefits From Corporate Sponsorships?
Many nonprofit fundraisers refer to corporate sponsorships as mutually beneficial relationships, which might also be considered a win-win situation. The bottom line is that both parties benefit significantly from participating in the partnership.
Let’s take a look at key advantages seen by the two primary stakeholders in a corporate sponsorship relationship:
- Companies: Companies that sponsor nonprofits typically aren’t doing so just for the sake of altruism—though that can be a major component of the motivation. But these businesses also receive elevated brand reputations and public relations boosts, increased levels of corporate social responsibility, higher levels of employee engagement, tax benefits, and more.
- Nonprofits: As a nonprofit, you might (understandably) be a bit more focused on this side of the partnership benefits. Luckily, they’re plentiful! Organizations receive increased funding for their causes through corporate donations, along with unique co-marketing opportunities from working alongside their corporate partner!
In some forms of corporate giving, there are even more beneficiaries to the partnerships—for example, the companies’ employees or the nonprofits’ donors. Sometimes those are even the same people! Employees are able to feel an increased sense of pride in the businesses they work for when their employers take part in charity and other philanthropic opportunities. And donors are often provided with new ways to support their favorite organizations—such as through an upcoming event sponsored by a local business.
The Four Stages of Securing Corporate Sponsorships
You understand the advantages of corporate sponsorship participation, and you’re ready to dive in. But where exactly should you start? We’ve broken the process down into four simple steps!
1. Identifying Potential Corporate Sponsors
Before you can secure corporate sponsors for your cause, you’ll need a starting point. Who are your organization’s ideal sponsors? Are these companies within a certain industry, location, or value set?
Your priorities in locating the perfect sponsor can vary based on your mission, the need you’re raising funds for, and more. Here are four components to consider as you craft a list of potential corporate sponsorships:
- Popular companies with generous philanthropic initiatives — Take a look at lists of particularly charitable businesses, and see if there are any that catch your eye. There are tons of free compilations online (like this one from Double the Donation) that can help narrow down your search!
- Local businesses in your community — Local businesses often love giving back to the communities in which they’ve established their own roots. Be sure to reach out to the mom-and-pop restaurants, salons, boutiques, agencies, and shops in your neighborhood for potential sponsorship opportunities.
- Companies you already have connections to — Do a lot of your donors, volunteers, or board members work for philanthropically-minded companies? Has a particular business supported one of your organization’s fundraising efforts in the past? These kinds of existing connections can be some of the most effective ways to get your foot in the door with potential sponsors.
- Companies whose missions align with your own — When it comes to selecting and securing corporate sponsorships, mission matters. If you run an animal rescue, you might want to reach out to pet supply retailers. If you work with a nature conservancy, you might target environmentally friendly businesses that build sustainability into their practices. When your values overlap as such, these companies will be more inclined to support your cause.
It’s always good to start out with a lengthy list of prospective corporate sponsors. After all, some will say “no,” and others you might not even hear back from. And that should be expected! But when you provide your solicitation team with a wide array of possibilities, it can make rejections a bit less discouraging.
2. Cultivating Business Relationships
Like with any donation request, it’s important to have an existing relationship with potential contributors before jumping into the actual solicitation of funding.
So, what can you do to begin developing corporate partnerships? Consider:
- Asking a member of a prospective sponsor’s team to sit down and chat with someone from your organization, and discuss missions, values, and priorities.
- Inviting a member of a prospective sponsor’s team to visit your organization’s facility for a behind-the-scenes tour.
- Providing a prospective sponsor with fundraising impact materials such as your annual report, Form 990, and more.
- Taking an interest in a prospective sponsor’s business, strategies, and goals.
Not only are you likely to win more corporate sponsors this way, but it also helps establish a sense of familiarity with each party, and makes the sponsorship feel relational rather than solely transactional.
3. Creating a Value Proposition
Your organization’s (or specific campaign’s) value proposition is essentially the answer to the business asking, “what’s in it for me?” In order to truly be a mutually beneficial relationship, the value has to go both ways.
One of the most common types of value propositions is that of co-marketing efforts and improved brand reputation. Here’s an example:
Let’s say that Linda’s Flower Mart provides funding to help establish a fundraising event for a local nonprofit in their community, Midtown Youth Center. Now, Midtown Youth Center will continue to promote its upcoming fundraiser through all of its marketing and communication channels. They want a significant turnout, after all, to collect as much additional donor revenue as possible to help bankroll their programming.
But don’t forget the value-add for the flower mart, either! Linda’s company’s logo is featured in all marketing materials for the event as a key sponsor, ensuring a wider audience is exposed to her company and will consider her services for future flower needs. The day after the fundraising event, Linda meets a new group of eager customers who report that they love shopping at local businesses that continue to give back to their own communities.
As you begin crafting your organization’s value proposition for upcoming sponsorship asks, remember that this is one of your most essential selling points. You’ll want to provide participating businesses with ample advantages so that they, too, see a return on their investment in your organization.
Bonus tip! Keep in mind that the benefit to the corporation should not outweigh the benefit to the organization. If it does, the IRS may classify income as “unrelated business income” (taxable) as opposed to a “charitable contribution” (tax-free).
4. Making Your Corporate Sponsorship Ask
Now it’s time to make the actual corporate sponsorship request—and this can be the most nerve-wracking step in the process for many fundraisers. However, it’s also the most important; you won’t have sponsors if you never ask!
As you get to this point, consider the following best practices:
- Conduct several practice runs of sponsorship request conversations before you meet with the businesses in question.
- Have your corporate sponsorship ask conversations in person when possible. This makes the meeting more personal and helps put a face to your organization.
- Use volunteers to make the actual sponsorship ask! These individuals are not being paid to say good things about your organization, and that can make a difference for people and businesses considering contributing. However, you’ll want to support and prepare your volunteers well for the scenario.
- Offer various sponsorship tiers that align with different-sized budgets. Many businesses will be interested in supporting your efforts, but might not be able to swing the hefty price tag of a top sponsorship package.
- Emphasize your value proposition. This is the tangible benefit offered to businesses considering a partnership and should be a main focus of your conversations.
By incorporating these tips into your corporate sponsorship strategy, you’ll likely be able to secure a good number of top partnerships. But remember, it’s also essential that your team knows how and when to take no as an answer. Some companies simply won’t be able to contribute at the time being—but if you leave your conversation on a positive note, they’ll be more likely to consider partnering with your organization in the future.
How to Secure More Corporate Sponsorships: FAQ
Still have questions about securing corporate sponsorships for your nonprofits? Here are answers to some common questions organizations have throughout the process.
What should I do after securing a corporate sponsorship?
Let’s say you’ve come to an agreement with a corporate partner that has agreed to sponsor your organization’s upcoming event. You might be asking yourself, “well, what now?”
After securing corporate sponsorships, it’s time to solidify your relationship with the company. Share resources about your organization’s work, additional engagement opportunities, mission success stories, and more. Before the event takes place, make sure both teams are on the same page with what exactly the sponsorship entails, including logistics surrounding funding transfers.
Once the event concludes, you’ll want to continue developing your partnership with the company. Maintaining a personal relationship with those who helped you pull off your sponsored event after it’s over is essential for showing your appreciation for the company’s support. And as an added bonus, they’ll likely be more inclined to partner with your team on future endeavors!
How should we acknowledge corporate sponsors?
The ways in which your organization acknowledges its sponsors will greatly depend on your nonprofit itself, the event or campaign being sponsored, and the company you’re partnering with. For example, if you’re hosting a community event, you might acknowledge a sponsor by providing them with a tent or other area to promote their business.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that some forms of public acknowledgment may be specifically laid out in the sponsorship agreement between your organization and the company you’re partnering with. This might include social media promotion, website inclusions, space in tangible marketing materials, event announcements, and more. However, it’s always nice to go above and beyond the required acknowledgment elements to communicate your appreciation to your corporate sponsors.
What are other top corporate fundraising opportunities?
Corporate sponsorships are by no means the only form of corporate fundraising worth looking into. If your team is interested in additional corporate giving programs (and particularly those that are easy to get connected with), we recommend the following:
- Matching gifts
- Volunteer grants
- Employee donation stipends
- Payroll deductions
- Community grants
Not to mention, various forms of corporate giving opportunities often overlap! For example, studies show that 85% of the top matching gift companies also offer volunteer grant programs for their employees. And if a company has shown particular interest in philanthropy before (such as through any of the above-mentioned initiatives), they might be increasingly inclined to participate in a corporate sponsorship with your cause.
Additional Corporate Sponsorship Resources
Now that you have a solid foundation of knowledge concerning corporate philanthropy, the benefits to everyone involved, how to locate opportunities and propose partnerships, and more, you’re ready to get started. But your efforts in securing corporate sponsorships on behalf of your organization are just beginning!
Interested in learning more about the significant impact that corporate sponsorships can bring to nonprofits like yours? Explore other top corporate fundraising resources here:
- 14 Important Questions to Ask About Matching Gifts. Matching gifts are one of the most popular forms of corporate philanthropy, and corporate matching and sponsorships go hand in hand. Dive into the importance of matching gifts and how to increase your organization’s revenue through this source.
- Corporate Philanthropy: The Ultimate Guide to Giving. Looking for additional corporate giving opportunities to make the most of for your cause? Check out Double the Donation’s complete resource of tips, tricks, tools, and more to ensure your team is prepared to leverage this fantastic source of revenue.
- Is Cause Marketing Right for Your Nonprofit? Cause marketing is one of the most impactful drivers of corporate sponsorships. Creating a plan for this strategy is essential for partnering with companies that best align with your organization’s values and receiving significant benefits in return.