Gaining Sponsorships

In the nonprofit world, finding sponsors who will support your cause and rally behind you can be a challenge, particularly for those who rely upon sponsors for a portion of annual revenues.  And, to compound matters further, once a sponsor is obtained, that person or entity must also be retained.  The question for many nonprofits is, where can we find sponsors?

Perhaps the first step in partnering with a sponsor is understanding the types of sponsors out there.  Individual sponsors tend to be wealthy or famous people who donate their time, money, and/or support to a particular cause or organization.  Corporate sponsorship involves a business or company throwing its weight behind a particular nonprofit, usually in the form of financial contributions.

Before beginning the process of actively seeking sponsorship, it’s critical for your nonprofit to engage in some self-evaluation.  First, assess your organization’s sponsorship needs.  Are you looking only for financial contributions, or would media attention be welcome? Do you want a sponsor who can increase volunteer numbers or provide you with the resources necessary to employ the right people?  Knowing this in advance will enable you to refine your plan of action for obtaining sponsorship.

Next, brainstorm ideas for how your organization can give back to its sponsor.  Perhaps a publicity event to generate attention or a prominent place on your website would be in order.  If dealing with multiple-level sponsorships, offering incentives (such as membership, swag, etc.) based on dollars given is a method for garnering interest in your organization.

Once you’ve identified the types of sponsors you’d like to partner with, the next step is actually finding these sponsors.  A good place to begin is to research companies and/or individuals who support a cause similar to yours.  Checking with your board of directors to see if they have any networking contacts is also an important early step. You may also wish to engage in an advertising campaign to generate wide attention or resort to cold calling to help find potential sponsors.  Some organizations hire consultants to seek out sponsors.  Another idea is to set up a co-sponsorship program with another nonprofit by exchanging ideas and promoting each other.

Whatever method you choose to find sponsorship, though, it’s important that you have in place information about your organization and why a prospective sponsor would be well-served in partnering with you.  Financials, employment stats, accomplishments and other pertinent information should all be included in materials sent to help persuade a sponsor to come on board.  Additionally, you’ll want to be able to demonstrate how you plan to use the assets a sponsor may wish to donate.  A plan for any funds donated should be clearly outlined; if your sponsor plans to advertise a public event, be sure to have specific goals in place (like how many new members you’d like to acquire or the number of dollars you’d like this event to raise, etc.).

Lastly, when you’ve successfully landed your first sponsor, keep in touch.  Make sure that the company or individual knows about your organization’s future plans and has a voice at the table (if appropriate).  A long-term partnership will likely be more lucrative and less expensive for your organization than constantly seeking new sponsors.