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Corporate Sponsorships 101: Everything You Need to Know

Author: Korrin Bishop
May 25, 2021
🕑 8 min read

Individual giving makes up a large portion of funding for many nonprofits. While these donors are vital to your organization, many of these supporters may need to pause or shift their donations when difficult economic times hit. This is one reason corporate sponsorship for nonprofits is worth considering as part of your overall fundraising plan.

Corporate sponsorship provides a reliable monetary or in-kind contribution to your nonprofit that helps diversify your income sources and prepare for the unexpected while building your mission’s brand recognition.

If you’re new to corporate sponsorship or looking for a refresher, we have you covered! In this post, we’ll cover everything from what exactly a corporate sponsorship is, what the most frequently asked questions are about corporate sponsorships, who and how you ask for a corporate sponsorship, and what to do after you’ve secured one.

What Is a Corporate Sponsorship?

A corporate sponsorship is a formal agreement between a for-profit entity and a nonprofit organization where each party benefits the other.

For example, a for-profit might give a sizable donation to your nonprofit’s annual event in exchange for naming rights or inclusion of their logo on your event materials. In return, you’re supporting that business’s corporate social responsibility efforts, showing their customers how they give back within their community.

Corporate sponsorship could also include in-kind donations. Perhaps you’re looking to build a new facility for your programming, and a large lumber company provides you with the supplies to do so. In return, you might name the building after them or host quarterly volunteer events for their employees as part of their employee wellness program.

Corporate sponsorships can look many ways, but, in short, they’re partnerships between a nonprofit and a for-profit.

Corporate Sponsorship FAQs

You might have some questions pop up as you begin exploring corporate partnerships, so we’ve rounded up some of the most frequently asked ones below.

1. What does a corporate sponsor do?

As explained above, a corporate sponsor provides a significant monetary or in-kind donation to a nonprofit organization.

2. What are the disadvantages of sponsorship?

There are some potential disadvantages to corporate sponsorships worth considering as you get started. These can include things such as:

  • Misaligned Missions or Poor Publicity: Once you partner with a business, your actions reflect on them and their actions reflect on you. If it turns out they have some questionable business practices, your supporters might wonder why you’ve aligned yourself with them. The same could happen if you partner with a business that has a conflicting mission, such as a nonprofit environmental partnering with a company trying to drill for oil in the Arctic.

  • Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen: If a sponsor provides a large donation, they’ll likely want some say in how your event, operations, or other programming happen. You might want to consider upfront how you’ll compromise with your sponsor and what communication channels will work best for you both.

  • Branding Problems: Your sponsor is likely going to want some recognition. If you’re not open to incorporating their logo in materials or another joint branding, that could be a challenge.

  • Funding Restrictions: Your donors typically give unrestricted funds, allowing you to cover various expenses. However, corporate sponsors typically want to fund specific projects, so you could run into some funding restrictions and need to make up the difference to cover other vital parts of your project or operations.

3. What are the benefits of corporate sponsorship?

Despite some disadvantages to corporate sponsorships, you can address these challenges with some planning upfront so that you can maximize the benefits of the partnership. Some of the benefits of corporate sponsorships include:

  • Funding Diversity: During uncertain economic times, corporate sponsorship can add some stability to your overall budget. Diversifying where your funding comes from helps to ensure that if one source starts to wane, you can pick up the slack with another.

  • Building Momentum: A sizeable  corporate donation can build momentum for a fundraising goal you might have. For example, if supporters see that you’ve already secured $10,000 toward your $15,000 fundraising goal, they might be more willing to donate, as they feel they can make a difference in getting you to that finish line.

  • Relationship Building: A corporate sponsorship can help you build relationships with other businesses and the employees within your sponsor’s business. You may gain individual donors from the sponsor, and they may also be able to open their network to you of other partner businesses who may want to support you.

  • Brand Awareness: As your sponsor shares their partnership with you on their social media and throughout their networks and other communication channels, more people learn about your brand and mission. Your corporate sponsorship can help you expand your audience to people who may not have heard of you beforehand.

4. What are the types of corporate sponsorships?

Corporate sponsorships can take many forms. Some of the most common types include:

  • In-Kind: A corporate sponsor provides goods or services free of charge to help you fulfill a need.

  • Event Sponsorship: A corporate sponsor provides a large monetary or in-kind donation to support a large event.

  • Matching Gifts: A corporate sponsor provides a significant monetary donation to encourage others to give (e.g., for every $1 individual donate, the sponsor will also donate $1, up to $50,000).

  • Capital Campaigns: A corporate sponsor provides a sizable monetary donation to support a big project, typically in exchange for naming rights (e.g., a sponsor provides a grant to build a new playground for a nonprofit after school program).

Who Should You Ask for Corporate Sponsorships?

Who you ask for corporate sponsorships depends on where you have connections and which businesses have values and missions aligned with yours.

You can ask local businesses or nationwide corporations, depending on your needs and contacts. Supporters of your organizations, such as donors, board members, volunteers, or staff, can help you to identify potential partners where they may have a personal connection.

As you consider how to get corporate sponsorships, make sure you fit into a potential sponsor’s funding priorities or otherwise align with how they do business.

How Can You Ask for a Corporate Sponsorship?

So, you’ve identified a company that would be a good fit. What’s next?

1. Do Your Research

Before reaching out, do your research. Make sure you’re reaching out to the right person at the organization, so your request doesn’t get lost bouncing around different departments.

Once you identify that person, personalize your outreach to them. Mainly if you’re contacting multiple potential sponsors, adding some personal touches to your sponsorship letter about their particular business can make a significant impact.

You’ll also want to research to make sure your audiences match. Would their employees be interested in volunteering for your cause? Do your missions and values align? Is your field listed as a funding priority for their corporate philanthropy?

2. Build a Relationship

Before making a big ask, build a relationship with the prospective sponsor. You might want to invite them to an event, send them some marketing materials, or meet one-on-one with their philanthropy director to learn a little more about their upcoming priorities.

3. Determine Their Needs

Since corporate sponsorships are about more than just securing your nonprofit needs, spend some time figuring out what the sponsor’s needs are. Before you make your ask, know what you can provide them in exchange and be ready to share how you think that benefit will add value to their business. Remember that this should be a partnership of equal give and take.

4. Tell Your Story

While this may be corporate sponsorship, there are still people behind that corporation and they’re ultimately the ones you’re trying to engage.

You can ask businesses for donations just as you would for individuals. Share your story with them. Highlight the people you’ve helped, the impact you’ve made in the community, or other accounts and data that paint a moving or relatable picture of why their help is so needed.

5. Make It Clear

Once you’ve got a meeting to make your sponsorship ask, make sure all of your assets are clearly priced and representative of the value they offer relative to one another.

Providing clear options of how much a business can give and what they’ll receive in return for that amount lets them consider what’s best for them at this point in terms of engagement. You may even consider offering a virtual sponsorship option.

6. Follow Up

Building relationships can take time. Even if you don’t land a corporate sponsor on your first try doesn’t mean they won’t partner with you in the future. The timing could be off, or maybe their funding priorities change down the road.

Even if your sponsorship doesn’t happen right away, it still could, later on, so don’t be afraid of reaching out again later. In addition, sometimes people get busy, so feel free to follow up a week or so after making your request.

Once You’ve Gotten The Sponsorship, What’s Next?

Yay! You’ve landed a sponsorship to support your nonprofit’s goals. Now what?

1. Track Your Metrics

Corporate sponsors want to know that their contribution is making a difference. Tracking metrics on how their donation impacted your organization lets you prove the value of the partnership to both this sponsor and others in the future.

2. Have a Renewal Plan

Renewals aren’t just for members or donors. You’ll want to consider how you’ll cultivate your relationship with your corporate sponsor, so they are encouraged to support you again in the future. Perhaps they’ll become a recurring sponsor for your annual event or choose to make an in-kind donation every year.

Use the skills you already apply for membership and donor renewals, and apply them to your corporate sponsors, as well.

3. Ask Them For Feedback

One way to show your investment in the partnership is to ask your corporate sponsor for their feedback. See how they feel about working together and take it into account for the next time. They’ll appreciate how you’re willing to adapt to constantly improve the relationship.

Like many donor and member relationships you already build, corporate sponsorships take time and nurturing but can significantly benefit your organization. By identifying the right partner, knowing how to make an effective ask, and doing the follow-up work, both you and the business can align your missions for the greater good.

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