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Fundraising

Sponsorship As An Alternate Revenue Stream

Farhad Chikhliwala Avatar
Farhad Chikhliwala
Published on July 23, 2021

If your nonprofit relies on membership dues, grants, and individual donations as main sources of revenue, you’re off to a great start. However, there’s another way to raise much-needed funds that you may not be taking advantage of: sponsorships.

Perhaps you’ve heard of or even considered seeking out sponsorship opportunities with businesses in your area, but found yourself a little hesitant. Is it worth the effort? Would anyone even say yes?

The truth of the matter is, sponsorships are an absolutely worthwhile fundraising avenue to pursue! When done correctly, they can be mutually beneficial for both your organization and the sponsor.

In this post, let’s go over some of the benefits of securing sponsorships as part of your fundraising strategy, how to go about securing sponsors, how to measure impact, and how to properly thank sponsors and nurture your relationship with them for years to come.

Let’s dive in!

Impact of Sponsorships on Your Organization

Sponsorships can offer tremendous benefits to nonprofit organizations of all types and sizes. Here are a few of the main reasons why you may want to include them in your fundraising strategy:

1. Additional Revenue

Perhaps the biggest (and the most obvious) benefit of sponsorships is the additional revenue, since most sponsorships involve a financial contribution from the company. More often than not, these contributions are much more substantial than what your organization would receive from individual donors and can range anywhere from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand dollars.

 2. Other Kinds of Support

Financial contributions are just one type of sponsorship a company can offer. As a nonprofit organization, you may also benefit from in-kind sponsorships, such as donations of physical items or even services. Some sponsors may also choose to pay their employees while they spend a day volunteering with your organization, giving you the gift of helping hands.

3. Long-Term Relationships With Companies

A successful partnership with a company whose brand and values align with your organization’s can last for many years. As long as both parties see benefit in the relationship, it’s a wonderful opportunity to grow and evolve together. If you come across a company that is passionate about your cause but maybe can’t offer much in terms of a financial contribution, don’t dismiss them — as they grow over time and your relationship deepens, they could potentially become one of your biggest advocates and supporters.

4. Exposure

One of the benefits of sponsorships is that both parties get exposed to each other’s audiences. The sponsor’s customers and partners will hear all about your work, while your nonprofit’s community will hear all about the sponsor’s products or service. For your organization, this means more brand awareness and potential new supporters.

5. Credibility

If you’re a small nonprofit hoping to attract a larger audience, partnering with a well-known company can add credibility to your organization. When potential new members, event attendees or donors see a brand they recognize on your fundraising and marketing materials, they’ll be much more likely to want to learn more or even consider joining your community.

Identifying and Securing Potential Sponsors

So now that you understand the benefits of sponsorship, how do you actually go about finding and securing sponsors?

The best approach is to look for purpose-driven companies whose brand and values align with yours. Sure, you could ask the dry cleaner down the street to contribute to your upcoming event and stick their logo into your program, but if their business has no relevance to your organization (other than the fact that they’re located close to your office), you’ll be missing out on most other benefits that sponsorship offers.

On the other hand, when you find a meaningful partnership with a company who cares deeply about your cause, you create an opportunity to grow both of your networks and advance both of your missions. It’s a win-win!

When looking for such companies, try the following:

  • Think of any companies who serve a similar demographic as your organization
  • Think of any companies who’ve sponsored similar organizations or events in the past
  • Ask your staff, volunteers, members, donors and board members if they can think of any potential sponsors
  • Look to your major donors — do any of them own a business or work for a company that would be a good match

What’s in It for the Sponsors?

Before approaching a company about a potential partnership, think about what you can offer them in return.

Most companies are looking for the following:

  • Increased awareness and exposure to members of your community
  • Public recognition as a socially responsible, purpose-driven company that supports a worthy cause

According to the 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics Study, 72% of Americans say it’s important to them that the companies they buy from reflect their values and 86% say they’re likely to purchase from purpose-driven companies.

With this in mind, it’s clear that the right sponsorship opportunity provides equal benefit to both parties, so the task at hand shouldn’t be to convince anyone to sponsor your organization — it’s simply to find the right company to partner with.

Creating Sponsorship Levels

Different companies have different budgets for sponsorship, so you should never approach everyone with the same proposal. Instead, establish sponsorship levels that vary in contribution amount, as well as the number of benefits you’d offer in return.

When you meet with a potential sponsor, you can propose a few options based on what you think is appropriate, or present them with all available sponsorship options and let them choose.

In terms of benefits, your highest sponsorship level may include something like:

  • 10 tickets to your event
  • An opportunity to open the event with a presentation
  • Recognition in all your promotional and event materials, including print media
  • Customized impact report

While a lower sponsorship level may include something like:

  • 2 tickets to your event
  • Recognition in the event program
  • General impact report

Making the Ask

Here’s some great advice from marketing expert and business consultant Jay Abraham on securing sponsorship:

  • Think outside the box: Come up with unique and desirable benefits that won’t compromise the integrity of your organization. Consider asking your board, volunteers and members for some ideas that will give your sponsors more bang for their buck.
  • Don’t take no for an answer: Be persistent. Go back to the people who haven’t accepted your proposal yet with a new and refreshing proposition. Ask a committee or board member to communicate with them at least four times a year.
  • Honor them: Once you gain your sponsorship, honor your sponsors. No matter how much the sponsorship is worth, sending a plaque or a certificate of appreciation will do wonders for your relationship. It’s an easy, cost-effective way to show that you are grateful and that you value your partnership.

Read More: How to Get Sponsorships Like a Pro

Sponsor Stewardship and Retention

Jay’s last point speaks to the importance of sponsor stewardship, an absolutely vital part of any fundraising strategy.

After you secure your sponsorship, be sure to properly acknowledge and recognize your sponsors. The benefits you promise in your sponsorship proposal are a given, but your stewardship efforts should go beyond that. If you can, try to surprise your sponsors with a token of appreciation they don’t expect, such as a gift or an invitation to a special appreciation event.

As is the case with individual donors, the key to a lasting relationship with your sponsors is making them feel appreciated, valued, and needed. Make sure they understand the difference that their involvement makes for your organization and your community.

Remember, too, that stewardship is not a one-time action. Keep in touch with your sponsors throughout the year by sending them updates about the impact that their contribution has made possible. If you stay in regular contact, it will be much easier to ask them to return as a sponsor in the future (and maybe even increase their support), and they’ll be much more likely to say yes.

Measuring a Sponsorship’s Impact

As is hopefully clear by now, the benefits of a successful sponsorship don’t end with the sponsor’s financial contribution to your organization. Beyond that, here are a few signs that your partnership with a company is paying off:

  • You’ve seen an increase in event attendees, members and/or donors
  • The sponsor has expressed interest in continuing or even expanding their support
  • The sponsor has suggested new ideas for collaborating (ex: cause marketing)
  • The sponsor has introduced you to contacts in their network
  • Companies similar to your sponsor have reached out about potential sponsorship opportunities

When it comes time to evaluate how well a partnership with a new sponsor is going, keeping these in mind will help you identify whether or not you need to make any adjustments to your approach (or if the fit was never quite right from the start).

Next Steps

We hope these insights got you thinking about sponsorship as a potential source of revenue. To learn more about sponsorships, be sure to check out the resources below:

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