Friendly reminder: sponsorships are very different than standard donations because they are essentially business deals, with mutual benefits for both nonprofit and for-profit. Often times, the non-profit asking for support can feel bashful about the ask but we’re here to abolish that attitude. While the corporate sponsor contributes to an organization to help further its mission (usually monetarily), the real benefit to the sponsor is that the nonprofit promotes the sponsoring corporation’s connection to its cause, offering positive publicity and a boosted reputation. Both nonprofit and for-profit acquire access to the supporters and customers of each respective company, expanding their audiences. And, luckily for nonprofits, for the sponsorship to be legal, the benefits to the sponsoring corporation cannot outweigh the benefits to the tax-exempt nonprofit.
So, how should a non-profit approach a sponsor? With analytics and attitude!
First, find a match, not a warm body.
Seek sponsors that relate in some way to your cause. You are more likely to mutually benefit from the relationship if you find a sponsor compatible with your organization, and partnering with the wrong for-profit can in fact hurt your organization. Know the demographics of your supporters and what kinds of businesses they would approve of. Ideally, your supporter base and the customer base of your corporate sponsor should be aligned. For example, a conservation-related nonprofit would be smart to seek out a sponsor that is ecologically responsible, and an animal rescue should look into partnering with a business that ethically considers animals.
Incentivize giving: know your data and your value
Corporations benefit through the positive publicity of supporting your mission, and your organization helps them achieve this publicity by promoting the business on your campaign assets, newsletter, website, and social media. Show the business what you’re working with: current website analytics, current social and email numbers, any existing press kits/releases, or current promotional materials. All of this gives them 1) a base from which to work from and 2) comfort in knowing that you know what you’re talking about and 3) the value of your brand. Essentially demonstrating that you have an effective marketing program in place and giving them a sense of where their own business will get boosted.
Get creative with proposals, partnerships
Sponsors can (and often prefer to) give more than money… They can offer in-kind donations, workshops for your staff, volunteers for your events and more. Engaging their business with your organization in creative ways can help build a lasting and productive relationship, that eventually turns into cash.
Transparency is key
Be open to the idea that sponsors might want more than just brand association. Remember to ask your partnering companies what you can do for them in return for their support. They will appreciate the consideration. Your nonprofit’s marketing team can meet with your sponsor’s leadership team to make sure the company is getting promoted in the way it wants.
Be outlandish with your gratitude
Make a big deal, even doubling the effort, when it comes to thanking your corporate sponsors. Recognize your corporate partners at your events, as well as on your media and materials. Give shout outs on your social media, your website, and your printed assets. It’s good for your brand as well as theirs and the more share-worthy your content, the better for everyone involved.