Corporate sponsorships can have plenty of benefits for your nonprofit — from raising more awareness of your mission to reaching new donors.
If you’re a smaller organization, you might assume that corporate sponsors wouldn’t be interested in partnering with you.
In reality, businesses are often keen to team up with organizations that can help them achieve their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goal.
Your mission and location can sometimes play a key role in securing corporate partnerships, even if you’re only a small nonprofit
What Do Corporate Sponsors Expect From Your Nonprofit?
When you’re looking at securing corporate sponsorships, it’s helpful to know what they’ll likely expect from a partnership.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can be a big reason why brands partner with nonprofits but it’s not the only one. Other factors include:
- Increased brand visibility/recognition
- Attracting a new customer demographic to their brand
- Setting them apart from their competitors
- Increasing their brand’s credibility
Knowing why brands come on board as corporate sponsors help your nonprofit position itself as an attractive partner.
Financial support isn’t the only way that corporate sponsors may support your nonprofit. Volunteer support is another option, along with in-kind donations.
Pro tip: Corporate sponsors will often expect a promotion in return for their investment but advertising can be a grey area. It’s perfectly fine to promote corporate sponsors but you’ll need to avoid advertising their products or using language that implies they’re better than competitors. Mentioning price information can also be a big no-no. If you stray into this territory, sponsorship income can become taxable. Check out the IRS guidelines around advertising and qualified sponsorship payments for nonprofits for more details on the rules.
Types of Corporate Sponsorships
Corporate sponsorship can take several forms and doesn’t always involve donations. Some of the most common types of sponsorships can include:
Event sponsorship: Partnering with companies to sponsor fundraising events can help reduce the costs of delivering them. These can involve a financial contribution or in-kind products or services. Check out our guide on how to get sponsorship for fundraising events for tips on securing corporate event sponsors.
Program sponsorship: Companies may also choose to sponsor one of your nonprofit’s programs — especially if it strongly aligns with their values.
Employee giving/volunteer programs: To engage employees, some brands encourage their staff to get involved with nonprofits. This may involve volunteering for your organization.
Community involvement can improve employee engagement and job satisfaction, and reduce employee turnover.
Employee giving is another option. Companies may deduct donations from employee paycheck, for example. They may also match donations made by their employees through match giving, which effectively doubles their contributions.
Cause marketing: Brands may request a cause marketing partnership to raise their profile and improve their brand image. It’s generally considered a type of advertising since there are specific expectations that your nonprofit is obliged to meet as part of the sponsorship. And because it’s considered advertising, the income can become taxable.
In-kind sponsorship: Instead of a financial contribution, brands may offer services or products. Employees can contribute their expertise and time through skills-based volunteering, for example. Your organization may be able to secure this type of sponsorship from smaller or local brands, especially those that don’t have the budget for ongoing financial sponsorship.
A Step-By-Step Guide For Securing Corporate Sponsorships
Seeking corporate sponsorships can be daunting for your nonprofit. We’ve got you covered with our step-by-step guide on what to think about.
Step 1: Be Clear On Your Goals, Mission and Audience
Drilling deep into your organization’s mission, values, culture, and goals help you find a corporate sponsor that aligns with them. It can also be invaluable for putting together the perfect proposal when approaching brands.
It’s also smart to gather as much information as possible about your supporters. You can use this to strengthen your proposals.
A few metrics to highlight include:
- Demographics relating to your supporters
- Your nonprofit’s reach via social media, email, and direct mail
- Attendances at fundraising events
If other nonprofits are working in a similar area to yours, think about what makes you unique. This can include the work you carry out or the difference your organization makes, for example. You don’t need to criticize your competitors — focus on your strengths and your Unique Selling Point (USP).
Step 2: Identify Your Target Sponsors
While it’s tempting to secure any additional income, collaborating with the wrong corporate sponsors can be harmful.
Not all sponsors will be a good fit for your nonprofit’s mission and values. Think about whether potential sponsors align with your attendees for fundraising events.
In both cases, you’re looking for a strong crossover in your values and key interests. If this isn’t present, it can lead to issues — including damage to your nonprofit’s reputation.
A few ideas for finding sponsors that link to your cause can include:
- Pepsico or Kinley could agree to sponsor clear water or organizations that are striving to bring clean water to more people.
- Fast-food chains such as Burger King or McDonald’s could work with organizations aiming to eliminate hunger.
- Pedigree and other pet food brands could sponsor animal rescue charities.
Pro tip: There’s nothing to lose by aiming high but it can be difficult to secure a corporate partnership with large or well-known brands, especially if you’re a smaller organization. Teaming up with smaller brands or local retailers can be beneficial for both parties and help your nonprofit reach a targeted audience.
Companies that have a strong community presence may also be interested in becoming corporate sponsors. Ideally, they will also share the same values and commitment to your cause.
Pro tip: Look at the type of corporate sponsors your competitors are securing. You don’t necessarily want to go after the same sponsors but you can get an idea of companies that are already investing in corporate sponsorships.
While preparing a proposal, do some research on potential target sponsors. Do they have a history of working with nonprofits? Are their competitors investing in corporate sponsorships? Finding out as much as you can about the company and its competitors to create a targeted proposal that offers value.
Step 3: Identify the Right Decision Maker
Who should your proposal be sent to? If you’re pitching to a company that has dedicated philanthropy or CSR staff members, try them first.
Pro tip: If it’s not obvious on the website, you may be able to find the right contact by reading press releases. LinkedIn can also help you find people with the right job role.
Don’t underestimate the power of personal connections. Your board members may be extremely well-connected in the community and your volunteers and supporters may have connections you can leverage. They may even know people at some of the companies you’re planning to pitch.
Pro tip: If your board members have connections at target sponsors, it can be more effective for them to reach out to their contact. You can use LinkedIn to see whether board members can be introduced to a key contact at one of your target sponsors or companies by someone else in their network.
Step 4: Create a Killer Proposal
Once your organization receives a positive response from a brand, your sponsorship proposal can keep the conversation flowing.
With a corporate sponsorship proposal, you’re suggesting a business arrangement that will benefit both parties. Your proposal and communications materials can focus on this. Refer to their goals and how a partnership can help achieve them.
Pro tip: Where possible, you can create samples to demonstrate how the partnership would work. This can involve mocking up content for social media, videos or emails or creating hashtags, for example. If you’ve not worked with corporate sponsors before, it can be a powerful way to demonstrate your vision.
Step 5: Establish Expectations
When brands start expressing an interest in becoming a corporate sponsor, make sure you’re both clear on the expectations for both parties.
A few bases to cover can include:
- What the brand expects from a corporate partnership
- The goals that will be set out as a result of the collaboration e.g. brand exposure
- How these goals will be measured
- How the brand will determine whether the arrangement is a success
If you’ve had this discussion before the pitch, you can tailor your presentation slides to include these types of details.
Pro tip: Make sure the discussion on return on investment is as specific as possible — ask for numbers where possible. This helps your organization know what you’d need to do for a successful corporate partnership and whether it’s achievable with your combined resources.
Step 6: Set Up a Meeting
Setting up a meeting offers the opportunity to discuss a potential partnership in more detail.
This is where a pitch deck can be invaluable. It can include slides that deliver key details about your organization’s mission and work and the benefits of becoming a corporate sponsor. You can also tailor slides to the brand you’re pitching, especially if you’re already aware of what they’re looking for.
Pro tip: Your presentation slides don’t need to contain a lot of text. You can relay important information orally during the presentation and just include a basic overview of the slides.
Setting Sponsorship Prices
Establishing a sponsorship price can feel confusing. Think about a price that will allow the company to receive ROI on their investment, without short-changing your organization.
You might choose to have sponsorship packages to suit different budget levels, for example.
Over to You
Attracting corporate sponsors is a great way to diversify your nonprofit’s income, even if you’re a smaller organization.
Focus on finding potential sponsors that align with your mission and values, especially ones with a track record of working with nonprofits.
Once you’ve got your list, you can look to start a conversation and set up meetings to dive deeper into your proposal. Since it can be a lot easier to win over prospects when you’re face-to-face, this can be the ultimate goal of your proposal.
Here at Donorbox, we’re helping organizations like yours to maximize their fundraising efforts and create a more sustainable future.