How to Set Up Corporate Nonprofit Event Sponsorship

Ryan Jones • Aug 18, 2020

As part of a nonprofit organization, you’re well-acquainted with fundraising. There are so many ways to get donations in the door, from P2P campaigns to email marketing to recurring donation programs. But if it feels like you’ve explored every option available and you still want to see a thicker bottom line for your business, it may be time to consider corporate sponsorship.

Corporate sponsorship is essentially a relationship in which a business offers your nonprofit either donations or donations of goods/services in exchange for your public acknowledgment of their contribution to your cause. Sponsorship comes in two forms:

Ongoing sponsors support nonprofits year-round through regular giving and involvement,  including Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaigns, program sponsorships, in-kind gifts, pro-bono support, ongoing fundraising campaigns, and more.

Fundraising sponsors support a nonprofit through specific events or campaigns for a limited time. Corporations can donate money, volunteers, auction items, bar items, underwrite expenses, and more.

In this post, we’re going to focus on fundraising sponsorship for nonprofit events because it’s more manageable and something you can do right away for your next event.

FREE Sponsorship Package Template

Use our sponsorship package template to structure your sponsorship deck and show why your mission is important, why sponsors should care, and what they’ll receive in exchange for their support

The Benefits of Corporate Event Sponsorship

The nice thing about corporate sponsorship is, when done right, it benefits both the corporation and the nonprofit organization. It’s a win-win!

Benefits to the corporation

Before you make your pitch to potential sponsors, familiarize yourself with these benefits and be sure to include them in your nonprofit sponsorship packages in a way that is relevant to the sponsor.

  • Brand awareness and goodwill: By pairing their brand with yours, businesses can expect to receive some reflected glory from your noble cause, in addition to adding a corporate philanthropy facet to their brand (e.g. environmentally-friendly, save the whales, helping the poor, etc.)
  • Tax incentives: In many jurisdictions, corporate tax breaks are available to businesses that make donations to nonprofits. The larger the donation, the more significant the tax benefits.
  • Reputation: Association with your nonprofit gives employees and loyal customers something to be proud of, paying off in improvements to reputation, favorable hiring prospects, and increased sales.
  • Reach new audiences: Some of your regular supporters may already buy from your company sponsor, but not all of them. Co-branding through sponsorships helps businesses (especially local businesses) reach new eyeballs.

Benefits to your nonprofit

When you’re pitching the idea of sponsorship to your board of directors or executive director, keep these points in mind when it’s time to make the hard sell.

  • Offset operating costs and expenses: Funds from sponsorship deals don’t necessarily have to go directly to programs; use sponsorship donations of goods, services, and funds to cut overhead, so that you can tell smaller donors that 100% of their donations are going to your cause.
  • Access volunteers: Large sponsors often have large employee bases who may be interested in volunteering (or donating!)
  • Brand awareness: Piggyback on the notoriety of a large or well-known sponsor to give your small nonprofit more visibility.
  • Reach new audiences: As above, you can likely reach new supporters who may never have heard of your organization.

How to Secure Corporate Sponsors for Your Nonprofit Event

Before you go door to door looking for sponsors, it’s important to have a game plan. Remember, you’re talking to busy people who probably get requests for handouts every week, so your first impression needs to be on the mark. Follow these tips and you’ll go into pitch meetings feeling confident. We believe in you!

1. Find the Right Corporate Candidates

While randomly fishing for sponsors may net you a result here and there, it’s better to identify high-value potential sponsors in advance. Start by contacting companies that have a personal connection to your organization, such as ones that employ your donors, board members, and volunteers.

Local businesses are often easier to approach since they probably are already aware of you and may even have donated or attended your events. They may not be able to donate cash but they could be a great source for in-kind gifts and services. For example, sponsorship from a commercial printer could be very valuable if you promote your event with brochures. Or, if you plan on having refreshments at your event, a local winery could be an ideal sponsor.

And don’t forget that the internet is a powerful tool, so do your research. Look at the CEO’s LinkedIn profile to see if their personal causes align with your mission. Look for information about corporate philanthropy on their website. Dig through your CRM to see if they’ve given in the past. Every bit of data you can glean from your research gets you one step closer to success.

2. Create a Sponsorship Package 

Obviously what you say to a corporate leader in person is important, but you should also be sure to have something tangible that they can read over during and after your pitch. This is your sponsorship package.

Be sure to keep your sponsorship package concise, organized, and contemporary. You can use the same one for more than one potential sponsor, but always personalize it by using the specific company name, logo, and other details that make it seem like your pitch is tailored specifically for this business.

Here’s what to include:

  • Pertinent information about your organization. Describe your cause in a way that will appeal to your potential sponsors.
  • Details about your event, including where and when, schedule, the number of people you are expecting, the demographics of the attendees, and why you’re hosting it. Help sponsors envision their expanded audience. 
  • List all the benefits we talked about above as they relate to this specific corporation. 
  • If you have defined sponsorship tiers, include the cost and rewards for each level. 
  • Establish expectations on your side. What do you expect from the sponsors before, during, and after the event?

3. Reach Out to Potential Sponsors 

Your initial communication to potential sponsors doesn’t need to be War and Peace. A quick email with your sponsorship package attached is often enough to get the ball rolling. Try something like this for contacts who you don’t know personally:

Hi [name],

I noticed on your website that your company has been committed to supporting environmental work for the last decade. My organization is working on an event that aligns with your corporate responsibility philosophy and I’m hoping you have time to sit down for a quick chat about how we can help each other.

Please let me know if you have time on Thursday afternoon to discuss. I’ve attached some additional information for you to look over if you’re interested.

Thanks for your time.

The more specific you can get with names and details the better since it demonstrates that you have already put time into starting this relationship and you’re not just asking for a contribution. And flattery won’t get you everywhere but it also can’t hurt.

4. Follow Up

There is a solid chance that you won’t hear back from many of your contacts on the first try. People are busy; they forget to reply; they think you’re just after a quick donation. But don’t despair. The follow-up email is your best friend in this case.

After a few days without a response, write a quick email that reiterates your pitch, or even call their office (increasingly difficult these days but still worth a shot). If you’ve secured even one sponsor, don’t hesitate to mention the business by name when pitching other companies. People want to feel like they are part of a groundswell that leads to something good, and don’t discount the value of keeping up with the Joneses: seeing that other recognizable businesses are already on board will give you a great shot at securing even more sponsors.

Hot Tip: Keep track of who you’ve contacted by creating a simple spreadsheet with these columns:

  • Company Contacted
  • Contact Information
  • Date Contacted
  • Result

5. What’s Next?

Once you have your sponsors signed up, get creative promoting them, and thanking them for their support on your website and especially social media. Don’t forget to tag them (double-check their handles) in social media posts.

If you do a good job of making sure their sponsorship is appreciated and vital to your success, you may find that you accrue even more sponsors who cold call you!

How to Keep the Relationship Going

“Sponsorship isn’t an item you check off and forget about. It’s a process.” 

– Chris Baylis, President and CEO of Sponsorship Collective

Securing sponsorship and hosting a successful event is a ton of work. But you shouldn’t have to start from scratch every time. A little shepherding of your sponsors along the way will keep you from having to devote a lot of time to the pitch for your next event since you’ll have a bunch of warm leads.

Show Your Gratitude 

For many sponsors, and donors in general, the most important thing you can do to secure their long term support is to thank them. Profusely. Repeatedly. And sincerely. 

Start with this handy thank you letter template, but don’t stop there. Record a video of people your nonprofit has helped to thank your sponsors. Share nice photos with thank you messages. Send flowers! Any acknowledgment is going to be appreciated and make your job easier in the future.

Event Recap Report

The other major thing that sponsors want is to know that their contribution to your event made a difference. To provide a detailed recap report of the event that outlines why it was a success and how your sponsors helped. Be sure to include: event attendance, money raised, press coverage, sample ads, event photos, social media statistics, video views, and anything else interesting and positive that came from your event. You might also consider including some things that would be nice to have for your next event to get your sponsors in the mindset for continuing your relationship.

If you have a talented graphic designer on staff, make your report look pretty and professional. If you also have a web designer, make your report a slick web page that you can use to promote your events to future sponsors.

And of course…

We say it nearly every time here: record what you did for next time. What worked. What didn’t. If you’re adventurous, this is even an opportunity to do some A/B testing. Just one solid sponsor is enough to make the difference between an event that’s fine and one that blows away everyone’s expectations.

FREE Sponsorship Package Template

Use our sponsorship package template to structure your sponsorship deck and show why your mission is important, why sponsors should care, and what they’ll receive in exchange for their support

Sponsorship Package Template

You’re one step closer to securing a corporate sponsorship! Use our Sponsorship Package Template to create the perfect framework and inspire potential sponsors.

Our template is editable in Powerpoint and Canva!