Learn how to ask for sponsorship, whether your nonprofit is looking for event sponsors, ongoing partnerships, or help with a specific campaign. These 11 tips will help you determine how to ask for sponsorships!
Nonprofit fundraising is all about asking. But even for nonprofits that have gotten the hang of asking donors down pat, it can be hard to figure out how to ask for sponsorship. And sponsorships are a key part of growing your organization and expanding your fundraising abilities! So, how do you ask for sponsorship? These tips from Mightycause will help you get started, whether you’ve already got a sponsorship program or are just thinking about starting one.
1. Determine your needs.
The first step to asking for sponsorship is determining what you actually need. Are you gearing up for a campaign? Hosting an event? Looking for ongoing partnerships? Participating in a giving event? All of the above?
Once you’ve outlined your big-picture needs, you’ll want to spend some time parsing out some more specific needs, such as:
- How much money do you need to bring in?
- Do you have a time frame for locking in your sponsors?
- What are your goals for the sponsorship?
2. Outline what you have to offer.
Nonprofit sponsorships are so effective because they are mutually beneficial. Your organization gets funding, and your sponsor also receives a boost in some way. Whether it’s booth space at an event, sharing their company’s logo on your website or Mightycause page, or positive PR, there typically needs to be something in it for the sponsor in order to get them to sign on.
Think through what you’re willing and able to offer. Do you have a channel where you can share their logo? Can you offer them backlinks to their company’s website on your own website? Do you have a blog where they could write a guest post? Can you promote the sponsorship to your social media audience? Have you got a spot in your lobby where you can show some love to your sponsors? Don’t be afraid to get creative! And it doesn’t need to be a huge trade-off! Remember, this is charity. You’re not selling anything in return for funding, just trying to make sponsorship more enticing!
3. Create a one-pager.
What’s a one-pager? Well, it’s basically just a document with all of your sponsorship information on (you guessed it) one page. (But don’t worry — it’s okay if it’s two pages!) Often, this is helpful when you’re trying to secure sponsorships. It can be easily passed up the chain of command with your prospective sponsor, allow them to reference it later on, and help present a more professional image to businesses you are trying to court as sponsors.
Tips for creating a one-pager
- It doesn’t have to be fancy! Something created in Word or Google Docs with your logo is absolutely fine.
- If you’d like to get creative, free sites like Canva can be a great way to create slick documents that look like you had a graphic designer help you!
- Send it as a PDF. Offices use different programs, not everyone will have Word installed, or have a Google account, so attaching your one-pager as a PDF is the best way to go.
What to include on your one-pager
- Your legal information: Organization’s name, address, website, tax ID number, etc.
- Your logo
- A contact at your organization — it’s most helpful to have an actual person, with their phone number and email address.
- Your mission. What do you do? Who do you serve? Why is your work important?
- Your “elevator pitch” for why sponsoring your nonprofit is important
- Sponsorship tiers, if you have them
- Rewards for sponsors, if you have them (such as inclusion in your newsletter, shout-outs on social media, booth space at an event, and so on)
- Event information (date, location, general description), if you’re trying to get sponsorships for an event
- General pricing information — keep things open and provide ranges if you’re open to negotiating a sponsorship rate!
4. Create a list of prospects.
The question of “how to ask for sponsorships” is sometimes less about how than who to ask. And sometimes who you’re pitching to can change how you ask! So, you’ll need to figure out who your prospects are, and work from there.
Who to ask for sponsorships
Generally speaking, businesses are where you’ll find partnerships, and who you’ll be asking to sponsor you. You’ll want to evaluate potential sponsors based on this criteria:
- Affinity: Does this business have a connection to your cause? This could be a values-based affinity (for instance, a local pet food store & a local animal shelter would have affinity), but could also be a connection like a staff member sitting on your board, or a volunteer who works for the company. Affinity can also mean simply being dedicated to the same community your nonprofit serves.
- Propensity: Does this business have a foundation? Do they engage with other charitable causes? Does the business have a workplace giving program? Or, have they given to your nonprofit before? Checking out a business’ website can be a great source of information about their propensity to give to charitable causes!
- Wealth: So, a lot company’s wealth is public information, but the exact numbers are not what you need here. What you’re evaluating is how able they are to give. For instance, a business that just opened a few months ago is probably not in a position to sponsor your nonprofit, but an established business that is doing well might be a better prospect.
Gather all of this information in one spot, such as a spreadsheet, along with contact information for each business you’ll be reaching out to about sponsoring your nonprofit!
5. Try to get in touch with an individual, if at all possible.
So, once you’ve done some legwork and have a good list of prospects put together, you’re ready to start sending emails and making connections! But… who do you contact?! Unfortunately, this can be the hardest part of how to ask for sponsorship!
How to find a personal contact
A personal contact is best. If you have a personal introduction, that’s the dream scenario! Be sure to ask your board members if they have a connection — your board of directors can often be very well-connected in the community.
If you’ve tried all the personal inroads you can think of, check the business’ website. Some will have a staff directory or key staff members listed. Sometimes you’ll find someone with a title that lets you know they’re the right person to contact (such as “Partnerships Manager,” or “Brand Manager,” or “Public Relations Specialist”). Human Resources can also be a good place to start, if there’s an HR Manager listed. Even if these aren’t the specific person who would decide about a charitable sponsorship, they can often help get you there! And if there’s no one listed on their website who seems to be a natural contact, try looking up the company’s employees on LinkedIn. (But be polite and try to contact them off the platform, at their professional email address!)
Is it okay to just fill out a contact form?
You can absolutely use a contact form or general email address, if that is all a prospective sponsor has available. Your odds are better if you find a specific person, but don’t be afraid to send a general request where you can if they have limited ways to contact them.
You can also call their general phone number (if they have one) to see if you can get connected to the right person!
6. Keep it short and sweet!
When you’re pitching anything it’s important to get to the point quickly. Most people’s inboxes are overflowing and we all struggle to stay on top of our emails. This is even doubly true if you’re contacting someone who has to wade through a lot of pitches and introductions. So, get in their good graces and do them a favor by keeping it short.
You don’t need to write a novel. Let them know the key fact up front: who you are, where you’re writing them from, and what you want. Keep it to a few sentences, and for maximum likelihood that you’ll get a response, end with a specific question. (For instance, “Can we set up a call this week to discuss?”)
Note about press emails
So, it’s important to know that if you’re contacting a press email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, for instance), many press emails will not open emails with attachments. Embed any key information into the body of your email, try to get routed to the correct place, and then follow-up with your one-pager, rather than attaching it right off the bat.
7. Follow Up
It might take one or two tries to get a response, especially if the company you’re contacting is big. (Big ships turn slowly, as they say!) So, keep track of when you first reached out, and schedule reminders to follow up. Track the dates on your spreadsheet, as well as the result, even if it’s that they did not respond.
Like your initial outreach, your follow-ups should be short and sweet. Here are a few tips for following up like a rockstar:
- Reply to the email you sent to the person you’re emailing can see the initial email you sent, and keep correspondence from you batched together. (Etiquette goes a long way!)
- When you follow up, acknowledge that the person you’re writing to is probably responding to a lot of emails (“I know you’re busy!”) or that you may be in the wrong place (“If you’re not the best person to contact about this, can you tell me who is?”)
- Generally 3 times is enough — if they still haven’t responded to you after 3 attempts, it’s okay to move on! (But keep them on your list for another round of outreach at a later point.)
“The Magic Email”
Have you heard of “the magic email”? It’s a technique you try when you’re not getting a response that tends to actually garner a response. Basically this is what it looks like:
Now, you an edit that to ensure it makes sense, or to say “that sponsoring nonprofits in [your community] is not a priority for you at this time…” but the key to the “magic email” is in two thing. One, its brevity. It’s short and to the point. And two, you’re ready to move on.
In your last follow up attempt, try the magic email and see how it works for you!
8. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
Okay, so you tried to shoot your shot with a prospect, and it didn’t work out. Either they politely declined your request for a call or meeting, or just didn’t respond. Don’t despair! Put that contact on hold for now, keep them on your list, and revisit them the next time you conduct outreach.
You can also shake up your “ask” for failed sponsorship prospects. Maybe they weren’t right for an ongoing sponsorship, but would be interested in providing a matching grant for a giving event. Or, perhaps, you could talk about being part of their employee giving program. Don’t be afraid to get creative and adjust your ask to something different or even a little bit smaller and more approachable! Any “yes” is getting your foot in the door.
9. Keep good records
There’s little more annoying to someone who fields lots of pitches from the public, other businesses, and nonprofits than getting the same email about the same thing from different people. As we’ve said, a little bit of etiquette can go a long way.
So, keep notes about when you talk to companies, what the outcome is, and try to either call back to your previous correspondence with them. If possible, have the same person reach out again, especially if there was any kind of back-and-forth.
10. Be persistent
These types of relationships can be hard to build, take lots of time and effort, and sometimes don’t work out until you’ve tried again and again. So if your first round of outreach isn’t very fruitful, remain vigilant! It can take awhile to break the ice with your first sponsors, and building a robust sponsorship program can take years of dedicated work.
If you aren’t having much luck, try a different course of action to see if you get better returns. Change up how you’re emailing, or the frequency you’re sending emails. You could try adding more follow-ups, or following up more quickly (or, conversely, spacing out your follow-ups a bit more.) Maybe your one-pager needs to be tweaked. Step back, look at the big picture, and see where you can adjust to get more interest in your being a sponsor.
Know when to fold ’em
Are you contacting someone each round of outreach and not getting a response? That’s a no. It’s okay to remove them from your list of prospects and move on to new opportunities. There’s no need to continually contact businesses that just aren’t interested! Just make sure you’ve done your due diligence before writing them off.
11. Add sponsorship information to your Mightycause page or website
Want inbound leads for sponsors year-round? And to make it super easy for prospective sponsors to find the information they want about your program? Package all the information about sponsorship opportunities in an evergreen place!
On your Mightycause page
On Mightycause, all nonprofits have the ability to add a custom tab to their profile. This tab is pretty much free-form and can be used to share any information you’d like. If you don’t have a website yet, or you want to open yourself up to sponsors from as many channels as possible, try adding a Sponsorship Information tab to your profile!
Make sure to include the basic details of your sponsorship program, and how to get in touch with you for more information!
On your website
Creating a landing page on your nonprofit’s website is a great way to package together your sponsorship information and get some inbound leads. While the page can be as extensive or as simple as you want, here’s what you’ll want to include:
- The same information that’s in your one-pager. (Protip: Don’t make people download a PDF when you can just as easily put that information in the body of the page! Google can’t crawl a PDF and help you show up in searches so, whenever possible, avoid using PDF downloads on your website.)
- A contact form or way of getting in touch with you
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