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How to get corporate sponsors for your event: 4 simple steps

March 10, 2022
This image shows a diverse group of nonprofit professionals discussing how to get corporate sponsors for their next event.

Fundraising events are an investment, and it can be easy to spend more money on the event than it actually raises. There are a number of ways for your nonprofit organization to keep this from happening, such as setting a realistic budget and having a data-backed plan to boost donations.

One of the most efficient ways to ensure your event is a financial net gain is through corporate sponsorships. Plus, with their for-profit savviness and business senses, corporate sponsors can lend your event more reach, recognition, and legitimacy in the eyes of a potential attendee or donor.

In this guide, we’ll cover what a corporate sponsor does plus four simple steps that your nonprofit organization can take to acquire the best corporate sponsor for your needs.

What is the role of a corporate sponsor?

A corporate sponsor helps support nonprofit events and programs in exchange for improving their brand image and earning tax deductions.

Corporate sponsorships can come in the form of:

  • Financial contributions: The most common form of sponsorship occurs when a company donates money to an event or program. Nonprofits often recognize this support with publicity and promotional materials, such as merchandise and online ads. A local restaurant, for instance, may fund your upcoming gala if you include their logo and contact information on signage.
  • In-kind donations: Corporate sponsors also provide nonprofits with in-kind goods and services, including food, prizes, and advertising. For example, a gym could offer free memberships as an auction prize or a museum could provide their facilities as a venue.

These corporate sponsorships are beneficial for everyone involved. Your nonprofit receives the funding it needs to run a successful event, while the corporate sponsor receives a charitable reputation boost and gets introduced to your guests.

Four steps for recruiting corporate sponsors

The right corporate sponsor can help boost your nonprofit’s brand credibility and recognition. Here are some helpful strategies to acquire their support:

1. Research corporate sponsor prospects

Before you can build relationships with corporate sponsors and obtain their endorsement, you have to know who these donors are.

Perform prospect research to identify high-value candidates and gather information about their backgrounds, preferences, and motivations, which you can then use to make an effective appeal.

Follow these steps for successful prospect research:

  1. Evaluate your donor database. Chances are you already have donors in your database whose companies would be willing to lend their support. Narrow down the data in your CRM to focus on capacity (wealth) markers that show a person’s business affiliates and affinity to contribute.
  2. Ask for referrals. Leverage your board’s personal connections and contacts to find the right sponsor. Once you have an ideal candidate, ask your board members to contact the company directly by signing a proposal letter and making a follow-up phone call after it’s been sent.
  3. Hire a consultant. If you don’t have the time or resources to conduct in-house prospect research, you can outsource the work to a consultant who specializes in corporate sponsorships. Their job is to screen databases for prospects and support your event’s planning and execution.
  4. Consider your peers. Another method of finding potential sponsors is looking at other nonprofits in your community. Which companies are sponsoring their events? Who are the competitors of those companies? It also helps to check out event pages and websites to find out what kind of publicity your peers are giving their sponsors so you can offer equivalent opportunities to your potential sponsors.

Prospecting allows you to focus your efforts on donors with the highest likelihood of sponsoring your event. Once you have a better understanding of who these prospects are, you can move on to proposing a partnership.

2. Define your target audience

To secure the support of a corporate sponsor, you’ll need to prove that your objectives align. One way to do this is to demonstrate how your supporters and their potential customer bases overlap. Even partnerships with little in common can benefit if their target demographics match.

Begin by gathering the following information about your supporters:

  • Demographics, such as age, education, geography, and income
  • Average event turnout and participation rate from previous fundraising campaigns
  • Size of your reach through email, social media, and direct mail

Then, determine your potential sponsor’s target market. If there are any similarities, you can make a strong case for banding together to expand your reach.

For example, an insurance company with a target customer base of people aged 65 and older would be the ideal partner for a nonprofit event where many elderly donors and their families are expected to attend. Communicate your findings to the company and include the percentage of past event attendees that fall into this target demographic.

3. Offer incentives to corporate sponsors

If you want to win over a sponsor, you need to prove that their return on investment (ROI) will be worth it. Formulate your approach with one question in mind: What’s in it for the sponsor?

For most corporate sponsors, getting the word out about their business and reaching potential new customers are enough of an incentive to form a partnership. However, some corporations might want VIP tickets to your event, while others want their company’s name to be mentioned in a press release.

Tailor your incentives to the unique needs of your prospective partner, using these ideas to get you started:

  • Build a dedicated sponsor page on your nonprofit’s website that describes their company and includes a link to their site.
  • Recognize their support in board meetings, press interviews, and public speeches.
  • Create a personalized video about your sponsor and post it on social media.
  • Allow the sponsor to write a series of guest blog posts on your website.
  • Include your sponsor’s logo and messaging in email, direct mail, and social media outreach used to promote the event.
  • Invite them for a private tour of the event venue and arrange for the press to take photos.

When you approach prospective sponsors, listen more than you talk, and ask them about their goals and priorities. That way, you’ll know exactly which benefits will appeal to them.

4. Write a corporate sponsorship proposal letter

With all this background information, you’re ready to formulate a compelling proposal.

Corporate sponsorship letters contain all the information a prospective sponsor needs to commit to your organization. From highlighting your accomplishments to introducing new partnership opportunities, this is your chance to win over your next corporate sponsor.

When it comes time to write your letter, be sure to:

  • Describe the event. Include specifics about the event and introduce an intended goal. For instance, you could say, “We are excited to present our plans for this 5k walk. With the help of your valued contribution, we aim to raise $25,000 for cancer research.”
  • Present your target audience. Use your previous findings to provide an in-depth look at how your target demographics overlap. Consider this example: “We understand that your customers are primarily young adults and college students. At our last benefit concert, 92% of the participants were aged 18-24.”
  • Suggest sponsorship packages. Describe what you’re looking for in a sponsorship, whether it be in-kind donations or financial contributions. Then, explain what you will give sponsors in return. For instance, in return for a $5,000 sponsorship, you will mention their company in a speech, display their logo on event programs, and tag their social media accounts on related posts.

After you send out the proposal letter, follow up to see if they have any additional questions and to gauge their interest in the partnership. Be sure to thank them for their consideration, regardless of their decision, so they are left with a positive impression of your nonprofit organization.

Once your sponsors have agreed to support you, follow up with a contract and involve the sponsor in planning and promotion so they feel like an integral part of your event—and so your event feels like part of their overall outreach strategy.

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