Skip to content
We are now Bonterra

Securing a nonprofit sponsorship: The complete guide

April 17, 2020
Two workers sit at a desk covered with papers and speak to a man in a suit about joining them in a nonprofit sponsorship.

When your nonprofit organization develops a fundraising strategy, you likely consider individual donations, event revenue, and grants as your main funding sources. However, you should also look into another highly profitable revenue source: nonprofit sponsorships.

Sponsorships can help fund a variety of specific, high-value initiatives. Your organization could create a sponsorship agreement with an individual or another nonprofit, but this guide will help you understand and secure the most common type of nonprofit sponsorship: that of a for-profit corporation. Let’s get started!

What is a nonprofit sponsorship?

A nonprofit sponsorship is a mutually beneficial partnership between a nonprofit and another party. In a corporate sponsorship, your nonprofit receives financial support or in-kind contributions from a business, and the sponsor receives increased brand visibility from your organization in return.

Large corporations might sponsor a nonprofit as part of their corporate philanthropy programs, while smaller businesses often partner with nonprofits to build connections and improve their local community.

Benefits of nonprofit sponsorships

The key to a successful nonprofit sponsorship is ensuring both your nonprofit and the sponsor gain something from it. Your organization can reap a variety of benefits from sponsorships, including:

  • Financial support, either through direct funding or the ability to reduce service, event planning, and marketing costs by receiving in-kind donations.
  • Increased promotion of your purpose to help spread awareness.
  • New supporters from the sponsor’s customer base.
  • Brand credibility due to your connection with a well-established business.

Corporations also benefit from sponsorships because their name becomes associated with a charitable cause, which helps improve their reputation. They can  also attract new customers from your supporter base and receive tax deductions. When approaching a potential corporate sponsor, make sure to emphasize these perks to show that the sponsorship will be mutually beneficial. 

Common types of nonprofit corporate sponsorships

There are several types of corporate sponsorships your nonprofit could add to its fundraising strategy. To help you determine which would be best for your organization, let’s look at the four most common types in more detail.

1. Financial sponsorships

This type of sponsorship is fairly straightforward: A business donates money to a nonprofit, usually for a specific purpose.

Many organizations seek financial sponsorships when planning events. Although event fundraisers are popular because they can bring in significant revenue, they come with upfront costs that need to be figured into your budget. Sponsors can cover some of those expenses, and you can easily thank them by featuring their logos in your event marketing materials.

You can also secure financial contributions outside of events by offering naming rights to corporations. Put your sponsor’s name on a space inside your organization’s facilities in exchange for a one-time or recurring donation. If you have several rooms or wings that could be named, create sponsorship tiers so businesses can choose to contribute larger amounts to acquire the naming rights to a more prominent space.

2. In-kind contributions

In some cases, a business might be willing to donate physical items or services to a nonprofit instead of making a financial contribution. Some examples of this might include:

  • A grocery store contributing snacks and water bottles for walk-a-thon participants.
  • A travel company offering a vacation package as an auction item.
  • A restaurant catering a major donor appreciation dinner for free.

Depending on your organization’s needs, an in-kind sponsorship may be more valuable than a financial sponsorship. Instead of asking a business for money and then devoting more time to making purchases, you’ll receive the necessary items upfront. However, in-kind sponsorships can also be less flexible, so negotiate the agreement carefully to maximize the business’s support.

3. Media sponsorships

Media sponsorships are a specific type of in-kind contribution that provide free advertising rather than physical items or financial support. In many cases, media sponsorships involve co-advertising, in which the corporation names an official nonprofit partner and creates print and digital advertisements featuring your logo alongside theirs.

Some television networks and radio stations also offer free advertising space to nonprofits as a form of media sponsorship. Check with local broadcasting entities to see what slots they have available.

4. Corporate grants

Private foundations and government entities aren’t the only organizations that offer nonprofit grants. Many businesses provide one of three different types of grant funding as well. First, some large corporations have associated foundations that offer traditionally formatted grants. Your organization will have to submit an application tailored to the foundation’s requirements to be considered for funding.

You can bring in additional revenue through a second type of corporate grant if your nonprofit relies on volunteers. Businesses that offer volunteer grants will donate when their employees volunteer with a nonprofit, maximizing your volunteers’ value while boosting employee engagement.

Lastly, the Google Ad Grant program bridges the corporate grant and media sponsorship categories of nonprofit sponsorships. The program requires an application, but the process isn’t competitive. Any eligible organization can receive a monthly advertising stipend from Google, providing valuable brand exposure and added flexibility in your organization’s marketing budget.

How to find a nonprofit sponsorship

Nonprofits of all sizes can secure and benefit from sponsorships. Although getting started is easier than you might think, your organization needs to choose and approach potential sponsors strategically.

Here are some tips for finding corporate sponsors for your nonprofit:

  • Leverage personal connections. If your staff members, board members, or loyal supporters know a local business owner, have them introduce your nonprofit and start making the case for why that business should partner with you.
  • Target businesses with corporate giving programs. Many corporations offer grants or make other charitable donations, so research these options as you make your list of potential sponsors. Companies with matching gift programs could also be good candidates for sponsorships, as they may be willing to expand their existing nonprofit support.
  • Don’t be afraid to approach sponsors who already support other nonprofits. Many businesses are willing to sponsor multiple organizations to expand their network, especially if your nonprofit is in a different field than their current partners.

Most importantly, get informed about your potential sponsor’s background, motivations, and values. When you understand who your sponsor is and how their objectives align with your cause, you can make an effective appeal for support. 

A final note about securing a nonprofit sponsorship 

If your organization decides to pursue nonprofit sponsorships, do your research so you can find the right sponsors for your organization. Also, remember to thank your sponsors, because a sponsor who feels appreciated will be more eager to keep supporting your organization long-term.

Ready to Get Started?

    Supporter Engagement
  • Corporations
  • Nonprofits
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Fundraising ideas