9 Ways to Get Corporate Sponsorships for Charity Events

A Business-Like Attitude Is the Secret

Charitable runs and walks are the most common charitable events that draw sponsors, but there are many others too.. Gary S Chapman/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Why Corporate Sponsorship Is So Important to Charities

Corporate sponsorship of charitable causes is enormous.

IEG, the organization that tracks these things, reports that total sponsorship spending by businesses will reach $22.4 billion in 2016. 

Of that, nine percent will be devoted to causes, four percent to the arts, and four percent to festivals, fairs, and annual events. 

The question for all nonprofits is, are you getting your fair share of this money?

Unfortunately, many charities do not have a clue about how to approach a potential sponsor, prepare a proposal, and persuade a sponsor to sign on.

Good nonprofit sponsorship partners realize that this is a business deal, not a donation. They also know that the skills to get corporate sponsorships are different from those that work in everyday fundraising.

Why Do Companies Sponsor Charitable Events?

Knowing what motivates businesses to become sponsors can help you plan your approach to them. There are many business benefits of sponsorship, but here are the most common:

  1. Increasing brand loyalty
  2. Brand differentiation
  3. Changing/strengthening brand image
  4. Creating company or product awareness and visibility
  5. Driving retail traffic or sales
  6. Highlighting community responsibility, or corporate social responsibility
  7. Building new and deeper community networks
  8. Enhancing company's credibility and educating the public about products and services
  1. The opportunity to have the public sample a new product or provide demonstration of a product or service
  2. Entertaining clients (can be important when sponsoring cultural or athletic events)
  3. Targeting a niche market
  4. Recruiting, retaining or motivating employees
  5. Fostering talent and teaching new skills to employees

    How Can Charities Attract Corporate Sponsors?

    Made Possible By Succeeding With Sponsorship, by Patricia Martin (Jossey Bass, 2004), is a valuable guide to developing those skills, attitudes, and insights that make working with corporate sponsors easier.

    Martin, a specialist in matching nonprofits and businesses, says that a nonprofit that wants to be a sponsorship heavyweight has to first change its attitude. Those who succeed exhibit two qualities:

    1. Genuine interest in working with a sponsor because they know the partnership has value for both organizations.
    2. The conviction that they have a significant marketing investment to offer to the sponsor.

    Martin says that nonprofits should price their proposals on their promotional value. Sponsors must be able to exploit the commercial opportunities associated with an event, cause or organization. 

    Although corporations are more interested than ever in their social responsibilities, the bottom line is that they must be able to gain market share and enhance their brands through the sponsorships they choose.

    It is as simple as that. 

    Martin spells out the tangible and intangible value that your organization can offer. Charities have to understand the consumer values that drive the success of any good corporate/nonprofit partnership.

    Martin's book takes you through the changes in attitude you may need and describes how to identify and sell your proposition. 

    There are charts, sample agreements, and letters, as well as tax and accounting tips. 

    Are You Ready for Corporate Sponsors? A Reality Check

    To see if your organization is ready for a corporate sponsor, Martin provides this checklist:

    • Do you have a marketing program to keep in touch with your followers through e-mail, website, events, newsletters, social media, or advertising? Many large nonprofits have all of these. However, if yours is a small nonprofit, you can still compete within your local community.
    • What do you know about your demographics? Do you know who participates and why? Where do they live? How far do they drive? Are they repeat users, donors, volunteers? Are they young families, empty nesters, or teens?
    • Have you worked with corporate sponsors before? Do you have testimonials from corporate executives about the value of your organization? Do you feature those in press kits or other marketing materials?
    • What is the competitive environment? Are other organizations similar to yours getting corporate sponsorships?
    • Your ultimate goal will be to meet face-to-face with a handful of prospects.But first create a list of companies headquartered in your area. What do they produce and to whom do they sell? Are there potential cross-promotions with an existing sponsor?
    • Are you a member of civic organizations so that you can understand and mix with the business community?
    • Is your organization entrepreneurial? Are new ideas welcomed, and do they receive thoughtful consideration? Have you organized other commercial or revenue-generating activities over the past five years?

    You may just zip right through those questions and move right on to finding potential corporate sponsors. 

    However, if not, Martin's book can guide you through the changes that you'll need to make within your culture and the steps to being a successful partner for corporate sponsorships.

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