Field Day HQ
March 16, 2023

The nonprofit guide to corporate sponsorships

This is a guest post by Swaim Strategies. Check out Field Day's blog on their site, How to Strategically Recruit Volunteer Event Support.

Corporate sponsorships have the potential to be one of the largest sources of revenue for your event. So let’s talk sponsorship: what it is, how to get it, and what to do with it.

What is sponsorship?

Sponsorship is a fee for benefits. While there generally aren’t limits on how you can use sponsorship dollars, there are rules for what you need to do in return for sponsorship. Each sponsor level (such as $15,000, $10,000, $5,000, and so on) will receive different benefits. The larger your sponsor, the more benefits they’ll receive.

Relationships lead to sponsorships

Cultivating corporate sponsorships takes time. That’s because relationship-building is key, and relationships aren’t made overnight. 

Centro Cultural de Washington County is a great example of an organization that went above and beyond in their sponsorship cultivation for their annual Gala de Cultura. Their Development Director leaned on relationships he already had to open doors for new potential sponsors. He also went back to former sponsors to touch base and bring them back into Centro’s work. 

Relationships matter. Corporate giving officers are busy people! They’ll prioritize their closest relationships, so make sure you’re putting in the time and effort to build real connections with people.

Show genuine care. Giving officers are people, just like you, who want to be seen and heard. 

Make sure your goals align

The most effective sponsorships happen when sponsor benefits, your nonprofit’s goals, and the sponsor’s goals all align. While it’s tempting to reach out to everyone you can think of to sponsor your event, take the time to identify who would truly benefit. In conversations with potential sponsors, talk about how your organization is meeting your mission and be clear on how their support matters.

Keep proposals simple

You want to be sure that you’re using sponsorship dollars wisely. Doing so will benefit your organization as well as your sponsor’s, making it more likely they’ll want to sponsor you again in the future.  

If the production of your proposal is too complicated, it’ll communicate a lack of care or unpreparedness for their sponsorship and for your event. Sponsors want your event to run smoothly and be a success–after all, their name will be associated with it!

Pro tip: Solicit umbrella sponsorships, which are sponsorships that benefit every event your organization has planned for the year or for the next several years. Umbrella sponsorships give potential sponsors the opportunity to choose which events will best fit their needs and guidelines. Done right, they save everyone time.

Use a sponsor cultivation timeline

Remember, it takes time to build relationships and cultivate sponsors. So you’ll need a timeline to do it well.

Higher-level sponsorships: Larger sponsors need to plan for their annual budgets. You should solicit them a year out from your event. 

Lower-level sponsorships: Give these organizations at least 90–120 days prior to your event to commit.

3 weeks from your event: 

  • Reach out to confirmed sponsors for their guest lists and final headcount
  • Make sure you have what you need from the sponsor to fulfill their benefits, such as their logo
  • Convey your excitement again for their support
  • Send your sponsors any final invoices for outstanding payments due
  • Communicate deadlines where necessary

After your event:

Follow up with your sponsors, thank them, and let them know how they helped your event and your mission succeed. This is one of the most important things you’ll do–it’s imperative you follow up. Remember, you’re building relationships. This process should not feel transactional.

Pro tip: Your post-event thank-you notes and requests for sponsorship renewals should be sent separately. Your sponsors shouldn’t only hear from you when you’re asking them for financial support.

Follow these best practices when communicating with sponsors:

  • If it’s been a few weeks since you sent your initial proposal and you haven’t received a response, it’s okay to reach back out. Your proposal might have never made it to your potential sponsor, or it might be lost in the shuffle. 
  • If a sponsor says yes, don’t leave them hanging! Send them a warm thank you, let them know how excited you are to have their support, and keep things clear by including a confirmation of their sponsorship level, their payment due date, and any other details they need to know for your partnership to be successful.
  • If you’ve sent a confirmation but haven’t heard back after 30 days, send another confirmation and / or verify who the confirmation should be sent to.

In conclusion

Corporate sponsors have a lot of potential for your event. Not only do sponsorships have the potential to be your biggest source of revenue, they can ensure your event costs are paid for before your event even begins.

Corporations agree to sponsor your event because they value your mission. When activated correctly, sponsors can be great partners, offering things like volunteer recruitment, in-kind printing, gifts for your guests, etc. 

So take your time, build those relationships, and do your research. Sponsorship is mutually beneficial, and that’s one of the coolest things about it. When you win, your sponsors win. What’s not to love?

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