Corporate Sponsorships for Nonprofits | The Ultimate Guide

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Today’s consumers are incredibly philanthropic-minded. In fact, consumers are more likely to be satisfied with a brand if they know the brand is socially oriented. This trend highlights great opportunities for nonprofits and charitable organizations, as they look to bring in more corporate sponsors.

Although most corporations know that aligning their business models with charitable causes is a good way to improve brand image, securing corporate sponsorships isn’t always easy.

This guide will walk through the basics of corporate sponsorships including:

We’ve included actionable tips for nonprofits to make the most of their corporate sponsorship strategies. We hope you’re able to apply it to your nonprofit’s next corporate sponsor outreach!

How do corporate sponsorships for nonprofits work?

1. How do corporate sponsorships work?

When most people hear ‘corporate sponsorships’, they probably think of something along the lines of a bank sponsoring a 5K run/walk/ride. In reality, corporate sponsorships can be much more varied and creative.

At their core, corporate sponsorships are a way for businesses to align themselves with a charitable organization or cause in exchange for financial donations or support.

Corporate sponsorships are a great way for nonprofits to bring in additional revenue for their fundraising events and campaigns without additional overhead or costs.

There are two main types of corporate sponsorships: organization sponsors and fundraising sponsors.

There are two main types of corporate sponsorships for nonprofits.

  • Organization sponsors support nonprofits year-round through regular giving and involvement. This includes Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaigns, program sponsorships, in-kind gifts, pro-bono support, and more.
  • Fundraising sponsors support a nonprofit through specific events or campaigns. Corporations can donate money, volunteers, auction items, bar items, underwrite expenses, and more. For smaller nonprofits, corporate sponsors can significantly boost the bottom line by helping to offset operating costs and other expenses.

In most corporate sponsor/nonprofit relationships, there are gives and takes that are part of the partnership agreement. In exchange for corporate sponsor donations or in-kind support, nonprofits are expected to promote, advertise, and highlight their corporate partners on all fundraising materials and communications.

Corporate sponsorships are a dollars for dollar brand awareness exchange – and one that can really benefit your nonprofit!

Actionable Tips!

  • Include the logos of your corporate sponsors on your online giving page and/or online ticketing page. If you have tiered sponsorships (where gold is the highest giving amount, silver is the second-highest, and so on) you can feature different sponsor pages for the different tiers. Include your presenting sponsors on your homepage.
  • Additionally, include a thank-you page with all of your sponsor logos for good measure. Be sure to also feature your sponsor logo on your mobile bidding interface, scoreboards at the event, and scrolling ticker message. This digital visibility can be a huge value-add for corporate sponsorship.

How do you secure a corporate sponsorship for your nonprofit?

2. How can a nonprofit get corporate sponsors?

Finding corporate sponsors – or rather sponsors of any kind – can feel daunting for nonprofits. After all, corporations might have dozens or even hundreds of charitable organizations asking them for financial donations or other involvement.

So how can a nonprofit stand out in such a crowded marketplace?

Here are a few ideas to get started:

Use your board's connections to identify potential corporate sponsorship opportunities.

Leverage your board members.

Nonprofit board members are often highly connected, well-respected members of the local community. Many nonprofit board members hold full-time positions with thriving businesses and corporations. When a nonprofit is looking for corporate sponsors, the board is a great first place to start.

Map out your board connections: where they work, who they know, who is on other boards with them, and so on. This potential sponsor network mapping is an easy way to formulate a quick but comprehensive corporate sponsor target list.

Build a sponsorship packet with any details or FAQs to make it easy for board members to go to their contacts, local businesses, and employers to help secure an introduction or donation.

Devote some time to developing a great corporate sponsorship request letter.

Perfect your sponsorship letter.

Writing personal sponsorship appeals is a tried-and-true way of securing corporate partnerships. However, when so many of these letters are coming through a corporation, nonprofits must be able to get to the point quickly and build a connection between the corporation and their philanthropic cause.

Create a sponsorship letter template that allows you to make a connection between your nonprofit, their brand, and the impact their sponsorship can make. Clearly outline the tangible benefits that your partnership can provide to sponsors, and try to propose as structured a plan as possible. This will give both parties more ground on which to work out the perfect arrangement.

Offer partners unique incentives to join you in an official corporate sponsorship.

Try offering different incentives.

While most corporate sponsors have their own reasons for wanting to align themselves with a nonprofit cause (more on this in section 3), sometimes they need a little incentive to encourage them to take that first step.

If you’re hosting a 5K, gala, golf outing, or another type of event, offer free tickets to your sponsors. This is a classic strategy for incentivizing support, but there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Think about your mission and your prospective sponsor. What unique benefits can you offer them that will really catch their attention?

Explore your networks for potential corporate sponsorship opportunities.

Talk to friends, family, and other peers.

Don’t underestimate the power of personal connections! Many times, some of the best corporate partnerships have blossomed through personal conversations. Social proof is a huge motivator in today’s charitable world, and it also impacts corporate sponsorships. People and businesses give to those they know, and the causes their connections support.

Maybe your uncle’s company is looking for a charity to sponsor, or your cousin’s husband has a start-up that is looking to break into the corporate sponsorship world. Post on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media sites to gauge interest from your peer circle.

Additionally, talk to top volunteers, donors, and employees about who they know and create a connections network. Casting a wide net for personal relationships is an important step in growing and fostering corporate sponsorships.

Actionable Tips!

Just because you’re starting from the beginning with corporate sponsorships doesn’t mean it has to be a completely uphill climb.

  • Start by creating a list of local or regional businesses with advertised or established sponsorship programs.
  • Then, map it back to your connections network to see if you have easy targets and where your connections are in the community.
  • Finally, it’s time to gain their attention.

Whether you reach out via email, phone, or through a personal connection, it’s all about creating value when soliciting corporate sponsorships. Lead with your mission, create an emotional connection, and emphasize the value a corporation stands to gain by partnering with your nonprofit.

What are the benefits for businesses that offer sponsorships to nonprofits?

3. What are the benefits of being a corporate sponsor?

While corporate sponsorships are clearly beneficial to nonprofit organizations, they also offer a unique set of benefits to the sponsors themselves.

From tax incentives that appeal to c-level executives to engaging team-building opportunities for employees to increased brand awareness in the community, corporations gain serious perks when they become corporate sponsors for nonprofits, including:

Brand awareness is a major benefit of corporate sponsorships with nonprofits.

Brand Awareness

Sponsoring a nonprofit organization can help increase brand awareness of a business. While sponsoring a nonprofit event might not bring in immediate business, it can definitely help consumers associate a brand name with a specific cause – or at least with corporate social responsibility.

Additionally, corporate sponsorships put brand names in front of new audiences that might be outside of the company’s typical profile, which can increase brand awareness in new circles.

There are plenty of financial incentives for businesses to offer corporate sponsorships to nonprofits.

Financial Incentives

One of the biggest benefits of nonprofit sponsorships for corporations is potential tax incentives. Many corporations engage in sponsorships and donations in part because of the corporate tax breaks that are available.

Not only that, but participating in corporate sponsorship relationships with nonprofits in other ways (by providing volunteers, supplies, or auction items, for example) can also lead to other incentives or eligibility for grants, awards, and corporate status’.

Corporate sponsorships go a long way to boost a company's reputation among the public.

Corporate Reputation

And finally, corporate sponsorships can have a major impact on a corporation’s overall reputation with employees, consumers, and other organizations. These types of partnerships align organizations with philanthropic causes, which means that audiences can now associate the brand with both a general sense of social good as well as the charitable cause itself.

More than 75% of Millennial employees would prefer to work with a corporation that is actively involved in charitable giving.

Actionable Tips!

  • Also, constantly update your corporate offerings and sponsorship perks to keep both long-term and new sponsors happy. Give your sponsors the logos, messaging, and creative tools they need to promote their involvement with your organization in their marketing materials and on their websites.

Allowing your corporate sponsors to fully realize the perks of working with your organization will keep sponsors coming back as well as attract new sponsors in the future.

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