Businesses everywhere are devoting more time and energy to making a positive impact on the world through corporate citizenship—often by supporting nonprofits working toward worthwhile causes. If your organization is looking for some extra support, corporate philanthropy efforts like sponsorships are a major opportunity you don’t want to miss out on.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to find the perfect corporate sponsorships for your organization, including:
- What are Corporate Sponsorships for Nonprofits?
- Benefits of Corporate Sponsorships
- Finding Your Perfect Corporate Sponsorship Match
- How to Get Corporate Sponsors: 7 Steps
- Corporate Sponsorship Examples
Once you understand how to find and secure powerful corporate sponsorships, you can expand your strategy further by tapping into all manner of corporate giving opportunities—like matching gifts, volunteer grants, and more. Let’s dive in so you can start earning more funds!
What are Corporate Sponorships for Nonprofits?
Corporate sponsorships refer to direct support that companies give to individual nonprofits, usually to fund a specific project, program, or event. Often, the two parties come to a mutually beneficial agreement where the company provides funding for the nonprofit and the nonprofit promotes the company within its marketing materials.
However, successful corporate sponsorships don’t always look the same. A business’s support can take multiple different forms, including:
- Financial: The most common type of sponsorship is when companies donate a large sum of money for a specific purpose. This might be to fund an event, purchase new nonprofit technology, or launch a program.
- In-Kind: Some businesses opt to donate goods or services instead of money. For instance, a company might give your nonprofit event supplies like auction items or professional services like legal counsel.
- Media: Don’t have much marketing experience? A business can provide a media sponsorship that includes free promotional materials, advertising space, or other marketing services, such as professional graphic design support.
- Event Support: There are many ways companies can sponsor your organization’s events. For example, a company might sponsor your golf fundraiser by advertising the event, donating golf clubs, and paying for the event’s catering.
Keep in mind that sponsorships are often only one part of a company’s overall corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. Many companies also have workplace giving programs that let their employees play a role in determining where the company donates.
For instance, in addition to sponsoring one nonprofit a year, a business may also use matching gifts to double its employees’ donations to hundreds of other organizations year-round. Many of your donors likely work for companies that offer these programs, so make sure to look into these opportunities, too!
Benefits of Corporate Sponsorships
When a business is well-aligned with your nonprofit, both you and the company sponsoring your organization can receive impactful benefits. Let’s take a look at what these benefits look like from both perspectives:
Depending on your needs and the type of corporate sponsorship you secure, your nonprofit could receive:
- Financial support for a program or event. This support may allow you to start a brand new program or host a major gala that results in thousands of dollars worth of donations.
- More funding for your mission. Whether your sponsor provides direct funding, supports an event, or increases your marketing opportunities, the support you receive will help your overall fundraising efforts and set you up for long-term success.
- Increased awareness of your cause. Corporate sponsorships get your nonprofit’s cause in front of a new audience—the business’s customers. If your sponsor’s audience is interested in your work, you could acquire plenty of new donors!
- Potential for a lasting partnership. If you and your sponsor develop a strong relationship, they may be open to supporting your organization again in the future. They may provide additional sponsorships, encourage employees to volunteer, or even create a custom matching gift program that applies only to your nonprofit.
Meanwhile, your corporate sponsor can benefit from:
- Increased brand awareness. A key part of many sponsorship agreements is that the nonprofit adds the sponsor’s name and logo to marketing materials, signage, and event merchandise.
- Potential new customers from your nonprofit’s audience. When your supporters see the company’s logo and learn that they funded your nonprofit’s event or program, they may decide to shop at your sponsor’s business.
- A reputation as a socially conscious company. Businesses that regularly participate in public CSR initiatives are seen more favorably in the public eye. Philanthropy efforts like corporate sponsorships can even motivate employees by cultivating trust and a positive company culture.
- Tax benefits. Just like individual donors can get charitable tax deductions for their contributions, so can companies.
Altogether, these benefits make any kind of corporate sponsorship a win-win with the potential to make lasting, positive impacts for everyone involved.
Finding Your Perfect Corporate Sponsorship Match
Excited to seek out a sponsorship for your organization? Start the process by researching businesses that could be interested and willing to become corporate sponsors.
Use the following strategies to find a company that could be the perfect corporate sponsorship match for your nonprofit:
Focus on Value Alignment
Your ideal corporate sponsor should have a genuine interest in your cause. If their values align with yours, they’ll be more likely to consider partnering with you. Not only that, but true value alignment also means it’s likely that their customers and employees have similar values and charitable interests—meaning more prospective donors for your nonprofit.
To find companies that align with your values, look for obvious connections and shared audiences. For instance, an animal shelter should research pet supply stores and dog grooming businesses that value animals as much as they do.
Leverage Existing Relationships
It’s easier to secure corporate sponsorships if your organization already has some kind of connection with the business. Existing relationships provide natural introductions and show businesses that your nonprofit is already aligned with their interests.
These relationships don’t have to be significant, either! For instance, any of these connections could help you get your foot in the door:
- Previous partnerships with a company
- Employees who have donated to your nonprofit
- Board members who work for or with the business
- Businesses that operate in the same local community
If you can show prospective sponsors that your nonprofit is already connected to their business and that they’ll benefit from a well-aligned partnership, they’ll be more likely to agree to sponsor you.
Research Philanthropic Companies
The final piece that makes a business a perfect potential corporate sponsor is an established habit of giving. If a company has a clear philanthropic history, they probably want to keep giving!
Search for companies that have publicly donated to nonprofits in the past and look for those with robust CSR programs that may include sponsorships. Lists of top matching gift companies can be a good place to start. Or, find out if a company has a history of donating to organizations that are similar to yours by examining donor lists in other nonprofits’ annual reports.
How to Get Corporate Sponsors: 7 Steps
Once you’ve identified a company that could be the perfect fit for your nonprofit, it’s time to start the process of reaching out and securing your corporate sponsorship. We’ve broken the process down into seven steps:
1. Set sponsorship levels
Before you ask for a corporate sponsorship, define exactly what you’re asking for. An easy way to account for both your dream sponsorships and more realistic options is to create sponsorship levels.
Sponsorship levels are essentially tiers that businesses can choose from to provide different amounts of support based on their financial capacity and level of interest. For example, you might set three different levels:
- A low-level sponsorship, valued at $1,000 – $2,500.
- A mid-tier sponsorship of $2,500 – $10,000.
- A major sponsorship valued over $10,000.
You can alter these levels based on your needs and even change them from event to event. If you’re hosting an auction, for instance, you might set levels of in-kind donations. The lowest level could be donating 1-5 auction items, while higher levels could include in-kind gifts of catering, entertainment, or venue space.
2. Create a sponsorship page on your website
Just like prospective donors go to your website for more information when deciding whether or not to donate, your website is the first place potential sponsors will go to decide if they’re willing to sponsor you. To put your best foot forward, create a designated sponsorship page that includes all the information they’ll need.
Be sure to add your case for support, sponsorship levels, and details about the benefits companies receive through your partnership. Don’t forget to include up-to-date contact information, too, in case any business decides to reach out to you!
Then, make sure this page is easy to find on your website. Include it in your navigation bar or footer, and link to the sponsorship page within your “ways to give” page.
3. Research and reach out to prospective sponsors
Now that you have your sponsorship page set up, you’re ready to dive into further research on each of your prospective sponsors. You should have already researched their values and charitable histories, but any additional insight you can gain will help you craft your sponsorship appeal. Look deeper into:
- Each company’s audience
- Organizations they have relationships with
- Their current CSR initiatives.
If you can explain to a business that sponsoring your nonprofit will fit right in with their focus on helping BIPOC communities, for example, you’ll be in a better position to secure their support.
Then, make your initial introductions. Give each company a phone call or email them to set up a time to talk about your organization. You’re not asking anything yet—just reach out and see if they seem interested in your mission.
4. Cultivate relationships
Once you’ve done some initial outreach, work to cultivate a relationship with each potential sponsor. At this stage, some businesses may be more interested than others, but it’s worthwhile to spend some time meeting with each one to discuss your nonprofit’s mission in more detail. You never know whose mind may change after having a conversation!
If possible, have meetings in person so company representatives can get to know your nonprofit’s leadership personally. For example, you might ask if they’d like to have coffee with a board member or go out to dinner with your founder.
5. Discuss needs and goals
After getting to know prospects and gauging their interests, you can start getting down to business. Discuss the reason your nonprofit needs corporate sponsorships and what you hope to achieve with a sponsor’s help. Explain your specific needs and goals, such as needing to advertise your organization so you save more polar bears.
Ask businesses about their goals, as well. What goals guide their current CSR strategy? Do they want to engage more customers by supporting the causes they believe in? Explain how you could boost their brand awareness by associating their name and logo with your nonprofit.
6. Develop your sponsorship appeal
It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and make a formal request from the business you think would be the best fit for a corporate sponsorship. In your sponsorship ask, make sure to include:
- Details about the specific project, program, or event the sponsorship will support.
- Your project’s budget and goals, including the amount or items you need from a sponsor.
- What you’ll do for the sponsor, such as how you plan to promote their involvement on your marketing materials or event signage.
- How to take the next step if they’re ready to partner with your organization.
Additionally, reiterate anything you’ve discussed about why your nonprofit is a good fit for the business. Highlight your similar audiences and value alignment so they’re reminded of how mutually beneficial your partnership would be.
7. Propose a plan and agreement
Once a business responds yes to your ask, congratulations! You’ve secured a corporate sponsorship. But the work isn’t done quite yet—the final step is to come to an agreement with your new sponsor about what exactly the sponsorship will include.
Meet with your sponsor to work out the details of how the sponsorship will work, including each party’s goals and expectations. Outline exactly what the sponsor will provide and when, along with the concrete ways your nonprofit will recognize the support.
Corporate Sponsorship Examples
Before you begin seeking out a sponsorship, spend some time exploring examples to see what sponsorships look like in practice. Get inspired by these three real-life examples, then brainstorm ideas for ways your nonprofit could leverage corporate support.
Nordstrom + Central Park Conservancy
Clothing company Nordstrom provided its support for local nonprofits by sponsoring an event called the Annual Family Party for the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. The family-friendly event featured fun activities and games for kids in Central Park and aimed to raise funds for the park’s playgrounds.
Thanks to Nordstrom’s sponsorship, the nonprofit was able to raise over $500,000 to support the maintenance and care of the playgrounds in Central Park.
Bank of America + Boys & Girls Clubs
The Bank of America Charitable Foundation has partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for decades, providing monetary support for the organization’s programs for at-risk youth. In recent years, Bank of America upgraded its support by sponsoring a program called Project Learn.
Bank of America provided a $1 million grant to sponsor the program, which provides tutoring for children aged 6-18 across the country. The grant was divided between 10 local Boys & Girls Clubs that all primarily serve youth of color in their communities.
Target + Nonprofits Across the US
Corporate sponsorships aren’t always restricted to a specific program or event. In this corporate sponsorship example, Target sponsored multiple nonprofits with in-kind donations around the holidays. The nationwide initiative was known as “The Great Giftogether” and involved Target stores across the country partnering with local nonprofits to identify families in need and provide them with donated holiday gifts.
Additional Corporate Philanthropy Resources
With these strategies and a motivated team, you have everything you need to find your perfect corporate match and secure a sponsorship. But don’t stop there! Beyond corporate sponsorships, you can leverage matching gifts at any time to double your donors’ gifts and dramatically increase your fundraising results.
To learn more about all the ways your nonprofit can tap into corporate philanthropy, check out these additional resources:
- Winning Workplace Giving Strategies & How to Leverage Them. Read up on the variety of ways you can supplement corporate sponsorships with other workplace giving opportunities.
- Top 30+ Matching Gift Companies: Find Your Match. Want a headstart on finding potential sponsors? Check out this list of companies who donate the most to nonprofits in matching gifts—they’re likely to invest in other types of philanthropy, too!
- How to Unlock Corporate Giving: The Key to Boost Donations. Discover more strategies for maximizing corporate support for your nonprofit via sponsorships, matching gifts, and more.