When you’re in the thick of planning a fundraising event, you know that all the details matter, but sponsorships are especially important to maximize revenue and fundraising outcomes. It’s important to note that sponsors should be stewarded differently than your organization’s regular donors. Sponsors typically give larger amounts of cash, in-kind donations, or assets than average donors, which means that you, as a fundraiser, need to employ different strategies to get them onboard and be prepared to spend more time and effort maintaining the relationship.

The great thing about these types of sponsorships is that they are a win-win for your nonprofit and the sponsor: you benefit from more dollars raised for your mission, while corporate philanthropy provides a brand lift, an association with a worthy cause, and can even motivate employee performance.

Follow these six best practices to secure sponsors for your next fundraising event.

1. Tap into your networks.

While your nonprofit should continually work to build new relationships with businesses and influential community members, it’ll take some time before these potential partners will feel comfortable sponsoring your event. That’s why having a personal network you can rely on makes a huge difference for your nonprofit’s first events. 

Consider your community connections, what resources they have, and their likelihood of agreeing to become a sponsor. Talk with members of your nonprofit’s team to discover if anyone has a personal or professional connection they are willing to leverage. Specifically, make sure to talk with your nonprofit’s:

  • Event planning team. Your event planning team members are likely the most aware of what your event needs, whether it’s equipment, specialized expertise, venue and catering services, or just more funding. The head of your event team should be someone who has strong communication skills and will be able to coordinate with sponsors in a prompt and professional manner. Remember, the better an experience you can make for your sponsors, the more likely they are to help out at your next event. 
  • Board members. Part of the reason your board members are on the board in the first place is because of their connections. Be ready to make a presentation to your board about your event, the impact it will make on your organization, and the resources you need to host it. Then, share potential sponsors you already have lined up and discuss personal connections they can draw upon to fill any gaps. 
  • Staff members. Even if they’re not working directly on your event, the rest of your staff may know someone who’d be willing to lend you a hand. For example, maybe a staff member previously worked at a local restaurant that might be willing to offer discount catering services. Or, perhaps someone has a former employer they know has a strong corporate philanthropy program you could tap into. 
  • Volunteers. Your volunteers come from all walks of life and bring with them networks your nonprofit would otherwise not have access to. Talk with volunteers about the event and what you’re looking for in a sponsor to get them thinking about their own personal connections. You might discover someone who can put you in touch with a major sponsor or even just point you toward a company with a strong workplace giving program that might be willing to lend some of its employees as highly skilled volunteers.

Once you’ve identified a connection, do your research. Consider the connection’s background, including if they’ve sponsored nonprofit events in the past, what resources they would likely be willing to offer, and their business’s values and overall stance on giving back to the community. 

With this information in mind, create a general list of talking points about your event and tailor it to fit each potential sponsor. It can be helpful to create a messaging template for your initial outreach to ensure all your main points are professionally conveyed and adjust it for each candidate. 

2. Pitch to similarly aligned businesses.

Think about the type of event you’re hosting and what businesses have services and products that naturally connect to it. For example, if your upcoming fundraiser is a charity golf tournament, approach prospective sponsors that sell goods related to the sport or have an audience that overlaps with the golfer demographic. Some ideal sponsors include gyms and golf equipment and sporting goods stores, as well as beverage distributors or retailers, car dealerships, and healthcare providers.

Also, no matter what type of fundraiser you’re hosting, be sure to pitch to businesses that are aligned with your cause in at least one of two ways, though ideally both:

  1. They have a service or product related to your mission. Businesses want to work with nonprofits that have similar audiences to their customer base. Is your organization a pet rescue? Look to vet clinics, pet food companies, pet boarding, or daycares. Literacy organization? Think about bookstores, publishing companies, and businesses related to education. Assisting with home ownership? Consider hardware stores, construction companies, home improvement stores, and real estate or insurance agencies.
  2. Their philanthropic values relate to your mission. Some businesses have stated philanthropic values. These mission statements tend to be broad, such as supporting sustainability or being committed to equality. However, these are still useful guidelines for determining if a business is likely to be receptive to your pitch. For instance, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products have little to do with grassroots advocacy, but that’s the cause their grant program supports. Check out each business’s stated values and ensure your pitch connects to them. 

Approaching sponsors who align in some way with your nonprofit’s event or mission increases the likelihood they’ll sign on to support your event.

3. Emphasize the benefits to potential sponsors.

As you reach out to potential event sponsors, remember to communicate the benefits they’ll receive from your partnership. This sets the tone for more receptive conversations about how each party can support the other’s goals.

Some of the main benefits you can highlight include:

  • Higher employee engagement. According to Nonprofits Source’s employee engagement best practices, engaging in corporate philanthropy is an effective strategy for cultivating loyal and productive employees. By contributing to charitable causes, companies can help their employees find a sense of purpose and pride in their roles.
  • Increased customer acquisition. 77% of consumers indicate that they’re inspired to purchase from companies with corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. As your nonprofit publicly recognizes event sponsors in your marketing materials, you’ll drive more socially responsible customers to their doorsteps.
  • Reputation boost. Becoming a nonprofit event sponsor allows companies to demonstrate that they’re interested in more than just making a profit. By investing in their communities, they can position themselves as exceptional corporate citizens in the eyes of employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

Beyond sponsoring your nonprofit’s fundraising event, companies can access these benefits by engaging in a variety of philanthropic activities. For example, they may offer matching gifts to employees who donate to your organization or volunteer grants to those who regularly commit their time and skills to your mission.

4. Offer a variety of sponsor packages and levels.

Not every business is interested in committing to or has the budget for a top-tier sponsorship. Your nonprofit can effectively fill your event’s sponsor slate by providing multiple sponsorship levels at varying price points. If you have a specific business in mind for some sponsorships, you could also create custom engagements that are scaled-down versions of higher-end sponsorships that might be a better fit for their available resources.

In the case of a charity golf tournament, hole sponsorships are a great entry point for sponsors to get involved and support your cause. These are typically more affordable while still offering great exposure for the sponsor. For galas or auctions, table sponsors, auction item sponsors, registration sponsors, or tiered offerings (platinum, gold, silver, bronze, etc.) allow more companies to purchase sponsorships, creating more opportunities for additional support down the road.

With each sponsorship, detail how you will recognize the sponsor’s support and what they get in return, such as a foursome for a golf tournament, a complimentary table at a gala, their logo on the registration website and printed materials, the opportunity to speak at the event, or social media shoutouts.

5. Measure and report on sponsor impact.

Data can be your best friend in pitching sponsorships for your fundraising event. Leverage the following types of data to show businesses the tangible benefits of cross-sector partnerships.

  • Past sponsor ROI. Survey sponsors shortly after each fundraising event, within a few months, to collect information about the impact the event had on their business. When possible, ask for quantitative feedback, such as new customers acquired, leads generated, and additional revenue realized to demonstrate the sponsorship’s ROI. You can also ask for more qualitative data, such as brand perception and awareness.
  • Target audience demographics. If your fundraising event caters to a certain audience that overlaps with a company’s ideal client or customer, highlight this data in your sponsorship pitch. For instance, if you’re hosting a golf tournament fundraiser, emphasize golfers’ net worth (over $760,000, according to GolfStatus) for businesses that cater to a wealthier clientele.
  • Fundraising event impact. Communicate how sponsorships will make a difference in the lives of those your nonprofit serves. For instance, be transparent about which programs or projects your event will fund. Doing so allows you to assure potential sponsors that you’ll put their support to good use.

As you secure more corporate sponsorships and continue collecting data, use the insights you gather to refine your strategy moving forward. Before long, you’ll be able to build long-lasting partnerships with companies in your community.

6. Use online tools to engage potential sponsors.

Nonprofit teams are busier than ever, so finding ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness are key. Web-based technology built for nonprofits lets you automate processes, identify prospects, send customized messages, and onboard sponsors. For example, an event management tool is an important piece of your tech stack. You can collect donor information at the point of registration, sell sponsorship packages, process payments, and keep track of all the event’s information in one place. Your organization’s CRM is another tool where you can track donors’ giving trends, pull reports to tailor messaging that resonates with audience segments and create prospect lists for event sponsorships.

Leverage in combination with other digital avenues to identify, research, and even pitch to potential corporate sponsors. Professional networking sites like LinkedIn and other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram let you engage with brands and local businesses and find out more about their philanthropic priorities.

Wrapping Up and Next Steps

Sponsorships for your fundraising events are where you’ll likely see the most revenue, so your nonprofit needs to be strategic in creating sponsorship packages and making asks.  Get started by brainstorming sponsorship package ideas and determining costs and price points, list them on your event’s website, then leverage your networks to start making asks. You might also reach out to vendors or current partners to build custom sponsorships that fit their budgets and needs. Set yourself up for future success by having a process in place to steward these sponsors before, during, and after the fundraising event. You’ll lay the foundation for future event support and a potential broader partnership.