By: Melissa Lagowski
Big Buzz Idea Group
When clients come to us wanting to start a sponsorship program, they often start rattling off the national and/or international companies that they want to target for sponsorships. Of course, it is natural for people to immediately think of the companies that have multi-billion dollar budgets and presume that all of these large benefactors will want to support the cause. But the reality is that thousands and thousands of other nonprofits are also thinking the same thing, so the sheer volume of asks going into that particular company each day make it challenging for your organization to stand out among the competition.
So how do you work to find the sponsorship leads that are right for your NPO?
Find Organizations Whose Values Align With Your Mission
It used to be that only the large corporations had giving policies, but nowadays even small companies often have causes that they align themselves with. So if you are a food pantry, you may want to consider reaching out to companies like Aramark. Through their community outreach and philanthropic services, they are a food service company providing education, employment and healthier lives through nutrition and wellness. They are using their core mission to tie into making impact in communities. When you find corporations that have missions that tie into your nonprofit mission, you increase your chances of securing a partner.
Seek Referrals From Your Board And Staff
You never know who people know if you don’t ask. The best way to stand out in a towering pile of sponsorship requests is when your Treasurer is a neighbor of the sister of the person that you are submitting your request to. It truly is a small world, so talk to your Board and your Staff about who they know that might be able to open a door for you by making a valuable introduction.
Seek Referrals From Individual Donors
If your organization has a strong individual giving program, make it a point to ask your current supporters if they know any companies that might also support you. Since these donors already believe in the good work that your nonprofit is doing, they might be more than willing to make introductions for you to people they know in companies that would sponsor your organization.
What Companies Are In Your Geographical Area?
Many corporations, big and small, like to make an impact in their local community, so try to find potential sponsors near home.
Solicit Your Vendors
Do you have a company that you are buying from on a year-round basis? Don’t forget to reach out to your suppliers and ask if they will support you during your largest fundraiser of the year. Depending on what type of nonprofit organization you are, you likely spend a lot annually with a janitorial company, a pharmacy or a printer. You can ask your bank and your lawyer if they are able to support your organization. Not all companies can donate back to your NPO, but at the end of the day, it is ideal to have suppliers who are willing to support your cause.
Identify Companies That Also Serve Your Audience
Aligning with brands that serve the same people that you do is a way to develop a natural partnership. If your nonprofit serves autistic children, then aligning with a doctor or a medical practice that specializes in autism makes a lot of sense. Think about the products that your clients use (or the companies that also serve the people you are serving) and you could generate some really natural partnerships.
Identify Companies That Would Benefit From Connecting With Your Audience
Some corporations align with NPOs, associations or events that are already attracting the type of audience that they want to reach. When Athleta first came out, they were looking for causes that had professional, active women who were trying to balance career and an active lifestyle. If you were a fitness organization or a women’s organization with that type of member in your association, this was a good potential fit.
These are just a few commonsense suggestions to consider when compiling your shortlist of sponsor targets that will lead to success for your organization and the companies whose philanthropic goals are to support causes like yours. Win-win.
The strategy is simple: rather than cast a wide net using the “spray and pray” method [and congratulations, your proposal ends up in the waste baskets of dozens of the largest companies in the world!], your goal should be to put a bit of effort into the process to improve your chances. At the very least, logically targeting the right companies will put you on their radar so you can eventually cultivate relationships. Should just one of these potential leads become a sponsor, your efforts will have paid off.
And maybe others on your short list will take notice as more sponsors align with your organization. Soon those companies will be calling you with proposals.