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Best Practices for Nonprofits Requesting Corporate Funding

Members of the International Association of Fire Fighters help sort coats for Operation WarmCorporate sponsorship is an effective strategy for fundraising. In 2018 alone, corporate sponsorship generated a record $24.8 billion. Nonprofit professionals, however, sometimes hesitate to seek corporate funding.

Much of this aversion stems from unfamiliarity with the process. If you think corporate sponsorship might be a good fit for your organization but don’t know where to start, consider these five best practices.

1. Select the Right Corporate Sponsor

It’s best to approach the subject of corporate funding with a certain degree of selectivity. Companies have distinctive identities and values, and it's crucial to choose one that shares your organization’s interests and concerns. This alignment must appear authentic and prove mutually beneficial to both parties—not only the nonprofit.

When searching for sponsors, you need to determine how the partnership will enhance the companys brand. State your organization’s value proposition in clear, concise language. What does your nonprofit contribute, and what problems are you solving? This value proposition will help inform the later steps in this list, especially the next.

2. Define the Mission and Goals

As you develop your corporate sponsorship request, you’ll need to address five key areas that are crucial to a strong partnership.

  • Corporate alignment: Encapsulate how partnering with your nonprofit will benefit the sponsoring company, and how your organization reflects the company’s values.

  • Fundraising intention: Define the exact fundraising goal you aim to reach and the impact this level of fundraising will have. Use numbers and data to support your statements.

  • Success metrics: Set progress benchmarks that show when your organization and the corporate sponsor have achieved their funding goals.

  • Means of fundraising: Outline how your nonprofit intends to meet objectives, being specific about the methods you will use.

  • Ongoing initiatives: Be sure to connect future projects with your current plans.

You should also adopt certain practices that are more common in the realm of for-profit business. If you’re accustomed to creating a formal strategic plan that covers 12 months, it's advisable to project further into the future, covering areas of risk and opportunity over the next two to five years.

3. Draft Individualized Letters

Procuring corporate sponsorships takes tact and diplomacy. Writing individualized letters, rather than creating a template and swapping names and information for prospective sponsors, is an important part of the process. The letter must feel personal.

Address your letters to a company's advocacy or corporate giving director, office supervisor, community relations manager, or another relevant professional who handles matters of philanthropy.

4. Finalize the Sponsorship

You should also be prepared to provide a written sponsorship agreement. Although a formal agreement isn't necessary to have on hand during the initial ask, it's important to draft one early in the process, as it reflects your professionalism and commitment to the partnership.

The agreement should include the obligations, expectations, and fundraising deliverables for both your nonprofit and the company. You may also want to address recognition strategy in it. Recognition can range from updates in social media accounts to including the corporate sponsor on event materials to press releases that highlight the sponsor's involvement in your organization’s fundraising.

5. Continue Corresponding with the Potential Sponsor

Communication with potential partners is vital after the initial request for sponsorship. Plan on following up within a week. Emphasize your organization’s interest in a relationship that fulfills common goals. A brief message is best, thanking the company for its time.

Corporate Philanthropy Programs

As you assess the value of corporate sponsorships for their fundraising strategies, take some time to review corporate philanthropy programs. These programs each have unique features and are distinctly different from one another. Here are five kinds to research:

  • Matching gifts: Rewards employee giving with matching donations

  • Payroll deductions: Automatic donations from an employee's paycheck

  • In-kind donations: Donations of equipment, products, or goods instead of money

  • Service-based donations: Volunteer hours from employees with specific skill sets

  • Fundraising matches: Matching employee donations the money they raise during events

Forming Meaningful Partnerships

Corporate sponsorships can help your nonprofit exceed fundraising goals, further its mission, and foster meaningful partnerships with companies that share your organization’s values. Good luck!

Emily Drinks recently collaborated with GiveSmart on a corporate donations guide for Houston nonprofits. This post draws on the information she gained during that process.

Topics: Corporate Partnerships