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How Can My Small Charity Get Corporate Sponsorships?

Have a Plan and Stick to It

By

Charity Run
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There is a new contract being written between business and consumers. Consumers increasingly expect the companies they buy from to be responsible and to give back to their communities. Businesses want to sell their products and be seen as good corporate citizens.

That is a win-win for cause-related marketing, of which sponsorship is a part. Consumers like businesses that care. How better to exhibit that care than helping to sponsor your event?

Just What Is Sponsorship?

Sponsorship is a two way street between charity and a business. The charity gets help with the expenses of the event; and the business gets exposure and low cost marketing, among other things. The more a charity can offer the benefits that motivate companies to sponsor, the more successful it will be in achieving partnership with sponsoring companies.

How Can a Small Charity Compete?

Big national charities have staff assigned to cause-related marketing, or they may hire consultants who specialize in sponsorship programs.

But don't despair if your organization is small, local, and your staff is mostly volunteer. You can still get sponsors for your event. Just plan to work the neighborhood. Think of concentric circles of influence in your city or town. Start with the people you know well, work out into the neighborhood where you have physical proximity to businesses, and then tackle the larger circle composed of companies that you don't know personally...yet.

Many organizations only think of the Wal-Mart or the corporate headquarters out in the suburbs when they consider corporate sponsorships. It's no wonder they become discouraged early on and feel that landing a business sponsorship is a lost cause.

Start with Your Event Budget

Develop a budget for your event. How much will the venue cost? Advertising? Physical set up? Lights, microphones, entertainment, give-aways such as t-shirts? Security, printing, food, food service?

What will be the income from the event? Will you charge a per person fee? Is there money already in the budget devoted to the event? Have some donors already pledged support? How many business sponsors from last year have signed on again? How much of the income will help support the event and how much will go to your cause?

Once you figure out how much more money you need to raise for the event, you can set up sponsorship levels for the businesses you will solicit. How many sponsorships will you need at each level to reach your goal? Set up several sponsorships at low levels that will attract small businesses, a mid-size sponsorship for a larger company, and perhaps a large sponsorship for a lead company.

Your sponsorships should form a pyramid, with several small ones at the bottom, and fewer as it reaches the top. Plan to overshoot on the number of base-level sponsorships so that if you don't get a big one, it will not be devastating.

Don't forget to compile a list of gifts-in-kind that you can resort to if a company prefers not to give cash. A restaurant chain may want to donate the venue for instance, while your local lumber yard might provide the materials for the stage and backdrop.

Assign to each sponsorship level a list of how you will promote the sponsor before and during the event. These can be logos in the program, significant signage, a corporate table, press releases announcing the sponsorship, an opportunity for attendees to taste products of the sponsor or receive product samples.

Leave room to be flexible. Each potential sponsor might have its own marketing needs, or wish to give some cash and some in-kind contributions.

Prepare Your Audience/Sponsor-Matching Matrix

Before your ask businesses to sponsor your event, think through the audiences that your event will reach. Make a detailed list. Will you reach families? Young children? New mothers, retirees, high income people, grandparents, high school age kids, senior citizens?

Think big about your audiences. Your core event might be a summer theater festival for children 6-12, but just think of all the adults who will be there with their children. Don't forget the grandparents who will come to see their grandkids perform, not to mention older siblings and the teachers who will be helping out. Add the vendors to your list that might participate in the outdoor fair you will stage before and after the performances.

Once you have a list of possible audiences, make a list of the types of businesses that are also interested in those audiences. Certainly, any business that sells or serves to families or has an educational component may be interested. Restaurants that depend on family business and that welcome children are possibilities. Consider children's clothing and shoe stores, fast food restaurants and entertainment venues such as movie theaters. Think of stores that will be running back-to-school sales, toy stores, private schools and department stores of all kinds.

Think of all the service businesses that are interested in families, such as auto insurance offices, corporate offices that have employees with children, and corporations that might be looking for volunteer opportunities for their employees. The audience/sponsor matrix will help you identify specific businesses that might be interested in sponsoring your event and provide a basis for your sales pitch to those companies.

Call, Mail, or Visit?

Some charities think they can just write up a letter about their event and sponsorship opportunities, send it out to all the businesses in their community, and, magically, sponsorships will roll in.

It doesn't work that way. Just think about the pile of mail every business gets. Why would it pay much attention to a letter from a small local nonprofit asking for help? When a letter is sent, it must be specific to a particular business and be followed up by phone call or other personal contact.

Don't be afraid of cold calling. According to IEG, a company that helps organizations and sponsors find each other, 55% of sponsorships come from cold calling.

Use phone calls, visits, mail and email interchangeably according to the circumstances. Just one contact method will not work...use an integrated approach, and be systematic and persistent.

Read Part 2...

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