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How to Attract Nonprofit Corporate Donors and Sponsors

For nonprofit organizations, there are several different types of donors to tap into for financial support. Corporate donors are one donor demographic that can bring more effectiveness to a fundraising program. Corporate philanthropy usually yields higher Nonprofit business partnershipreturns and costs less than smaller, individual donor acquisition. For small nonprofits that can’t spend as much on marketing materials or major fundraising campaigns, corporate donors could be a good fit while utilizing board member connections.

Businesses in the for-profit world donate to charities for various reasons. Many of them have a corporate social responsibility program of some sort where they might contribute directly to their local communities, encourage employee volunteerism and charitable donations, or conduct their own giving programs such as matched giving during the holidays. Smart businesses engage employees and goodwill throughout the community by giving back one way or another. There are several different fundraising ideas to take advantage of corporate philanthropy.

What is a Corporate Sponsor or Donor?

A corporate partnership can be a few different things. The sponsorship of events, programs, organizations, or projects is one corporate partnership. Single or multi-year restricted and unrestricted donations to the organization is another example of what a corporate partnership might look like. A business might assist nonprofits in crowdfunding via sharing on their platform, providing a matched gift, or sharing the fundraising opportunity with their employees. A corporate sponsorship or donation can come from any type of for-profit company such as local organizations, small businesses, major corporations, or organizations with mixed tax statuses. Galaxy Digital provides a pretty thorough list of the different types of Corporate – Nonprofit partnership models.

Double the Donation notes that these types of partnerships “can prove to be invaluable sources of not just revenue, but also a positive social image and the foundation of important relationships.” They list the potential types of corporate donations as financial donations, in-kind donations, sponsorship of media for an event or program, or employee/corporate giving. These are all various means of securing resources necessary for a nonprofit’s success.

Of the different types of corporate partnerships, an event or program sponsorship is by far the most well known. This is when a nonprofit solicits a contribution in support of a specific event or program and uses that contribution to offset the costs of putting on the event or program. These types of sponsorships, when handled correctly, can not only pay for events and programs but can also ensure they are profitable. During this now more virtual world, there are more ways than ever to maximize event and program sponsorships by increasing the visibility and benefits to those corporate sponsors. Cvent’s blog posts several key points for a successful virtual event sponsorship and what that might look like.

Why Nonprofit Corporate Partners

Nowadays, most for-profit businesses have some sort of corporate social responsibility pledge or program. Investopedia defines corporate social responsibility as “a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable—to itself, its stakeholders, and the public.” They further define this model as having programs through which, “philanthropy, and volunteer efforts, businesses can benefit society while boosting their brands.” Nonprofits can take advantage of these types of business models to help a corporation benefit society and boost their brands through different means of corporate giving.

Corporate giving makes a wonderful addition to any nonprofit’s overall fundraising strategy. Allegiance Fundraising lists the following key reasons why corporations make great donors:

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  • Contribute money, often a substantial amount, either in a lump sum or on a sustaining basis.
  • Raise awareness of your cause through donations, both among their employees and customers.
  • May allow their employees to deduct a small portion of their paycheck as a donation, a simple and easy process that encourages additional giving.
  • May also encourage their staff to volunteer with your group or provide their services to your business, if those services align with your goals.
  • Can boost your own organization’s profile, if business is particularly well known and highly regarded.

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Corporations can boost fundraising events either by providing a larger audience to share materials with, by contributing a matched donation, or by boosting visibility by sharing their own online platforms. In general, a major benefit to a corporate sponsorship of any event is the potential for raised awareness and greater social media clout and reach. This alone creates future potential to diversify donor demographics.

A fundraiser or marketer can also get much more use out of single marketing materials with the added bandwidth of a corporate sponsor. It is much more effective marketing to use joint press releases, campaign designs, and the larger audience that comes with a corporate sponsor. For the cost to create a single fundraising campaign, the same materials can be leveraged to multiple audiences. This means that same material has a greater chance to get in front of new target audiences, increasing the chance of more effective deliverables for that one fundraising campaign. As mentioned earlier, a corporation could also be asked to match any funds from a crowdfunding fundraiser or other fundraising campaign.

Any organization, nonprofit or for-profit, also benefits by engaging with their local community. A corporate partnership of some sort is a great opportunity to establish nonprofit/ business partnerships with local businesses and create a name for the nonprofit in the local community.

How to Get A Nonprofit Corporate Sponsorship

The first step in acquiring any new donor, corporate or otherwise, is prospecting and research. Potential sponsors can be found easily online. Many companies post giving initiatives or corporate social responsibility pledges to their websites or social media platforms, such as LinkedIn. They might also share articles or posts on local and community issues that they as a company are particularly invested in. Google is a great place to search for recent press releases announcing company giving initiatives. If a company has publicly given to a similar organization or cause in the past, they might be a good fit.  For smaller businesses that might not have as much of an online presence, there should be a listing online somewhere, either on the city’s website of businesses and incorporations or through an online business review platform like Yelp.

Before conducting any outreach, create a segmented list of potential sponsors and exactly what each ask will be for each of them individually. Each ask will mean a different conversation in the outreach stage and a different set of benefits. An event or program sponsorship is a very singular, tangible ask with a very defined set of benefits pertaining to the event. This type of ask should come with data like the anticipated audience that the company will be able to get in front. An annual donation or multi-year pledge from a company is a much deeper conversation where the initial outreach is to start the relationship building and could take multiple conversations as the benefits are a bit more overarching. This conversation includes materials on how they fit into the organization’s overarching mission. The benefits are also different with this type of ask, usually greater means of visibility and collaterals to share with employees.

By incorporating potential corporate partners into the overall marketing strategies, an organization can further leverage their prospect research to create marketing materials and messaging to help acquire and retain corporate donors. Benefits are truly key in attracting corporate sponsors and donors. The marketing or fundraising team should work together to create a well defined brochure or list of benefits for any sponsorship and long-term donation opportunity. Since corporate giving comes with its own set of motivations, these benefits can connect the nonprofit’s event or mission work to several different motivations at once.

The list of benefits to the sponsorship should detail how the corporation will get recognition, the amount of people and target audience that recognition will be placed in front of, and the means by which that company can capitalize on that recognition. For events or programs, pre-event registration and promotional emails should include the sponsor logos and descriptions. Some nonprofits might even send out specific “meet the sponsor” highlight emails with a video or message from the sponsor. Digital and printed means of signage during multiple parts of the program or event is one great way to recognize a sponsor. No matter what, a nonprofit needs to provide digital benefits with everything. Even if there is signage at a physical event, leave room in presentations for a possible ad or video or word from the sponsors. Soapbox Engage has some great tips and materials for putting together a “sponsorship package” listing benefits.

Community events or local listings are another great way to find smaller, more local businesses that are a great fit for a corporate partnership. Most community events are paid for via booth fees or company sponsorships and they will have their own systems in place for interaction with local businesses and organizations. This is one opportunity for nonprofits to conduct research and outreach in the same trip.

When ready for the outreach, the nonprofit should personally reach out to any key contacts or leaders and ask for a conversation. In some instances, just cold sending materials and opportunities to emails might work. However, it is more effective to reach out and email directly or call to start the conversation. As the Fundraising Authority states, this is one place where board members and key volunteers can be used for any existing relationships with businesses in town. Use the research and pre-made marketing materials, including the list of pre-determined benefits to the sponsorship or donation, to assist in any conversations with decision makers at these companies.

Converting a Single Corporate Sponsorship into a Loyal Corporate Donor

The ultimate goal when obtaining any donor of any kind is to create long-lasting, multi-year relationships. If a corporate donor only agrees to sponsor a single event, there are multiple ways to converting them into a long-term donors. They can be asked in the future to sponsor similar events and eventually asked to support the foundation’s operational goals. In order to create that long-lasting relationship, the nonprofit needs to conduct vigilant stewardship during and after the single sponsorship, such as thanking the donor with a personalized follow-up after the event.

Harbor Compliance ‘s three main tips for creating a longer-lasting relationship is to promote the donor, provide employee engagement opportunities, and measure impact. Another great addition is to connect the donor to the nonprofit as much as possible. Utilize digital and physical means of promoting the corporation and its work. Invite the corporation and their employees to the event and future events. Put together a list of the different outcomes from the event and create a shareable material the company can distribute to their employees to brag about the good work they are doing. Engage the donor more intimately to the nonprofit’s mission by connecting board members, program recipients or those being served by the nonprofit to the corporate donor. Both the nonprofit and the company benefit greatly from the corporate partnership and the more easily that is understood by both, the better.


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