When most nonprofit professionals think of soliciting sponsorships, they think of big companies with a long history of generosity through corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Due to their size and success, these companies can make large donations, greatly impacting a nonprofit’s budget. However, if you’re seeking sponsorship, these aren’t the only types of organizations you should consider.

Small businesses are often overlooked by nonprofits that need funds, due to the assumption that they have less money to give. While that may be true, there are benefits to partnering with these corporations that may be valuable to your organization.

This guide will help you secure sponsorships from small businesses and reap a variety of benefits. We’ll cover three top tips, ensuring you have the knowledge to confidently navigate acquiring partnerships.

Why solicit small businesses for sponsorship?

You likely already know the main benefit of sponsorships for nonprofits: financial support. However, sponsorship from a small business also comes with these advantages:

  • Increased community visibility. A small business that has chosen to make a large financial contribution to your nonprofit is likely to be very interested in your success. That means that they’ll be more proactive about promoting your nonprofit’s mission and programs to their customers, resulting in greater visibility for your organization in your local community.
  • Flexible support. Larger businesses usually have set rules and guidelines for their sponsorship, as they field requests from many nonprofits. Small businesses, on the other hand, are more flexible with their support. For example, they may be willing to help with everything from contributing items for raffle baskets to offering fundraising matches for your latest campaign.
  • Long-term relationships. Businesses receive benefits from partnering with nonprofits, like tax breaks and an enhanced philanthropic reputation. A successful sponsorship may result in greater success for the small business, allowing both of your organizations to grow simultaneously. This helps to foster a positive relationship, which may lead to long-term partnerships.

Small businesses are usually not solicited for sponsorships as frequently as large corporations. This means that should the business have the capacity to meet your request, you’re more likely to receive their help, as you won’t be vying for their attention alongside many other nonprofits.

Now that you understand why small businesses are valuable sponsors, let’s dive into tips for acquiring their partnership.

1. Understand how sponsorship benefits small businesses.

The first step to successfully soliciting a small business sponsorship is to understand how such a partnership benefits them. While large corporations also receive benefits from sponsoring nonprofits, they are usually more secure as organizations and don’t need to rely on these benefits for their success. For small businesses, however, the benefits of sponsorship can carry a lot more weight.

A few of the advantages businesses receive from sponsoring a nonprofit include:

  • Tax benefits. Businesses can write off contributions they make to registered charities, resulting in cost savings for them.
  • Boost in reputation. With 70% of Americans believing that it’s either somewhat or very important for companies to make the world a better place, sponsoring a nonprofit boosts reputation, resulting in more customers for the business. Plus, their generosity sets them apart from other businesses—and 77% of consumers are motivated to purchase from companies committed to making the world a better place.
  • Increased brand visibility. According to MassageBook, a great marketing tactic for businesses is to partner with other businesses to get access to their customers. Sponsorships similarly help small businesses increase their brand visibility by pulling new customers from your nonprofit’s audience.
  • Enhanced employee engagement. For businesses looking to engage and retain their employees, Double the Donation recommends implementing a CSR program. Many individuals take pride in working for a socially responsible company, and greater work satisfaction means less turnover, reducing the costs associated with hiring replacements.

Understanding the benefits of sponsorship for small businesses allows you to more effectively promote these opportunities to potential partners. Prospects will see that you genuinely care about their growth and what they can get out of the partnership, making them more likely to team up with your nonprofit.

2. Strategically identify potential small business sponsors.

Instead of sending sponsorship proposals to every small business in your vicinity, set yourself up for success by identifying organizations that would be likely to respond positively to your request. While there’s no guarantee that the business will accept, you can greatly increase your chances by looking out for the following:

  • Vertical. Seek out businesses that operate in a similar vertical as your nonprofit. For example, if your nonprofit deals with funding research on scoliosis, you might partner with a local massage business that specializes in pain relief massages. Or, if you run a soup kitchen where you feed those experiencing poverty, you might partner with grocery stores or restaurants in your area.
  • Values. Businesses that share similar values with your nonprofit also make good prospects for sponsors. As you research local companies, look into their core values and culture to see if they believe in giving back to the community or helping those in need.
  • Sponsorship history. Many small businesses may not have sponsored a nonprofit before—you can usually assume that has more to do with their capacity as an organization rather than an uncharitable mindset. However, if the small businesses around you do have a history of giving to nonprofits, they will make good sponsorship prospects.

Aside from looking at these three elements of small businesses, you can also take a look at the data you have stored on your supporters and donors. If you find that many of them work at the same local business, you can reach out to them in advance to learn more and create a more targeted sponsorship request for that company.

3. Craft compelling sponsorship proposals.

After you’ve done your research and identified your ideal small business sponsorship prospects, it’s time to craft your sponsorship proposal. Ideally, it should be brief but thorough, covering the following elements:

  • Summary of your nonprofit’s purpose, history, and vision for the future
  • Why you’re seeking sponsorship
  • The form(s) of sponsorship you want
  • What your sponsor receives in return, such as a feature in your marketing materials
  • Response deadline
  • Contact information

Remember that sponsorships can take many different forms—it doesn’t have to just be a cash gift. For example, you could ask a local marketing firm to sponsor you by helping you create promotional materials for your next fundraising event. Or, you might request a massage clinic contribute a couple’s massage for a raffle, where they waive the massage billing fees for the raffle winner.

Requesting sponsorships is always a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. Soliciting small businesses is a great way for you to grow as a nonprofit professional, gain more experience, and acquire the confidence you need to approach future sponsorships.