According to corporate giving reports, corporations donate over $21 billion a year to nonprofit organizations, with the top ten companies alone reaching $2 billion. Additional research shows that more than $5 billion is given through workplace giving programs, with other substantial sources being community grants, corporate sponsorships, and more.

At re: Charity, we’ve written a lot about matching gifts and volunteer grants. In this guide, however, we’ll dive deep into the realm of corporate sponsorships, what that means for nonprofits like yours, and how you can develop the most impactful business partnerships.

And it all starts with these four simple steps:

  1. Form a volunteer-led team to locate sponsorship opportunities.
  2. Seek charitable-minded companies to reach out to.
  3. Determine exactly what you’re looking for in a sponsor.
  4. Consider a strategic value-add to offer corporate partners.

Are you ready to learn more about securing top-notch sponsors for your upcoming events and other nonprofit fundraising campaigns? Let’s begin.

1. Form a volunteer-led team to locate sponsorship opportunities.

While staff members can certainly reach out to potential sponsors, hearing from individuals who aren’t being paid to support your cause can sometimes be even more impactful and lead to increased support. That’s where having a volunteer-led sponsorship team can come in handy.

We recommend forming a group of 4-6 individuals who have experience with your organization and its mission to act as your representatives as they reach out to all sorts of businesses. Plus, bonus points if your volunteers are well-connected in their communities!

2. Seek charitable-minded companies to reach out to.

Before diving into the actual asks, it helps to devise a strategy for locating top prospective sponsors. Here are a few best practices to follow as you do so:

Make a wishlist of businesses you’d like to work with.

Set your volunteer team up for success by providing a lengthy list of prospective companies to reach out to. We recommend incorporating a combination of local businesses and larger companies that are well-known for donating to nonprofits.

Businesses in your own community may be more inclined to play a role in giving back, while big chains might have more available resources and extra room in their budgets to share.

Ensure potential sponsors align with your own values.

Corporate sponsorships can be extremely beneficial for both the businesses and the nonprofits that participate. However, it’s in both parties’ best interest to seek mutually beneficial sponsorship agreements with well-aligned corporate giving partners.

If you see that a possible corporate partner has business values that clash with your own core mission, it’s likely better to move on and find a better fit elsewhere.

Look for existing connections to philanthropic corporations.

Sometimes an existing connection to a business can be exactly what you need to grab the right person’s attention and get your foot in the door for a sponsorship conversation. And some of the best connections are your supporters’ employers!

For example, do you have a lot of matching gift-eligible donors who work for the same company with a generous giving program? Or a group of dedicated volunteers employed by the same local business? These might be some of the best places to start your sponsor search!

And if you don’t have a record of your supporters’ employment information, data appending services can provide invaluable insights for your team.

Note companies that sponsor similar organizations.

Take a page from other nonprofits in your area⁠—or even worldwide⁠—to see what they’re doing in terms of corporate sponsorships. Your team can gain inspiration this way while also making a note of businesses that are particularly agreeable to nonprofit partners.

For example, suppose you see another county’s animal shelter hosting a gala sponsored by their local Publix. In that case, you might want to prioritize Publix outreach for your own upcoming event.

3. Determine exactly what you’re looking for in a sponsor.

The idea of a “sponsorship” can be pretty vague, so it helps to define exactly what you’re seeking when planning for and approaching potential corporate partners.

What you’re looking for will likely vary based on the type of event or campaign you’re holding. For example, the items your team requests for a charity auction will not be the same as what you might seek for an upcoming walk-a-thon.

Regardless, here are a few common examples of sponsorship asks:

  • Cash gifts
  • In-kind donations (e.g., food, technology, services)
  • Gift cards

It’s important to offer a number of different sponsorship packages in order to appeal to businesses of all shapes, sizes, and budgets. Your local mom-and-pop restaurant likely wouldn’t be able to give at the same level as a well-to-do international chain, but you don’t want to exclude any amount of support for your cause.

One of the simplest ways to do so is to create multiple tiers of sponsorships with staggering value-adds accordingly.

4. Consider a strategic value-add to offer corporate partners.

Businesses that participate in corporate sponsorships want to benefit the organizations they’re supporting⁠ and the beneficiaries those causes serve. But, in order to drive business value, they want to receive something in return. That “something” is referred to as the nonprofit’s value-add or value proposition.

This might include:

The corporate benefits offered can make or break a nonprofit’s potential sponsorship deal. As your team pitches support opportunities to the businesses you’ve identified as solid prospects, make sure to highlight your organization’s value-add throughout the process.

When companies see significant returns on their sponsorship investments, they’ll be more likely to continue supporting your organization in its endeavors to come. And at the same time, it will attract new sponsors who are looking to reap the same sorts of benefits.

Corporate sponsorships are widely available to nonprofit organizations such as yours⁠—you just need to know where to look. Start at the beginning and work through the steps outlined in this guide to uncover valuable corporate partners that are eager to support your team and its mission. Good luck!

Dive deeper into corporate giving and the benefits it can bring your organization with our other impactful guides:

Go beyond corporate sponsorships with Double the Donation.