“People often think sponsorship is a marketing word for a charitable donation. It isn’t. When corporations talk about sponsorship they are referring to a financial investment that brings them commercial benefits in return.”
Future Funding? Alternative funding for your project, Big Lottery Fund, page 7.
Choosing a sponsor – Before you start approaching businesses, think carefully about what benefits you would like for your group and what you are prepared to give in return. Make sure that you prioritise the kind of businesses that will add to your professional image. The board should decide where the group will draw the line in terms of businesses that may have different values to yours. This could be noted as a simple policy – in case you ever need to justify your decisions to accept one sponsor over another, for example.
Planning and research will help you choose a priority list of potential sponsors. Allow time to maintain good relationships with sponsors – keeping in touch, inviting them to events, creating publicity opportunities for them and saying thank you, is essential.
What do sponsors look for? – You know what your group needs but have you thought about the sponsor? Why do local businesses give time, goods or even cash to local projects? Asking them what they’d like to get out of a sponsorship deal is a good place to start but expect to hear reasons such as; it’s an opportunity to get some local publicity, make contacts, and improve good will towards the company or to target a specific audience interested in their products. Sometimes reasons change over time, so keep up the communication – is the sponsor still benefiting from being involved with your group?
Define the benefits… to them (not your group!) – List all the possible benefits such as branding, invitations to events, product promotion, special deals on room hire or other services. Publicity is often a key aim for businesses, so make sure you can show a good track record in getting local news coverage, maintaining your website and other publicity methods. Consider showing them a plan explaining where and when you might promote the sponsorship relationship. For example, though photo opportunities, local radio or your website. Provide a named contact for the business to work with.
Asking for sponsorship - Personal contact is vital, so make sure you’re able to talk to the business before putting a proposal in writing. Use your contacts and network – make sure they know about your group and what makes it special before asking for help. Make any written proposal stand out by being specific about what you are offering the business and what you would like in return. General appeals for help are unlikely to be answered.