Sponsorships for Non-Profits: Identify the Cause

A plan for helping NPOs, clubs, and volunteer organizations get the sponsorships they need to offer great fundraising ideas and top-quality programs.

Step 1: Identify your needs.

Youth groups, sports clubs, and other non-profit organizations (NPOs) generally rely on sponsorship funding to help meet budget requirements.

The City of Leduc, in Alberta, Canada developed an aggressive sponsorship campaign for their new multi-million dollar sports arena and activity center. This 300,000 square foot facility was fully subscribed, noted Taylor Stiles, Community Development Coordinator, Recreation for the City of Leduc, in a forum held November 3, 2011, for community groups.

The structured plan used by the City of Leduc can be modified to make it suitable for smaller NPOs and sports groups. The plan is based on the following questions, said Stiles.

What do we need?
What “properties” can we sell?
What benefits can we give back? (Whats in it for the sponsor?)
How can we find potential sponsors?
What else do we need to do?

This article focuses on the first and most essential question. Identifying your needs helps you be more specific and focused in your sponsorship campaign.

What is the Cause?

The first step in a sponsorship campaign is to identify and specify two aspects of your organization

The needs -What does our organization need? Is it money for general funding? Is it equipment? Products? Staff? Some needs draw sponsorship better than others (equipment and products more than general funding, for example).
The cause – A clear and significant cause will leverage donations. Operating revenue, while vital to the NPO, is unromantic (though it may draw funds from a previous and sympathetic supporter). However, consider the difference between asking for sponsorship for “youth dance programs” and for the “Strawberry Festival Danceathon”. A specific, identifiable cause/event draws a greater response.

Again, in determining needs and causes, the NPO board needs to come up with answers to some specific questions.

Why is your organization worthy of their money? Business sponsors are willing to help, but in tight economic times, every sponsorship has to be justified.
How can we get the sponsors attention? Can we give them a reason to read further? Most small businesses receive dozens of sponsorship requests a year; larger corporations get dozens a week. “You have maybe ten seconds to catch their attention,” advises Stiles, “before your request goes into the garbage.” Your presentation needs to hook their interest quickly.

Who are our existing and potential supporters and sponsors and what we know about them? Most companies have a particular charitable interest, whether its sports or cars or music or sexual abuse. Can you learn what theyve supported in the past? Try to match your request to what you know of that companys mission and history.
How can we highlight our program, event, or team? Whats special and different about you? Images are good, and short bullet points are better than long paragraphs of data and details.

What exposure can we offer? Styles asks this as, “How many eyeballs” will see the sponsors name, brand, logo, or message?

If your group doesn’t know the answers to these questions, it will be necessary to do some brainstorming and conduct some research.