Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is growing increasingly important to businesses and they’re looking to engage with nonprofit organisations more than ever. CSR (also referred to as conscious capitalism), is evolving and businesses have begun implementing purpose-driven business practices.

The rise of CSR can be attributed to consumer trends showing that people feel more connected to companies that are purpose-driven and take their social responsibility seriously.  Younger generations are even more invested in social issues, supporting recent developments such as gun control, #MeToo, and global warming, and want the companies they purchase from to be good citizens.

This focus on CSR has made it easier for charitable organisations to partner with businesses for sponsorships and cause marketing programs as companies are actively searching for charities that help solve issues that their consumers care about.

It’s not just big business wanting to affiliate with not-for-profits, it’s also small local businesses or the local outlets of national chains that want to build goodwill in their local communities. Small charities can take advantage of this movement … they just need to understand what motivates a company to engage in sponsorship.

Breaking Sponsorship Down

Sponsorship is a mutually beneficial partnership between a charity and a business. The charity gets support with event or other expenses and the business receives marketing exposure and goodwill.

Can a Small Charity Compete With Big Players?

You may be a small local charity with only volunteers to help, competing against national charities with a full marketing team, but it’s still possible to get sponsors for your event. You can start by approaching people and businesses within your community that you know, and as you get more confident start to approach businesses that you don’t know. There are many small to medium businesses in the suburbs looking for a cause to support and an opportunity to reach your audience.

What’s Your Event Budget

Develop a budget for your event, starting with working out how much it will cost for the venue, advertising, security, catering, entertainment including items such as lights, sound systems, and merchandise. Then work out how you will generate income from the event? Will it be from an entry fee, or is there an allocated budget already? How much of the income will be spent on the event and how much will go to your cause? Once you know how much money you need to raise, you can set up sponsorship levels for the businesses you approach. Rather than use standard names like Gold, Silver and Bronze, try to come up with names that reflect the nature of your charity. 

Who Is Your Audience

You need to know what audience your event will reach before you start approaching businesses. Are you expecting families, retirees, teenagers, mothers? Once you have established your audience, you can then make a list of the businesses that are interested in the same audience and will benefit from exposure to them. Think outside the box when it comes to your audience and all the different types of businesses that have an interest in reaching them.

How Will You Reach Out To Companies?

It’s recommended that you use an integrated approach when contacting companies as using one method alone is unlikely to work. Some charities think they can simply write a generic letter, send it to every business in their community, and sponsorships will start to roll in. If only! It’s OK to write a letter, but personalise it for each business and then follow up by phone or other form of personal contact. Calling, visiting in person, sending a letter and emailing can all be utilised to reach a business, you just need to be persistent (but not annoying). 

How Many Sponsorships Do You Need To Reach Your Goal? 

Typically, you would set up several low-level sponsorship packages that are aimed at small businesses, one or more aimed at mid-size companies, and perhaps one substantial sponsorship from a larger company. It’s still a win if you have several low-level sponsorship partners and you didn’t secure a large one. Remember to also have a list of things that you could accept if a company doesn’t want to offer cash. For example, a function space may instead offer you a venue for the event. 

Ascertain how you will promote the sponsor at each level of sponsorship before and during the event. This would usually include signage, logo inclusions in collateral, social media support, a corporate table or seats, a press release announcing the partnership, or dependent on the business, giving away sample products.

Make sure you ask each potential sponsor if they have any particular marketing requirements.

Finding Leads 

Ask your volunteers, board members and patrons if they have a connection with a local business to whom they could introduce you.

Write down the names of all the small businesses in your immediate area and reach out to them to set up an appointment and make your pitch. Explain to them who will be attending your event, how you will promote their sponsorship, and present your sponsorship levels so that they clearly understand how a partnership is of benefit to them. If you don’t get a commitment at the meeting, leave some information for them and follow up with a thank you and copy of the sponsorship plan. This can then be followed up with a phone call 1-2 weeks later. 

Larger businesses will operate a bit differently and most likely have someone who handles their marketing and charitable contributions. Find out who that person is and how to contact them. It’s worth researching first if that company has any guidelines for charitable requests and contact them in the preferred manner (a letter, email, or online form). This should then be followed up with a call to see if you can get a meeting to present your sponsorship proposal in person. 

Even if you don’t secure a sponsorship, you’re still educating these businesses about your charity which might lead to their involvement another time. Keep detailed records of these contacts and your communication so you know what you did and what you should do next. You should also invite them to the event. If they see that it’s successful, and that other companies benefited from it, they may choose to be a sponsor the following year.

Formalise Sponsorship Agreements 

Congratulations, you’ve got a sponsor. Once you’ve reached an agreement, send the business a document outlining what each party will provide and when. If you’ve signed a major sponsor, you should consider drawing up a contract outlining the responsibilities of both parties. Send your sponsors planning updates along the way, and make sure they receive your newsletters and other communication. 

After the Event

If you want sponsors to come back the following year you’ll need to demonstrate the success of the event and partnership. Take photos showcasing the sponsor signage, and the activities they made possible, as well as of guests enjoying themselves.

Compile reports that included details on attendance, money raised, and what that money was used for, and send letters of thanks and certificates documenting their support. These small but important details can lead to successful long term partnerships.


If you need any help, just get in touch with us at Sponsorship Ready.

Terry Johnston 

0419 757 896