Most nonprofit fundraising strategies include a plan for online donations, event ticketing, and major gift programs. But one of the most overlooked ways to generate additional revenue is through corporate sponsorships.
In this article, you’ll learn all about nonprofit corporate sponsorships and how they can help your organization accomplish its mission and increase fundraising revenue.
What are Nonprofit Corporate Sponsorships?
The National Council of Nonprofits defines nonprofit corporate sponsorship as “a payment by a business to a nonprofit to further the nonprofit’s mission, that is generally recognized by the nonprofit with an acknowledgment that the business has supported the nonprofit's activities, programs, or special event.”
Put simply; it’s a partnership between a nonprofit and a corporation whose missions are aligned. Some sponsorships involve direct monetary payments, while others involve in-kind gifts like shared advertising, materials, or event planning.
Why Do Corporations Sponsor Nonprofits?
The arrangement is beneficial to the nonprofit AND the corporation. A successful partnership furthers the mission and vision of both parties. For the corporation, it generates positive press and shows good corporate responsibility and community stewardship. For the nonprofit, it provides essential resources, expands the network of supporters, and creates buzz in the local community.
According to the Cone Communications Social Impact Study, 90% of consumers would switch brands to one associated with a cause, and nearly 80% will donate to a charity supported by a trusted brand.
Think about it from your perspective. You want to associate yourself with (and buy products from) companies that are engaged in good work, regardless of whether they are a nonprofit or for-profit entity.
Consider the 2020 Conscious Consumer Spending Index, which reported that 1/3 of Americans are increasing their spending on products and services in the next year. At the same time, 40% of Americans say a lack of knowledge about finding socially responsible products and services is preventing them from doing more good.
The utility of nonprofit corporate sponsorships is clear to nonprofits, corporations, and consumers alike.
Examples of Successful Nonprofit Corporate Sponsorships
There are examples of successful corporate nonprofit sponsorships and partnerships in nearly every industry.
Here are a few recent partnerships that made the headline in the past year:
- Electronic Arts partnered with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to aid in fighting racial justice in the U.S.
- Amazon sponsored several nonprofits working to achieve justice for Black communities across the U.S.
- Kia Motors sponsored organizations involved with COVID-19 relief, specifically among the homeless youth population.
- Publix Supermarkets partnered with food banks to assist those impacted by hunger in the communities the supermarkets serve.
Types of Nonprofit Corporate Sponsorships
There are several popular types of corporate sponsorships that your organization can add to its nonprofit fundraising strategy. Each method of sponsorship has its unique characteristics. Some require physical space, while others can exist virtually or in print.
1. Event Sponsorships
If your nonprofit holds physical or virtual events, an event sponsorship might be a good fit. With corporate event sponsorships, the company pays a fee to the nonprofit in the form of advertising during the event. This can be promotional material for physical events, signage at physical or virtual events, or just a logo that gets included on the event website or in email communications from the nonprofit to its supporters.
Here, the corporation benefits from an association with a good cause, and the nonprofit raises funds to carry on their event without needing to use its resources or budget.
You can start selling sponsorships far in advance of the actual event and before you even promote the event to your supporters. If your nonprofit hosts annual recurring events like walk-a-thons, try offering multi-year sponsorships.
2. Corporate Foundation Grants
Many large corporations have grant programs for nonprofits that serve the local area, including Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's, Lowe's, and Wells Fargo, to name just a few. This strategy usually follows a set grant proposal process and takes a bit more paperwork than just receiving simple corporate donations, but it can be enormously beneficial. These types of programs can typically be found on corporate foundation websites.
This strategy is similar to corporate event sponsorship but without an actual event. The corporation pays your organization to include their information in your regular advertising. For example, the MLB had a $25 million partnership with the Boys & Girls Club, including MLB banners and other club advertising graphics.
The graphics are usually co-branded with the logos and trademarks of the corporation and the nonprofit and used across all advertising mediums, including during events.
4. Free Advertising
Local and national radio and TV stations offer free ad spots for nonprofits, making this an extremely inexpensive way to get the word out about your cause. Check with your local stations for available programs and times when these spots run.
5. Naming Rights
Does your nonprofit have physical space or operate out of one or more office buildings? If so, you might consider offering corporations naming rights.
You don’t have to be a big ball stadium for this to work. You can offer naming rights to floors or wings of your building or even individual offices or conference rooms. If your organization has a fleet of cars or other vehicles, you could offer sponsorship opportunities on those vehicles too. Naming rights can be given in exchange for one-time or recurring donations.
6. Success-Based Donation
Occasionally, you'll see a partnership based on success at a specific event or where the corporation reaches a milestone. These types of success-based donations are commonplace in sports, like when a pitcher strikes out ten or more batters in a single game or when a batter hits a home run in a particular inning, or when a fan lands a half-court shot during half-time at a basketball game.
Corporations usually offer a one-time donation when the event occurs, such as a $10,000 donation to their charitable partner. Since the donation only occurs when the company achieves the milestone, this can be a fun and creative way for corporations to get involved with local nonprofits, especially for smaller companies whose pockets might not be so deep.
7. Corporate Champion
Some corporate sponsorships offer in-kind donations rather than monetary gifts. This is the case with corporate champions. Many corporations encourage their employees to get involved with local charities and offer time off for those employees to volunteer. This type of sponsorship works well in conjunction with events where the corporation can assemble a team and prepare shirts or other promotional materials for their employees.
8. Challenge Grants
Your organization can strengthen your fundraising strategy by participating in corporate challenge grants. With challenge grants, a corporate sponsor agrees to donate a certain dollar amount once your fundraiser has met an agreed-upon fundraising goal, such as a percentage of dollars raised or a flat fundraising benchmark. Corporations can offer this type of one-off challenge to their employees, which works well to expand the nonprofit’s base of supporters.
How to Find Nonprofit Corporate Sponsorships
Finding nonprofit corporate sponsorships is easier than you think. You don’t need to land a billion-dollar corporation to run an effective and fruitful sponsorship program.
Start local with companies where you might have a personal connection. Having a friend or family member advocate for your organization will increase the chances of gaining sponsorship.
Beyond personal relationships, you can reach out to companies using a quick online search or resources at your local chamber of commerce.
Corporations that have matching gift programs are good targets because they already have programs that incentivize employee giving. You can use websites like Double the Donation to start your search for companies offering matches in your area. They also feature a list of corporations known to sponsor local charitable organizations.
Larger companies with foundations often have an employee dedicated to community partnerships and nonprofit giving. A quick search on LinkedIn can help identify the right person for your outreach.
Don’t be afraid to approach companies that have already partnered with other nonprofits. Just because they are sponsoring one organization doesn’t mean they can’t sponsor you too. If your organization is in a different vertical from the other sponsorship but still in line with the corporation’s mission and values, it can make for an interesting opportunity.
Corporate sponsorships can become an essential part of your fundraising strategy and a boon to your organization’s revenue and community visibility. Follow the examples in this article and consider adding corporate sponsorships to your future fundraising plan.