What is an event sponsor?

Are you looking for sponsors for your nonprofit event? Not sure how to begin? Well, let’s start with the definition.

“Corporate sponsor: A for-profit company that provides money (or goods or services) to a nonprofit organization’s event or program in exchange for publicity, visibility and goodwill among consumers. They typically pay for their sponsorship out of the marketing budget, philanthropy budget or general profits.”

That was the easy part, right? Defining a corporate sponsor is less challenging than actually securing one. But when you do find the right corporate sponsors for your fundraising events, it can have a huge impact on your event’s success.

How to get sponsors for your nonprofit event.

Let’s look at five ways you can find the right sponsors for your next event and how, even with virtual or digital events, you can offer significant benefits.

1. Start with local businesses.

sponsor your nonprofit event with local businesses

Local businesses work hard to build good street cred and a positive identity in their community. They know that the way locals perceive them and their overall reputation are critical because locals are typically their main target market, even if they’re a business that has a website with e-commerce. Enlisting local businesses as sponsors for your nonprofit event is a win-win-win: You get their support and they get the PR play, plus you both get the benefit of lifting each other up in your local community. So, start with listing several local businesses you could approach about a sponsorship, starting with the ones that make the most sense for your organization—which brings us to the next point.

2. Reach out to companies that have a crossover with your mission.

businesses with crossover missions

Whether they’re local or not, the best sponsors have a mission or values that align with your nonprofit’s mission and values. For example, a local humane society might have a pet supply store for a sponsor. A food bank might approach a grocery store to be a sponsor. A local Habitat for Humanity chapter might partner with a hardware store. Or you could take this another way: Look at your top donors. Do any of them or their family members own a business? That’s another good avenue to explore. Just think “natural connections”—and you’ll be on your way to forming partnerships that just make sense.

3. Consider businesses that are already sponsoring similar fundraising events.

businesses who sponsor similar events

Chances are those businesses might be more apt to say yes, so pay attention not only to other nonprofit events in your area, but the companies sponsoring them as well. If you get creative you have a lot to offer your sponsors. Your nonprofit website is your best tool for that—here are some suggestions:

  • Create a sponsor page with short blurbs and pictures for each, details on what they are sponsoring and a link to their websites and contact info.
  • Create a video about your sponsor and add it to your registration page or use it to tease your event on Instagram or Facebook to promote your sponsor’s role in your upcoming event.
  • Feature a guest blog post on your registration page (or even on your regular blog).
  • Include your sponsors’ logos and messaging in all your email, direct mail and social media messages about your event.
  • Let your sponsor use one of your social media platforms to talk about their company. For example, schedule them for a 24-hour Instagram takeover or a Facebook Live to demo a product or service.

Consider all your platforms, including your largest (your website, of course) and how you could leverage them to benefit your sponsors in ways they probably haven’t even considered.

4. Create sponsorship packages to fit different budgets.

sponsorship packages to fit different budgets

It can be really tempting to just go after large companies with big budgets because if you can just catch a few of the big fish, you can stop throwing your hook in the water—or so it might seem. But don’t limit yourself. Small businesses may value sponsorship opportunities even more than larger businesses. Plus, they may have a large following, which can be a nice benefit for you in addition to the business’ financial support. Also, you can’t judge how much of a company’s budget they’re willing to spend on philanthropy and sponsorships by their size; some smaller businesses may be willing to part with a bigger percentage of their profits if they pride themselves on being a brand that goes above and beyond to give back to the community.

Once you determine your budget and how much money you want to raise, create sponsorship levels that will allow businesses of all sizes to participate. Then you can break it down: How many sponsors at each level do you need to get the support you need for your event? Ideally, you’ll have more sponsorship opportunities at the middle and lower levels than at the top. Why? Because if you can shoot to get more sponsors in the mid to low ranges, you leave yourself with more margin for error; this way, losing a major sponsor last minute (for whatever reason) won’t derail your entire event or project.

5. Get creative with your asks for sponsoring your nonprofit event.

get creative with your sponsorship asks

Be sure you’re not just throwing a cookie-cutter message out to every potential sponsor. Find ways to make your asks somewhat customized:

  • Describe what you do and how it ties in with your potential sponsor’s business and what they offer.
  • Talk about your audience’s demographics and how (if applicable) they overlap with that particular business’ target audience’s demographics.
  • Tell your story: How did your organization begin? How has it grown? Who have you helped? What impact have you made in the community? The more ties you can create between your nonprofit’s story and a potential sponsor’s story, the more likely business will be to think of you as a natural organization to partner with.

How to keep sponsors for your nonprofit event coming back.

Finally, tell each particular potential partner what you can offer in return for their support—and try to make it specific to that business. Put on your sponsor hat: What would you want to hear if you were in the decision-maker for that business?

When a business agrees to sponsor an organization, they want to build their brand image. Create a sense of goodwill with their current and potential customers. Appeal to people who value social responsibility and want to buy from businesses that are making a positive impact on society.

Cause-related marketing is a fast-growing form of marketing in the business world. So, think of sponsorships this way: It’s less that you’re asking for money and more that you’re offering a valuable opportunity for a business to partner with you to grow their reputation and demonstrate their purpose beyond profit.

Of course, though, you will want to be sure to thank your sponsors—pre-event, during the event and post-event. That serves a two-fold purpose for them: Obviously it communicates appreciation on your part, but it also keeps them front and center in your audience’s minds. Be liberal with your gratitude, and express it throughout your whole event process.

Download your free ebook about virtual nonprofit events.

If you’re in the middle of planning for next year right now and thinking through all your events and sponsorships and the like, we have a tool that might help you, especially as it appears that digital events will be sticking around long past the pandemic. Our free new ebook called, “Nonprofit Events: Raise More, Stress Less with Digital Tools That Work,” is now available and full of tips and ideas about how to make your digital events as successful and impactful as possible.


Get your digital events ebook