How to Recruit / Retain Corporate Sponsors


When executed well, corporate sponsorships can be beneficial to both the nonprofit and the company sponsoring. The nonprofit is able to raise more money and awareness while the corporation is able to tie themselves to a mission and move their goals forward. This type of symbiotic relationship doesn’t happen without research, strategic planning, and effective communication. Below we will walk through steps to engage new corporate sponsors and how to effectively build a partnership with them.


Step 1: Identify potential sponsors


Sponsorships are built on relationships. When brainstorming prospective partners start by thinking about who you know and expand from there.


  • List the businesses you have any connection to – this could be the coffee shop you frequent in the morning, the company you were introduced to at a networking event last month, or the company your neighbor started.

  • Get your coworkers, volunteers, and board members in on the brainstorm. Ask them who they know? What businesses do they frequent? Who are their soft connections?

  • Think of all the businesses your organization spends money with and add them to the list.

  • Take your search to LinkedIn – take a look at your connections that you would feel comfortable reaching out to and add their employer to the list.

  • Look into the community – Who is sponsoring other events? What businesses are you near your office? Who do you see out at networking events?


Step 2: Research your list of potential sponsors


Take the time to learn everything you possibly can about your potential sponsors. Review their website, social media, any press that is available about them, and talk to others that may be better acquainted with the business or an employee of the company. This research will show if the prospective company’s values align with your organization and will guide your ask.


If you don’t have a connection to the prospective sponsor, take this time to identify any mutual connections you have with the company. Peruse LinkedIn to see if you have any personal connections and talk with coworkers, board members, and volunteers to see if anyone is able to make a soft introduction. 


Step 3: Make the ask, but listen first


You’ve got a robust list of prospective sponsors that align with your mission. Now what? It’s time to make contact.


Your initial contact should include an introduction to you, your organization, and your event, acknowledgment of what you learned about their company to show they align with your organization, and an ask to meet and discuss further. It should not include your sponsorship deck.


The goal of all of this is to engage in a deeper conversation with the prospective sponsor, to learn more about their company, their audience, their goals, and most importantly to learn what your organization can do for them. 


Now that you have a better understanding of their company you can create a custom proposal that shows you listened to them and that you don’t only want them to help you but, that you also want to help them.


Once the prospective sponsor agrees to sponsor you, be sure to send them over a contract that clearly outlines both your role and their role in the partnership.


Pro Tip: Make sure you are documenting all interactions with prospective sponsors/donors


Step 4: Execute


This may seem simple but, make sure you fulfill and document ALL aspects of the contract. If you promised a cobranded banner at your annual event, make sure they approved the banner, it is present at the event and don’t forget to grab a photo of it. If you included a speaking opportunity at an event, make sure you coordinate it and document it with a video. Effective execution that meets the standards of both your organization and the sponsor you are working with is crucial in building a long term partnership.


Pro Tip: Create a sponsorship matrix to ensure you meet all aspects of every sponsor contract


Step 5: Proof of Performance + Review


A Proof Of Performance (POP) includes an overview of all items offered, proof that they were completed, and any other information or analytics to show the value your organization brought to the partnership. 


As you are putting the POP together think about that initial conversation you had with the sponsor, What goals were they working towards? What did they want to get out of the partnership? This is your opportunity to prove to them that sponsoring your organization was a good investment.


While the POP can be emailed or mailed over, it is a great opportunity to sit down with your sponsor show them all that you accomplished together throughout the year, thank them for their help, and LISTEN to the experience they had with your organization. This is not a meeting to make a new ask or to renew their contract.

Step 6: Appreciation


This may be the last step but don’t wait until the contract is over to begin showing your sponsors that you value their contributions and dedication to your mission. Once you receive the signed contract, make it a priority to come up with an engagement plan. The plan should include a variety of ways you will appreciate and thank your sponsors throughout the year.

Corporate sponsorship has the power to expand your organization’s reach and bring in new donors. So, what are you waiting for? Get started on your sponsorship outreach today!

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