As an activity provider, you undoubtedly want to focus on creating enriching experiences for your students. But in order to do so, it’s essential to direct some attention towards acquiring funding for the supplies, equipment, staff, and other resources necessary to carry out your activities successfully. Rather than relying solely on registration fees, a great way to offset costs and keep registration fees low is through company sponsorships.
To begin the search for sponsors, you’ll want to first get organized. Creating a spreadsheet to make a plan and track your progress is a great place to start. Use the spreadsheet to keep a record of what businesses you contact, how you contacted them, if you followed up with them, which ones signed on as sponsors, and what they contributed. And once you have a system in place, you’re ready to compile a list of businesses and devise your approach.
The first place to look for companies to sponsor your activities is your inner circle. Do any of your family members or friends own a small business or work for a company that might be interested in sponsorship? What about the parents of the kids involved in your program? Let them know that you are looking for sponsors and see what kind of leads they bring in.
Next, expand the circle to local small businesses. Small businesses tend to have personal connections to the community and care about the welfare of the youth in the area. Use these personal bonds to your advantage by appealing to their sense of benevolence and goodwill. Explain how their contribution directly impacts the kids. Will their sponsorship allow you to offer scholarships and keep registration low, enabling more kids to participate? Will it allow you to finance supplies, equipment, or field trips and therefore enhance the experience of your students?
Along with intrinsic motivation, make sure to illustrate the value that the sponsorship will provide their business. Remind them of the power of gaining goodwill and name recognition within the community. How will raising their exposure attract customers and distinguish them from competitors? And be sure to clarify exactly how you will promote their brand. Will they receive any advertising on signage, your website, social media, or programs? If applicable, don’t forget to mention the tax write-off for donating to a non-profit organization.
While devising your proposal, another important consideration is your program’s needs. A list of specific wants and needs will come in handy not only for discussing the use of financial contributions but also for laying out what your program could use in the form of gift-in-kind donations. Businesses who prefer not to give a financial contribution might be willing to donate supplies, equipment, food, beverages, silent auction prizes, T-shirts, or volunteer hours.
When pitching the idea of sponsorship to businesses, it’s best to talk in person to the decision-maker of the company, but if that’s not possible, a letter or an email can also be effective. Either way, it’s best practice to call ahead to make an appointment or inform them that you will be sending information about sponsorship opportunities. With your proposal, remember to provide materials about your program and showcase your activities through photos, videos, or invitations to events. Immediately after the proposal, be sure to send a thank you via mail or email and then follow up within a couple weeks.
Like most funding opportunities, sponsorships take time and effort. Try not to get discouraged if you do not get many sponsorships during your first round of proposals. Keep in mind that you are spreading the word about your program and that you might secure sponsorships from these businesses in the future.
With the sponsorships you do obtain, a small gesture—such as sending a thank you card or a certificate to display at their business—can go a long way. Keep the owners and employees abreast of what is going on with your program by letting them know about big wins, recitals, showcases, and projects. By nurturing these relationships, you will ensure that sponsors return year after year. If you keep at it, the number of sponsors supporting your mission will continue to grow, creating opportunities for children for years to come.