Getting funding from corporations may be a great opportunity for your small business, but you can damage your brand if you do not go about it the right way. You want to develop a prospect list of warm leads, prepare a strong proposal, and approach a sponsor, ultimately persuading them to support your cause or program. Here are 10 steps to attract corporate sponsors for your business.
1. Understand the difference between corporate philanthropy and sponsorship. Philanthropy is typically motivated by altruism and promotes a business as a good corporate citizen. Sponsorship comes with the expectation of a financial return. This post is about sponsorship.
2. Be Original. Stand out from the hundreds of proposals and business plans that corporate sponsors review every week. Ask your customers, stakeholders, and staff who they know and focus first on those sources. Other sources to consider include your vendors and the vendors of your supporters.
3. Do your research. Know something about your potential sponsor’s history, vision, and mission, goals and funding criteria. You can often get a sense of how sponsors have supported other businesses by looking at their recent articles, press releases, and events.
4. Be able to explain your company’s value proposition. What benefit does it provide to customers in terms of cost savings, increased effectiveness, etc.?
5. Your proposal does not have to be fancy. To be viewed favorably, your proposal must include a logical and feasible plan for high growth potential for your business. If you have a connection to your potential sponsor, he or she will consider your modestly designed proposal over the glossy, fancy proposal from someone they don’t know.
6. Make a good business pitch. Include an overview of your history and track record; your product or service and its value to the consumer; a description of the overall market and a detailed description of your target market; the strengths and weaknesses of your key competitors and how you size up against them; your management team and advisors; an accurate picture of your current and future financials; and a clear, persuasive explanation about why your business offers an opportunity for a solid return on their sponsorship.
7. Meet in person. Have the person who introduced you to the sponsor arrange and attend the meeting with you. During the meeting, ask open-ended questions about your sponsor’s goals and funding priorities – and then listen.
8. Be clear about what you want. Use phrases such as: “Here’s how you can partner with our organization,” or “Ideally, you could…” and then insert the action you want them to take.
9. Know the next steps. Get an understanding of when you should expect to hear back from the sponsor.
10. Immediately send a short thank you note. Make sure it recaps the mutual benefits you proposed. Whether or not you get funding, keep your prospect informed of your work and strengthen your chance of getting their support in the future. Note: Ask for permission and make sure you are not violating email spam laws.