How I secured $2500 in in kind donation (17 sponsors) for Teach for America in 6 weeks?

By Hannah Yang, 06/19/2017

In January, I signed myself up to secure breakfast, lunch, and snack sponsors for 400 attendees at Teach for America’s Bay Area Education Summit. In six weeks, I secured 17 sponsors, totaling $2500 worth of food.

While finding in-kind donation can be frustrating and time consuming, a good strategy can help make it not only easy, but fun. Here’s what I learned:

How and when to hustle?

You should be the most stressed FOUR weeks before the event date.

Follow up at least TWICE. 45% of the sponsors I secured said yes after the first and second follow-ups! I lost a donation from a Chipotle that I secured 6 weeks in advance because I didn’t follow-up to remind them.

Call breakfast sponsors in the early afternoon and lunch sponsors between 3 to 5 pm.You want to call them when they’re not busy handling customers at their shops.

Change your communication medium depending on the decision maker. For restaurants and bakeries, you’ll likely need to call because these decision makers are usually not in front of their computers all day.

Avoid in-person visits to save time. In-person visits are the most time consuming. I was surprised to find that I secured 17 sponsors all through email and phone calls.

How much and what to ask for?

Make an appropriate ask depending on the company size. Our average donation was $150. Most companies you secure are likely going to be small and medium-sized businesses which means they won’t have giant budgets carved out specifically for donations.

Getting lunches and dinners is hard. Focus your sponsorship effort on breakfast and snacks. For larger companies like Chipotle, you might be able to get 30 to 50 burritos. Other than that, small companies generally won’t give you more than 35 servings.

Make use of gift cards from large department stores. We secured gift cards from 3 Targets. You can use these to buy yogurt and fruits for breakfast or appetizer trays for lunch.

How to make companies love you?

Social Media shout outs are very valuable for sponsors. Offer them in your marketing pitch. For example, Chirps Chips did an amazing job of individually featuring their sponsors for their World’s Largest Nachos event:

Print table tents and posters of your sponsors' logos. Some of the donations won’t come branded. I know you’re busy but these things help you build good relationships. Just remember to take photos of your presentation and send them to the sponsors after.

Follow-up with photos and videos. This helps you form good relationships with your sponsors. (see my post-event email template)

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