Tips on Finding In-Kind Sponsorships

By Hannah Yang, 12/07/2016

Have you ever noticed that often the only way to find out whether or not a company sponsors nonprofits is to visit or call them? Furthermore, once you know that they sponsor, there’s often no way to find out if they’ve maxed out for the month. That’s why my co-founder Judy and I have spent the last year cataloging Bay Area companies that sponsor in-kind. Eventually, we want to develop a tool that helps you search for sponsors based on item, location, cause alignment, and availability.

In the endeavor of cataloging over 200 companies, we learned a few things about how to find sponsors:

Start with Existing Listings

Gesture annually compiles lists of companies that sponsor nonprofits: Corporate Donation Guide 2016 and Corporate Donation Guide West

Look for existing events’ list of sponsors. For example, if you’re looking for beer, try googling “beer festivals” or “beer sponsors at film festivals”. You can swap out film festivals for events that you know had good beer sponsors.

Sign-up for free at SponsorLane to access our listing. On our listing, you can filter based on product (e.g. dessert vs gift card), location, and cause alignment to find the right sponsors. For our partner sponsors, you can see their availabilities on the request form. On some companies, you’ll even find comments that our users have written about their experiences working with those particular companies.

Find the Unexpected Opportunities

You may be surprised to hear that many small business owners are NOT getting flooded with requests. They are actually waiting for you to knock on their doors and ask. One of our partner food sponsors is a small business owner who sells her products in Whole Foods and Sam’s Club. She understands that sponsoring events is a great marketing opportunity; however, she lacks the time needed to source events. The onus is on the nonprofit to do the leg work. If you find these businesses and make a compelling pitch, you have a high chance of getting sponsored!

Don’t forget online businesses! There are so many subscription services that you can sign up for these days. In fact, many businesses exist solely online. For instance, you can get groceries, clothes, spices, snacks, and much more delivered directly to your door. Many of these companies sponsor too and ship it to you: Birchbox, Raw Spice Bar, to name a couple. Maybe some of these companies could be your nonprofit’s next sponsor!

Google It

You may be wondering how to find available opportunities. Did you know it could be as simple as an online search? Try this method: Google “San Francisco donation request form” and see what you find. Of course your search depends on your location, so be sure to swap out San Francisco for the location of your nonprofit.

You can also tailor the search depending on what you’re looking for. For example, google “restaurant donation request”. Swap out restaurant for the item you’re looking for: tickets, coffee, tea, pizza, etc. You can also add in the city for a more strategic approach.

Look right around you

Visit the stores on your block and just ask if they sponsor nonprofits. Many companies do not publicly list that they provide sponsorship and support, but many actually do. According to National Restaurant Association, 94% of all restaurants today make charitable contributions, primarily within the communities they serve.

Always be on the lookout. Since I’m in the business of cataloging sponsors, I always keep my eyes open for opportunities. For instance, when I’m at Whole Foods, I’ll spend five more minutes going down an extra aisle snapping photos of interesting food brands or writing down company names in my Evernote. When I’m out with friends, I snap photos of cupcake and coffee shops I pass by. If time allows, I even go in and ask them if they sponsor nonprofits. When you can, try to ask for their email addresses. Personal email addresses are often not listed on the companies’ websites. A good way to keep track throughout the year is an Excel sheet with the following columns: company, fit, contact name, and email address. When your event comes around, you can prioritize by the highest fit and start contacting.

Try out these tips. They’ll keep your list of sponsors full and diverse. I’ve already cataloged 200 and am not even close to running out of sources. How many sponsors are you at?

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