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How to Get Local Businesses to Support Your Fundraiser
Many schools have found that one of the best ways to raise money for their Fun Runs or other Athon is to get the community involved through business sponsorship. They differ in a few ways from friends & family members who give donations to your event. Basically, a sponsor is any organization or company that provides some sort of free support, whether that is money, services, or products.
These sponsors help increase the value of your event because their donations are typically larger in size than regular pledges and they can really help spread the word about your event through endorsement advertising (i.e., a popular local restaurant supports your fundraiser and is donating food for the day of the event. That’s something to advertise to parents and the community!).
Below we have provided some tips to help boost local sponsorship for your fundraiser.
Why Local Sponsorship?
Short answer: Why not? While there are plenty of non-profits who are deep in the sponsor pool, your fundraiser has a few aspects that set you a part.
Why local sponsorship? Because your Fun Run or Athon is a fundraiser that the community wants to get behind, you just have to show them how!
When to Contact Local Sponsors
We recommend contacting potential sponsors as soon as possible when planning for your event. This will typically be 2-3 weeks prior to your initial Kick-Off.
This gives you plenty of time to get a response and it is ideal because many sponsors want to be listed in the pledge packet that is sent home to parents, as well as any assemblies associated with your event in order to optimize publicity.
It’s best to plan ahead because the decision from sponsors usually has to go through several levels of approvals before being finalized. Also, if you are competing against other non-profits, it’s best to be the early bird.
Perfecting Your “Pitch”
When you approach a local business for sponsorship, it’s best to have a sound approach beforehand. First, make sure you know your audience and be specific for each business, making sure to address their needs and well as your own. This will vary from business to business, but it is key to make a direct connection to who they are and what they offer. For example, if you approach a local gym make sure to emphasize the physical fitness aspect of your Fun Run and ways they may get involved through donating water bottles, towels, t-shirts, or just making a monetary gift to the fundraiser.
You may also want to craft some written sponsorship materials (note: For our clients we provide some amazing template flyers for you to use and customize!). If you are wanting to create query or solicitation letters, it is smart to address it to a specific person, which means you will want to find out who makes sponsorship decisions for each local business you plan to approach. Next, write out what your fundraiser is, what it will provide for the students, and tangible ways that the organization may help. Lastly, make sure to list the benefits for the business!
What's in it for them?
Before we list the tangible incentives for local sponsors, it's important to emphasize that the primary reasons for businesses to support your Fun Run or Athon are immaterial.
These are incentives that cannot be measured in dollars, such as networking with other members of the community, the emotional benefit of knowing they have helped an amazing cause, creating customer loyalty, and being an authentic, caring organization in the community. This is also why it’s good to get a contact person at the business that you can talk to and express these intangible benefits that speak more to the heart than the bottom line. But, there are also tangible benefits that you will definitely want to highlight.
In our resource offered to clients on getting local sponsorship through our Adopt-A-Classroom program we suggest a hierarchy of levels for sponsorship incentives. Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels depend on the amount of the company donation and each offers an increasing amount of perks for the business, including their logo prominently displayed on the school website, their name and logo in the school directory, certificates on classroom doors, and exhibitor tables at the event.
While many of these benefits center on publicity for the organization, it also provides a stage for the company to showcase whatever it is they offer, whether that's food for a restaurant, cars for a dealership, or shoes for a retail store.
Think of creative ways of incorporating local sponsors into your event, such as a food-sampling tent, a table that has kid's gym shoes, or a dealership that brings in classic cars for the community to come see while they cheer on the event.
The extent of the sponsor’s publicity and interaction with your event is completely up to you, but it can be a great selling point for their donations and support.
Types of Businesses to Contact
There really is no limit to the kinds of businesses to contact in your community, but we're listing some different types here to get you thinking about a list of potential sponsors.