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Tips for Finding In-Kind Sponsorships

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This guest post is from Hannah Yang of SponsorLane.

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? 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 organizations with in-kind support.

In an attempt to catalog over 200 companies, we learned a few things about how to find sponsors, and we’re eager to share that advice with you:

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’ lists of sponsors. For example, if you need to find beer for an upcoming event, try googling “beer festivals” or “beer sponsors at film festivals”. You can swap out film festivals for events that you think might have beer sponsors.

Sign-up for free at SponsorLane to access our listings. Using our listing, you can filter based on products (e.g. dessert vs gift card), location, and cause alignment to find the right sponsors. On some companies, you’ll even find comments that SponsorLane 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, which means the onus is on nonprofits 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 if you’re located elsewhere.

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 in Your Neighborhood

Visit the stores on your block and ask if they sponsor nonprofits. A lot of 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 aisle snapping photos of interesting food brands or writing down companies 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, ask for contact info. Personal email addresses are often not listed on company 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 have you found?

If you find these tips useful, sign up at SponsorLane to receive our newsletters.


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HANNAH YANG, Co-founder of SponsorLane, is passionate about building companies that make a positive difference at scale. She has advised corporate clients as a management consultant, built four organizations across the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, as well as worked in India, Guatemala, Peru, and China.

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