Sponsorship Letters and Your Nonprofit: Leveraging Letters for Better Results
Does your nonprofit organization have an upcoming event or an ongoing campaign that could benefit from the use of sponsorship letters? Perhaps the idea has been suggested to you by a supporter, or you’ve tried to use sponsorship letters in the past with less-than-stellar success. Before you abandon the idea, use this guide to learn more about sponsorship letters, what preparation you’ll need to undertake to achieve success, and how to create your own effective literature.
If you need a little help, use our fundraising templates, which include a request for individual sponsorship, to craft your own letters. And to manage your overall fundraising efforts or next campaign, contact us to set up a demo for your organization.
Understanding Sponsorship Letters
A sponsorship letter is different from a general fundraising letter for several reasons. First, when you’re asking an individual or a corporation to become a sponsor, you’re asking them to commit money or resources for a specific event or outcome rather than for your organization to use in general. Second, while general donors may find their names on a list of overall donors at the end of a campaign or event, sponsors are generally touted throughout the event season or campaign time-frame. This publicity offer can induce on-the-fence donors to open their wallets a bit wider. And third, sponsorship letters can request a variety of donations beyond monetary ones, including time, equipment, paying for certain event costs, or even the event space itself.
A sponsorship letter is the ultimate piece of personalized fundraising literature. It requires extra attention! The time you spend brainstorming and gathering data will boost your chances of success. In the next section, we’ll discuss the specific areas you’ll need to cover while brainstorming. We’ll also look at what types of data you’ll need to gather.
Before Writing Your Sponsorship Letter
Long before you write your sponsorship letter, you’ll have to spend time in preparation mode. Some of that time will be planning for your event or campaign itself — you’ll need those details to be set in place before you begin planning for your sponsorship requests, subsequent fundraising drive, and event publicity. And you likely already know that planning for an event or fundraising campaign can be very time-consuming and will need to be done well in advance of your launch date.
What you may not consider is that you won’t be able to roll right from planning your event to rough drafting your sponsorship letter. Instead, consider these areas where you’ll need to spend adequate time gathering data and brainstorming.
What does your ideal sponsor look like?
Are there specific businesses, foundations, organizations, or individuals who may best align with your nonprofit and its vision and needs? Or will your efforts be directed at blanketing your local community and reaching out to a many potential sponsors available to you?
What can your ideal sponsor provide?
Are you looking mainly for monetary donations, pledges, or promises of matching gifts? Or would your event or campaign benefit from a mixture of financial and in-kind gifts? Or, perhaps, would your nonprofit most like to benefit from partnering with a high-profile sponsor that could lift your own visibility and open new doors to fundraising success?
What is your event budget and event/campaign financial goal?
How many sponsors will you need to attain to meet those goals? And, knowing some who you reach out to won’t respond, how many potential sponsors will you need to contact to ensure that you meet your targets?
Do you have the right data available to be able to connect with your ideal sponsors?
Have you done the research necessary to determine the individual you should be contacting at the various companies and organizations you reach out to? Personalized sponsorship letters addressed to a relevant employee or leader are far more likely to hit the mark than generalized letters sent to organizations.
What is your timeline for gathering sponsors?
Have you left enough time in your preparation period before your event or campaign to identify, contact, and secure an adequate level of sponsorship? The time allotted must include transit and contact methods, consideration, and decision time for organizations. Keep in mind also that multiple people may have input to the outcome.
What can your organization offer to potential sponsors?
Remember that in return for their pledge of sponsorship, your supporters will expect an offer in return: listings on your event literature, logos included on event swag, special tables or access during an event, or prominent inclusion on materials used for a non-event campaign. The offers you can make are as diverse as the options you have for designing your events. But keep this in mind: your offer is an inducement for them to respond with money or materials — what can you offer that will most make it worth their while to support your organization?
Will your request for sponsorship come from your organization, personally from the leader of your organization, or from a high-profile supporter whose status might help land potential sponsors?
How you sign — and who signs — your sponsorship letters can be as important as the contents of those letters. If you have a celebrity supporter, a local big-name personality, or someone well-known in target industries, their name on your letter can mean the difference between losing out or landing the pledge.
Once each of these areas has been considered in depth, you’re ready to move ahead with writing your sponsorship letter.
Drafting Your Sponsorship Letter
As you move from the preparation stage to drafting your sponsorship letter, you have several options to consider to get started:
Use a template designed by a nonprofit incubator, professional writing firm, or fundraising support organization.
At Qgiv, we have four expertly written templates available to help you get started. Using our templates is simple: just plug in the details you’ve just spent your preparation time gathering, and your letters will be ready to mail or email. On the flip side, other organizations soliciting sponsorship from the same potential donors may have used the same or similar templates, so your potential fundraising partners may not see your material as fresh.
Hire a professional writer who has experience in fundraising and sponsorship soliciting to write a customized and personalized letter for your event or campaign.
You may even consider asking this writer to produce multiple letters that can be used to solicit donors in different ways. Keep in mind that professional writers can be pricey, particularly for highly personalized projects, but it might be worth it if it gets you the results you need.
Write your sponsorship letter from scratch, potentially using a sample of a letter asking for donations — either for inspiration, or in casual consultation with a more experienced sponsorship letter writer for advice.
The benefit of this idea is that you retain the most control over the content produced that will be sent to your potential donors. You can personalize and tweak it to ensure that the message you are sending is exactly what your organization wants to say and how it wants to represent itself. The drawback is that the highly talented individuals who work for your organization may not be polished writers, and so the creation of this piece may be difficult and time consuming.
Haven’t decided yet which approach to take in crafting the sponsorship letter you’ll use for your upcoming campaign? Then this is a good time to take a quick step back and discuss the elements you’ll need to include, whether you use a template, a professional writer, or you craft a letter from scratch.
Inclusions for Your Sponsorship Letter
Your sponsorship letter will need to include some very important elements to inform your potential sponsors about your organization or planned fundraising efforts and persuade them to support you through money or in-kind donations. Some of that information will come from using the data you put together several steps ago during your brainstorming period. Other information, however, can be drawn from what you likely already have on hand from other pieces you’ve shared with past donors or through your brochures, websites, donor forms, and social media efforts.
First, find your story
What do you already have written up about the aims of your organization, what your nonprofit specifically supports, how funds raised are used, what you have accomplished in the past, and what you hope to accomplish in the near future? This is your story and it’s very important, particularly if you are a new nonprofit.
Think about it like this. Pretend you’re a professional who works in corporate giving for a large organization and you receive a letter in the mail asking for sponsorship assistance for the local upcoming Komen race. With a large budget and staff, it’s likely Komen has included all the relevant organizational information in the sponsorship letter packet. But is that really necessary? At this point, hasn’t Komen reached a point where they have near universal recognition for their advocacy with breast cancer, pink ribbons, and short walks and long three-day races?
You’re still a corporate giving professional who’s still working for a large organization, and now you receive a sponsorship request from a smaller nonprofit – one that you might work for if you weren’t in the corporate world. Will that organization – your actual real life non-hypothetical organization – have this same type of recognition?
Honestly speaking, probably not. The first and most important element to include in your sponsorship letter is a short, engaging paragraph about who you are, what you do, and why you do it. It needs to be written to tug at the heart strings of even the toughest decision makers you might face. Within the envelope you use to send your letter, you might also include other literature that’s already been developed for and about your organization. But in the actual letter, spend the most time really honing this paragraph about your story.
Second, make your ask
Next, using the data you’ve spent so much time gathering previously, you’ll make your ask in the sponsorship letter. You might make a straight request, if that’s what you’ve identified is the best approach to a certain company or foundation: a set dollar amount that might match a gift they consistently provide, or a resource they are particularly suited to offer. You also might consider offering a variety of sponsorship options to empower their giving officer to make the decision. You’ve probably seen this menu-type sponsorship offer yourself, so here’s a very generic example to refresh your mind:
- Become a platinum-level sponsor with your gift of $xxx,xxx. In return, you’ll be noted as the overall event sponsor in all of our event literature, on our website and social media channels, have access to two tables at our event dinner, and have VIP access throughout the event.
- Become a gold-level sponsor with your gift of $xx,xxx. In return, you’ll be noted as an event sponsor in all of our event literature, on our website and social media channels, have access to one table at our event dinner, and gain VIP access throughout the event.
- Become a silver-level sponsor with your gift of $x,xxx. In return, you’ll be noted as an event supporter on our event program, website, and social media channels, receive six tickets to our event dinner, and enjoy VIP access throughout the event.
- Become a bronze-level sponsor with your gift of $xxx. In return, you’ll be noted as an event patron on our event program and website, receive two tickets to our event dinner, and have VIP access throughout the event.
With a variety of options like this, companies, foundations, and individuals can examine their own budgets, determine which incentive would most benefit themselves personally or their own organization, and make the appropriate sponsorship decision.
Get creative with requests
Remember that you can request many types of sponsorship beyond monetary donations. Consider these ideas:
- Hosting a golf tourney, walk/race, or other event that may have some public visibility? Ask a specific sponsor to pay for the cost of shirts, hats, bags, or other items to be worn during the event that can also serve as ongoing advertising for your nonprofit after the event. As a reward for this type of sponsorship, your sponsor can place their logo or company name on the clothing as well.
- Hosting a formal event like a dinner, exhibition, or ball? Invite sponsors to specifically donate the money or items necessary for one element of the event, such as paying for the appetizer course, sponsoring dessert, or providing the wine or champagne.
- Need a great location for your event? Ask a company or organization that owns or manages a fabulous building or space to consider donating it for the length of your event or at least deeply discounting the rate to use it.
- Many other items and services can also be sponsored or donated, including stationery or printing services, entertainment, equipment used during a sporting event, vehicles used to transport high profile supporters, or even the tables and chairs that often need to be rented for events. Any item you may need to use could be donated or sponsored.
Make follow-up easy
Finally, an important inclusion in your sponsorship letter will be information on how and when to follow up:
- Who to contact for questions,
- Where (i.e. website, social media) to locate more information,
- When donations are due,
- And a very profuse thank you for taking the time to learn about your organization and potentially support your event or campaign.
Now that you’ve done your due diligence, considered your options for composing your sponsorship letter, and reviewed its most important inclusions, it’s time to get it done and sent.
Finalizing and Sending Your Sponsorship Letter
By now, you’re probably more than eager to wrap up the writing of your sponsorship letter and send it out the door so it can begin finding sponsors for your fundraising campaign. And, using what you’ve learned in your preparation phase, the options you have for writing your letter, and the inclusions you know you have to make, it’s now time to put pen to paper.
Regardless of the method you’ve chosen for composing your letter — template, hired writer, or in-house from scratch — you’ll still need to go through several drafts before it’s ready to see the light of day. During the writing of your first draft, work on making sure all of the important bits are added to the template. This is a simple first draft — worry more that the necessary elements have been added before concerning yourself with the word-by-word verbiage, grammar used, and the overall flow.
Once you’ve met all the items on your checklist, it’s time for a developmental edit/draft. Each portion — or element — included in the letter can build on the one before so that the overall letter becomes a detailed document that fully expresses your story in such a way that your potential sponsors become intrigued and decide to move forward in helping your cause. Rather than reading like different pieces of literature slung together, this draft will be all about making sure your overall letter flows from start to finish.
Finally, your last draft will be the nit-picky portion. You’ll work to make sure each and every word chosen is the right one for that circumstance. No awkward word use, no repeated crutch words, no undue slang, no industry terms that laymen may not understand, no fancy words that confuse instead of enhance the message. This is your masterpiece, and it’s time to make it shine. Along the way, you’ll look for appropriate grammar usage as well as ferreting out typos and other editorial issues.
Consider an Editor
If you have the budget, hiring an editor to review your letter might be a good idea. If you don’t, ensure that the best writer or editor on your nonprofit’s staff is chosen to work on the final draft. Several different heads reviewing this very important letter is not a bad idea either, but self-proofing is a bad idea — your brain can trick you into missing mistakes when you’re already very familiar with the words on the page.
Once you’ve gone through these drafts and everyone is happy that your sponsorship letter shines, it’s time to pair it with your prior research and begin personalizing it for the companies, foundations, and individuals you’ve identified. If you’ve completed multiple versions of your sponsorship letter, ensure the right versions are going to the right people. Nothing is more embarrassing than someone opening a misaddressed letter that asks for significant sponsorship or a philanthropic individual being confused with a major foundation.
Software that lets you use mail merges and personalized letter elements can be your best bet during this phase and has become so simplified to use that even volunteers with zero administrative experience can expertly manage it. Have your leader or your high-profile supporter affix their signature physically or electronically, take one last look for completeness, and voila! You’re ready to lick the stamps or hit send, and your sponsorship campaign has officially begun. Hurrah, congratulations, and best wishes for success in fundraising!
On the back end, our platform here at QGiv can help manage both your online and onsite donations, social peer-to-peer solicitations, pages, and much more. Peruse our templates, check out how we’ve been able to help other nonprofits just like yours, and sign up for your demo right away so you don’t lose any time in reaching donors and advancing the vision of your worthy organization and cause.