I recently had a conversation with a young nonprofit founder who was new to the fundraising world.
As I shared a few of my favorite tips and tricks for the fundraising process, she offered up a question that I'm sure many of us have asked before.
How do I establish long-term relationships with financial partners and investors?
This, my friends, is at the very heart of nonprofit fundraising.
While an aggregate of one-time donations can certainly sustain a nonprofit for some time, long-term relationships with key partners are essential to your nonprofit's financial stability, growth, and ability to make a lasting impact.
With this goal in mind, I introduced my friend to one of my favorite tools for connecting with new prospects: the sponsorship letter.
What is a sponsorship letter?
While standard donation letters are written to request financial support, sponsorship letters request strategic partnerships with businesses and individuals.
These strategic partnerships usually include financial support in exchange for incentives, creating a win-win situation for both your nonprofit and the supporting brand or organization.
Importantly, sponsorship letters are not typically effective when we view them as a complete proposal.
The sponsorship letter's goal should be to pique potential partners' interest, hopefully leading to a meeting or follow-up phone call in which you can present a full proposal.
Think back to your days in an elementary school cafeteria. Perhaps your parents always packed Gushers fruit snacks in your paper bag lunch when you actually wanted Cool Ranch Doritos.
You could ask a different friend to share their Cool Ranch Doritos with you each day, or you could get strategic.
You could find a classmate who would rather have Gushers every day than their daily bag of Doritos, pass them a note in class suggesting a deal, and initiate a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.
This is a rather simplistic example, of course, but it helps paint a picture of the kind of long-term relationships that sponsorship letters seek to create.
What kind of incentives can you offer?
What kind of incentives should you offer potential sponsors?
To answer this question, you have to begin by asking how you can provide value to their brand or organization.
If you want to pitch incentives that sponsors want, you must think beyond logo representation. Ninety percent of the time, the best incentive you can offer is a shared target audience.
Let's say you are hosting a 5k fundraising run to help raise money for your nonprofit's animal shelter, and participants are invited to register their dogs as running buddies.
As you consider which sponsors may be willing to provide post-race treats, take a moment to think about organizations that would benefit from sharing your marketing real estate.
Perhaps a local pet store would like to promote its products with the dog community by offering dog water dishes at the finish line.
Maybe a peanut butter brand (a favorite of both dogs and humans) would see an increase in sales if they gave out free samples to participants.
Other marketing opportunities for your sponsors may include:
- An opportunity to speak at an event, or a fundraising gala
- Social media shout-outs
- Including the sponsor's name on all event communications
- Podcast advertising space
- Advertising space in an event program
- VIP experiences (reserved seating or special treatment)
- Employee engagement (volunteer days or team-building events)
As you can see, a shared target audience can be a powerful incentive for potential sponsors!
Sponsorship letter template
Once you have determined which kind of incentives you can offer potential sponsors, it's time to get writing!
Because the most effective sponsorship letters offer specific incentive examples that include a shared target audience, it is best to avoid sending a copy-and-paste email to a mass list of businesses.
Instead, carefully select which businesses you would like to approach and begin crafting letters for each one. This can be time-consuming, of course, but it is worth it!
There are several templates you can use to write a sponsorship letter, but you will want to follow these basic principles.
- Begin your letter by addressing your potential sponsor personally. Avoid pleasantries such as "To whom it may concern," and try to use first names and titles. This may require research, but it will increase the likelihood that your letter will be read.
- Take time to explain your nonprofit's mission, history, and unique contribution to the world, but keep this section brief. You want the main portion of your letter to focus on the incentives you can offer your sponsor.
- Show your potential sponsor that you have done your homework. Offer research about your target audience and explain why your potential sponsor would benefit from having access to this audience.
- Give examples of creative marketing incentives you can offer or have offered sponsors in the past. This will help your potential sponsor feel more confident in moving forward.
- Finish the letter with information about how and when you will follow up. This letter is meant to serve as an introduction to your proposal for sponsorship, so the ball is still in your court.
Example of a sponsorship letter for an event
Now that you understand the general flow of sponsorship letters, here is an example of a letter that you can send when you are looking for event sponsors.
Sponsorship letter for event:
I hope you are doing well. My name is Susanna, and I am the Philanthropy Coordinator at Paws for a Cause. We are dedicated to improving the lives of dogs through rescue and rehabilitation and by promoting responsible dog ownership. In July, we will be hosting our "Tails on the Trail 5k," and we are looking for potential partners to sponsor this event.
The majority of runners who will be participating in this 5k are environmentally conscious individuals who are highly committed to the health of their dogs. Many of our supporters are also passionate about shopping locally. I believe that they would be highly interested in the variety of organic dog food options that The Green Pet Pantry offers. At our past 5k events, we have offered sponsors an advertising booth and a speaking opportunity during the post-race festivities to promote awareness for their organizations.
This year, we are in need of sponsors who would be willing to provide post-race snacks. I think your organic dog treats could be a perfect fit, and you would have an opportunity for exposure with many potential new clients.
I plan to follow up within two weeks via phone call. Until then, feel free to reach out if you have any questions! I'm looking forward to connecting.
Example of a follow-up letter
If you called your potential sponsor and did not hear back, you may want to send one additional follow-up letter. Here is an example letter.
Sponsorship letter follow-up:
I hope you are having a great week. I wanted to follow up about the letter I sent you a few weeks ago regarding our "Tails on the Trail 5k" in July. As you know, The Green Pet Pantry is a favorite destination for environmentally conscious customers who love to feed their dogs healthy food, and this is precisely the kind of person who will be running our 5k.
Since I last reached out, we have secured sponsors for three finish-line booths, but we are still looking to partner with organizations that align with our mission and cause. We are hoping to gather dog treats or other goodies to hand out to finishers, and we think your organic dog treats would be perfect! In exchange, The Green Pet Pantry will receive a booth and a brief speaking opportunity during the post-race party.
It would be wonderful to receive your support as we take action to improve the lives of dogs in need! I would love to chat about this opportunity. Please feel free to reach out at [phone number].
Write a standout sponsorship letter
Sponsorship letters may feel intimidating at first, but they are powerful fundraising tools that help you develop long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.
By doing your research, offering the right incentives, and helping future sponsors understand the benefit of a partnership, you will create strategic relationships that help your nonprofit accomplish its mission.