Sponsorship Letters and Your Nonprofit: Leveraging Letters for Better Results
Does your nonprofit have an upcoming event or campaign that could benefit from sponsorship letters? Has the idea of building local partnerships been suggested to you by a supporter? Have you tried to use sponsorship letters in the past with less-than-stellar success?
Before you abandon the idea of sponsorships altogether, use this guide to learn more about sponsorship letters. You’ll learn:
- What preparation you’ll need to undertake to achieve success
- How to create your own sponsorship letters
- The different stages of writing a sponsorship letter
- What information to include in your sponsorship letters
- And more!
If you need a little help, use our fundraising templates, which include a request for individual sponsorship, to craft your own letters. And, if you want to improve 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 ask an individual or a corporation to become a sponsor, you’re asking them to commit money or resources to a specific cause. These are restricted funds!
Second, while general donors may find their names on a list of supporters at the end of a campaign or event, sponsors are generally mentioned throughout the event season or campaign. This ongoing publicity can be a big motivator!
Third, sponsorship letters are useful when asking for a variety of donations. Think beyond monetary gifts! Sponsorship letters are great for requesting time, equipment, event costs, or even the event space itself.
Sponsorship letters are the ultimate piece of personalized fundraising literature. Make sure you spend plenty of time on them! The time you spend brainstorming, gathering data, and writing them will boost the odds of your letters’ success. In the next section, we’ll discuss the specific areas you need to cover in your letter. You’ll also learn about good brainstorming and 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 prep time is for planning your event or campaign itself. You already know that planning for an event or campaign can be very time-consuming! It will need to be done well in advance of your launch date. You’ll need to have those details in place before you begin planning for your sponsorship requests.
What you may not know is that you won’t be able to roll right from planning your event to writing your sponsorship letters. Instead, 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 whose missions align with your nonprofit’s mission? Or will you direct your efforts at blanketing your local community and reaching out to many potential sponsors available to you?
What can your ideal sponsor provide?
Are you looking for monetary donations, pledges, or matching gifts? Would your event or campaign benefit from a mixture of financial and in-kind gifts? Or would your nonprofit benefit most from partnering with a high-profile sponsor that could lift your own visibility and open new doors?
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 of them 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?
Do you know which person at each company is the best one to approach? 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 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.
What can your organization offer to potential sponsors?
In return for their sponsorship, your supporters will expect an offer in return! Consider offering listings on your event literature or include logos on event swag. You might also offer special tables or access during an event or prominent inclusion on materials used for a non-event campaign. Knowing exactly what potential sponsors want for their recognition will help you enormously. You’ll be able to make more compelling appeals! But keep this in mind: your offer should inspire them to respond with money or materials. What can you offer that will most make it worth their while to support you?
Will your request for sponsorship come from your organization, the leader of your organization, or from a high-profile supporter?
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 that will help you 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 gathered! Then your letters will be ready to mail (or email). Other organizations may have used similar templates to solicit the same potential donors. Spend some time tweaking, personalizing, and putting unique touches in the letter.
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. This is particularly true 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 for inspiration.
The benefit of this idea is that you retain the control over the content that is sent to your potential donors. You can personalize and tweak it to ensure that the message is exactly what you want to say. The drawback is that the highly talented individuals who work for your organization may not be polished writers, 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? This is a good time to take a step back and discuss the elements you’ll need to include! These elements are must-haves, regardless of whether you use a template, a professional writer, or a unique letter written in-house.
Inclusions for Your Sponsorship Letter
Tell Your Story in Your Sponsorship Letter
Your sponsorship letter must include some very important elements. Remember, you want to inform your potential sponsors about your organization and your planned fundraising efforts. You also want to persuade them to support you through money or in-kind donations.
Some of the information you need will come from the data you put together during your brainstorming period. Other information can be drawn from what you already have on hand. Look through your brochures, websites, donor forms, and social media efforts for ideas!
First, what do you already have written up about your organization? What have you sent in the past to sponsors or donors? Do you have material about your nonprofit’s mission, how you use the money you raise, what you’ve accomplished in the past, and what you hope to accomplish in the future? This is your story and it’s very important, particularly if you are a new nonprofit.
Why Is Your Story So Important?
Think about it like this:
Pretend you’re a professional who works in corporate giving for a large organization. You’ve just received a letter in the mail asking for sponsorship for an upcoming Susan G. Komen race. Since they have a large budget and staff, it’s likely that they 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? Don’t you think you know about their pink ribbons, short walks, and long three-day races?
Now pretend that you’re the same corporate philanthropist. You’ve just received 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 that same type of name recognition?
Honestly? Probably not.
The 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 tug at the heartstrings of even the toughest decision makers you might face. In the envelope you use to send your letter, you can also include other literature that you’ve already developed for your organization. But in the actual letter, spend the most time really honing the paragraph about your story.
Make Your Ask
Next, you’ll make your ask in the sponsorship letter. This is where you’ll use the data you gathered! Remember, the most effective sponsorship letters are specific, personal, and well-researched. If you’ve done the first stage well, you’ll know what the potential sponsor is best-equipped to donate. You’ll also have some insight into what recognition will inspire them most.
You might make a straight request, if that’s what you’ve identified is the best approach to a certain company or foundation. In this kind of request, you’ll ask for a set dollar amount 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 appear 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 appear 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 appear 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 appear 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 be the best fit, and make the appropriate sponsorship decision.
Get Creative with Requests
Remember, 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. As a reward for this type of sponsorship, your sponsor can place their logo or company name on the clothing or swag. Those will also serve as ongoing advertising for their organization (and yours!) after the event.
- Hosting a formal event like a dinner, exhibition, or ball? Invite sponsors to donate the money or items necessary for one specific element of the event. Think along the lines of 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 manages a fabulous building or space to donate it for your event (or at least deeply discounting the rate to use it).
- They can also sponsor many other items or services. Examples include 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. Get creative! How can an organization sponsor or donate any items you’ll use during your campaign?
Back Up Your Request
Finally, an important inclusion in your sponsorship letter is 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 your sponsorship letter and send it out the door. You want those sponsors for your fundraising campaign! Now that you’ve finished your preparation phase, learned the writing options you have, and the covered elements you know you must include, it’s time to put pen to paper.
Write Several Drafts of Your Sponsorship Letter
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 send.
In 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 about the necessary elements than the word-by-word verbiage, grammar, and overall flow.
Once you’ve included all the items on your checklist, it’s time for a developmental edit/draft. Each element included in the letter should build on the one before it. That way, the overall letter becomes a detailed document that fully expresses your story, inspires your donors, and sets up their decision to give. This draft will be all about making sure your overall letter flows from start to finish instead of reading like different pieces of literature slung together.
Finally, your last draft will be the nit-picky portion. You’ll work to make sure each and every word is the right one for that sentence. No awkward word use, no repeated crutch words, no undue slang, no jargon, 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 is a good idea. If you don’t, ensure that the best writer or editor on your staff works 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.
Personalizing Your Sponsorship Letter
Once you’ve gone through these drafts and everyone is happy, it’s time to send them. Now is the time to draw on 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, make sure the right versions are going to the right people. Nothing is more embarrassing than someone opening a misaddressed letter that asks for significant sponsorship they can’t provide or a single 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. They’re so simple to use these days that even volunteers with zero administrative experience can expertly manage them! Have your leader or your high-profile supporter affix their signature physically or electronically. Then, 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.