The Dos and Don’ts of Acquiring Corporate Sponsors

How to get Corporate SponsorshipBuilding relationships with the corporate sector that translate into corporate sponsorship can be a valuable form of earned revenue and unrestricted dollars for your organization. The right sponsors can become long-term partners, and structured properly, these deals can mean tremendous visibility for your organization.

The negotiations and nuances can be tricky, so building your competencies will enable you to acquire the best partners. Here are 17 tips to get you started.

DO educate yourself about what corporate sponsorship is and why corporations deploy it. For your organization, sponsorship may be a form of earned revenue. However, for businesses, sponsorship is an extremely powerful marketing vehicle characterized by a well-designed experiential component. To fully leverage sponsorship, deepen your knowledge.

DON’T sell generic packages, like Gold, Silver & Bronze. You’re leaving a lot of money on the table and sending the wrong signals to prospective corporate partners.

DO know what sponsorship is not. In both nuanced and more significant ways, sponsorship is different than corporate giving, corporate philanthropy, membership, being an exhibitor, advertising, and cause marketing. This may sound like hair-splitting, but the distinctions can mean tremendous lost revenue.

DON’T underestimate your value. If you don’t believe that what you have to offer is valuable, how will you be able to convince someone else? Too many mistakes are when organizations are blind to their treasures.

DO use a healthy dose of creativity to develop opportunities. Creativity fuels marketing and causes existing and potential customers to pay attention.

DON’T treat your sponsors like ATM machines. A fantasy organizations sometimes have is that corporations will pay for their event, program, initiative etc. The business sector may be an important part of your business model, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

DO develop a compelling fee strategy. Base your fee structure on value, rather than your costs or some arbitrary valuation formula.

DON’T undervalue in-kind sponsors. Sponsorship is an exchange value for a fee. If a sponsor provides that fee in in-kind value, substantially relieving your budget, what you’ve received is as good as cold cash.

DO build organizational competence. The individual responsible for sponsorship cannot be a lone wolf. The organization must decide strategically to develop sponsorship as a revenue source, and everyone must operate in alignment with that decision.

DON’T fool yourself about who’s making the decision. If the person with whom you’re speaking or working is not authorized to make a payment, reprioritize a budget, or is unclear what business outcomes the company seeks, you’re most likely not speaking with the right person.

DO begin your business development effort at least 1 year out. The sponsorship sales cycle is long for several reasons, one of which is because you want your sponsors to derive full value from all you have to offer.

DON’T assume sponsorship is the best revenue source for your organization. Corporate sponsorship is a powerful marketing medium for businesses and a great source of revenue and visibility for organizations. However, without the right conditions in place, you could be wasting your time and undermining your future value. For example, start-up organizations rarely have sufficient value to offer. Holding off until the organization is more established and has the appropriate capacity is generally a better course.

DO leverage your relationship capital. The broader your organization’s network, the more easily you’ll be able to meet the right people who can influence decisions about your sponsorship program. Get out of your office and regularly meet people in the business community.

DON’T disregard your mission to accept a sponsor. The right partners are in alignment with your mission. Do not twist yourself into a pretzel, compromising your integrity and values. Spend time to find the right partners.

DO develop clear policies to guide your program. Avoid being blindsided by internal and external forces by having these policies in place and part of your strategy.

DON’T let fear undermine your efforts. Fear can show up in several places throughout your operation — setting fees, negotiating, prospecting, executing, and initiating relationships are just a few. The results will always be weakening, if not detrimental.

DO set integrity and quality relationships as your standard. While you have no control over how your partners interact with you, you can control your intentions and standards. Strategically your relationships should be set on high levels of importance, trust, and integrity, setting the foundation for long-term partnerships.

Leveraging Interest Groups to Communicate Your Mission and Vision

Nonprofit Social Media TipsNo money to get the word out on your nonprofit’s initiatives? No problem. Leverage your allies.

Consider that your stakeholders, that is, donors, clients, sponsors, board members, staff and volunteers that are involved with a nonprofit, become spokespeople for it simply by their association with the group. Making the most of their individual and collective voices is a smart and economical way for nonprofits to spread the word on who their organization is and what it’s doing.

Maximize messaging.

One way for a nonprofit to maximize its supporters’ potential impact is to encourage them to talk about and promote the organization and its efforts during their interactions with people outside of the charity, such as with family, friends and colleagues. Another means is to recruit available staff and volunteers to participate in opportunities on the organization’s behalf where their presence, and possibly voice, could heighten the nonprofit’s visibility, such as through business happenings and networking events, social media platforms, community outreach initiatives, awards programs and print, radio and televised media opportunities.

While it’s easy to see that the potential reach of a nonprofit’s supporters is far and wide, the organizations need to be sure that their supporters follow a defined direction in their outreach efforts or else the organization’s message could become lost, muddled or even distorted. For those reasons, nonprofits should provide their allies with a clear understanding of the organization’s key messages and talking points, so they’ll be able to effectively communicate the organization’s mission and initiatives to others when opportunities arise.

Remember, too, that while people involved with a nonprofit may be able to promote the organization in general terms, their message will be more effective if it’s aligned with a specific cause or initiative. Recently, for instance, one of Astor Services for Children & Families’ supporters used crowdfunding to alert others about a marathon she was running to benefit the organization. The initiative also was posted on social media and in the news media, helping her to surpass her goal by more than $1,000.

The idea is for organizations to start their outreach with a core group of stakeholders from which to branch outward, allowing the same message to be conveyed through many different means, in the hopes that it goes viral. After all, the more communities’ businesses and residents connect with a nonprofit, the more likely it is that they’ll take up the organization’s cause through financial contributions, volunteerism and other means.

Strive for balance.

At the same time, nonprofits should look for a balance in what is shared about them, how it’s communicated and how often. Social media, for instance, provides an easy way to communicate news in a readily accessible medium, but it can be overdone, causing people to bypass posts instead of reading and sharing them. Still, it can be difficult to know how much is too much. Data analytics on social media posts can be helpful in showing what’s been most effective in terms of opened, shared and commented news. Personal preferences can also help guide a nonprofit on what’s a suitable amount of news to share, including specific supporters’ feelings on what’s appropriate.

It’s also important to keep in mind that different demographic groups respond to news items and media outlets differently. That means it’s essential for nonprofits to know how to direct their messages to appropriate audiences, what the interests of that group are, and what they’d be likely to react to and read. It’s also key for nonprofits to know who, of their supporters, are the best people to deliver the organization’s news to each of their audiences. Some supporters, for instance, are happiest and most effective when they serve as ambassadors and help to fortify connections. Others may be more inclined to take the role of askers, where they ask probing questions of others, or serve as an advocate or advisor. Knowing what each ally’s comfort level and strength is can fortify a nonprofit’s position, as can being responsive to incoming interest in its cause.

Something else for nonprofits to think about is the general public’s knowledge of their cause. Autism, for instance, is a national issue that is so largely recognized that local nonprofits dedicated to the issue might find that minimal funds for their outreach efforts suffice. Other, lesser known groups that don’t have that kind of movement might need to dedicate more funds toward their effort to connect with others.

Adapt to changes.

By utilizing their allies’ reach, nonprofits can increase the span of their marketing efforts at a minimal cost, helping ensure that more of their money goes directly into their programs and services. For many, however, as their organization grows and expands its services, so will the pool of people it serves, necessitating a greater investment for its outreach programs to connect with target audiences. As always, it’s a matter of balance.

Big, small or no budget, effective outreach efforts require ongoing attention to successfully reflect the regular changes that a nonprofit and its communities experience. At Astor, we constantly go back to the data and hold up the mirror to see what’s working and what else we can do.

Charity Starts at Home for Latinos – Crowdfunding with FundLatinos

Crowdfunding TipsFundLatinos is a new crowdfunding site that brings the Latino community together to raise funds for life’s celebrations, challenges and needs.  While individuals use the platform to fund personal causes, FundLatinos also works with nonprofits to fund organizational needs.  As a charitable organization, it can be difficult to navigate the world of online fundraising Here are some tips on how to choose a platform, create your campaign, and make it successful:

Pick the Right Platform for Your Campaign

It is important to research the platform you will use for your crowdfunding efforts. Sometimes crowdfunding platforms can charge up to 15% of the total amount raised during a campaign. FundLatinos, as part of its commitment to the community, waives its fees for all charitable organizations. For nonprofits, who often struggle to have more than 50% of each dollar donated go towards their ultimate mission, this can make a huge difference. While FundLatinos will never charge fees to nonprofits, they’re also offering a “No-Fees Holiday Giving” promotion for individual projects until the end of the year.

Tell Your Story

Once you’ve selected the right platform for your crowdfunding campaign, it is time to create an inspired and compelling campaign and content strategy. Crowdfunding campaigns often work best when they present shorter term, attainable goals. Pick a specific cause that you need to fund within the next few months, rather than trying to fund your entire capital campaign over the course of a year. Once you have your cause, write a story that attracts prospective donors – tell them exactly what their funds will go towards and how each dollar will positively impact the organization. Then add visual, either a series of photos or a video. Stories that are relatable will draw more attention and interest. For example, FundLatinos has worked with Esperanza Immigration Legal Services, a nonprofit organization which assists with legal immigration needs in North Philadelphia, to create a campaign to help with the education and legal costs of undocumented immigrants.

Get the Word Out

With the assistance of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, you can tell your story to a mass number of people in a short amount of time. Use social media consistently during the period of your campaign to spread your story. Have “friends and family” of the organization use their own social channels to share your campaign too. Never underestimate the social circles your organization has worked so hard to create. Include the campaign as part of an email blast to your stakeholders and be sure to ask them to share with their networks! You can even make it easy for them by pre-writing Facebook and Twitter content for them to post. They will thank you!

Update! Update! Update!

Maintain open communication lines with the members of your community and your donors. The FundLatinos platform allows you to write updates about your campaign. Announce large donations, number of donors, and news regarding how your specific project will benefit from the monies raised. Donors of your campaign would like to see their efforts come to life. Crowdfunding is a collaborative effort and it is key to keeping your supporters informed.

Celebrate Your Success

Lastly, when you achieve your campaign goal, celebrate and let your network know!  Keep them informed of how they assisted you in reaching your goal and how it will help those in the community.

Back to the Basics: Getting Started in Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

P2P Fundraising TipsDo you feel like your organization has exhausted its fundraising opportunities? Does making your ever increasing budget feel like getting blood from a stone? Has your organization considered peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising as a way to expand your donor pool and your bottom line? Read on for a P2P primer and how to get started in P2P!

At its core, P2P fundraising allows organizations to tap into their supporters’ networks of family, friends, and coworkers. Without P2P, an organization’s donations are generally limited to their existing constituency and those who they can reach through various marketing methods. Through P2P fundraising, organizations greatly expand their universe of donors, while empowering their supporters to contribute more to causes they are passionate about. Even better, your supporters make better fundraisers than your staff because their donation asks are more likely to result in a donation. Your organization needs to ask hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people for a donation before receiving a gift. However, through their authenticity and personal connection, your supporters are likely to generate a donation by asking a just handful of their contacts for their support.

P2P fundraising has existed in various forms for years. Did you know the Girl Scouts were selling cookies to support troop activities in the early 1900s? Though providing something in return, the Girl Scouts understood that their girls were their best advocates and could make the biggest impact on fundraising through P2P methods. Around 1970, CROP Hunger Walks organized by Church World Services, and WalkAmerica, the predecessor to the March of Dimes’ March for Babies really got things rolling for fundraising walks. Since then, other popular events have emerged centered mostly around walks, runs, and cycling events.

From the Pan Mass Challenge benefiting the Jimmy Fund at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, to the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, many larger nonprofits turned to P2P fundraising to generate a significant amount of revenue. When online P2P fundraising was introduced in the late 1990s, popularity and revenue generated through these campaigns exploded. Today, with advanced social media tools and an increasingly peer-enabled world we live in, P2P fundraising is more important than ever! And it is not limited to larger organizations – organizations of all sizes and missions can get in on this lucrative fundraising venture!

What Types of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Are There?

Though there are many different types of P2P Fundraising that exist today, below are the four most common types of campaigns for your nonprofit to consider.

Proprietary Organizational Events

These events are developed and executed by the organization, and are likely the ones you are more familiar with. Though these events tend to be runs, walks, or rides, like the aforementioned examples, you will also find other types of events such as bowling tournaments, dance marathons, and even jump rope events. These events are also touted as a way to spread awareness about the organization and the cause. As they tend to take place at yearly intervals, proprietary events can foster loyalty to the organization.

Third Party Events

Third party events take advantage of existing events, typically athletic or endurance types of events, to engage fundraisers. For example, nearly 175 different non-profits have participants run and raise money through the Chicago Marathon. The obvious advantage of this type of P2P fundraising is that the organization doesn’t have to put on the event itself. The disadvantage can sometimes be that the connection with the organization is not as strong, as runners may sign up with a non-profit to gain entry into the event. More work is needed to form a connection with the cause and the organization.


This type or P2P fundraising in facilitated by the nonprofit, while the actual planning of the personal campaign is handled by the fundraiser. For example, charity:water encourages their supporters to set up a fundraising page for their birthdays and ask for donations in lieu of gifts. This type of fundraising also includes memorial and tribute pages, dare campaigns (I’ll shave my head if you help me raise money), or events such as bake sales, athletic endeavors, or parties. This type of fundraising is limited only by your organization’s willingness to cede control and the creativity of your supporters.


Peer-2-Peer Fundraising TipsThis type of fundraising is gaining in popularity in other types of business and is very similar to crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is the practice of financing a particular project by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people. Movie producers crowdfund the making of their movies, entrepreneurs crowdfund business ventures, newlyweds crowdfund honeymoons. This is the next generation of P2P fundraising!

This type of fundraising has been limited to major donors in the past. For example, when financing the construction of a new building, large donors are sought out for naming opportunities and sponsorships. In this model, P2P fundraisers are recruited to help raise a certain amount of money for a particular project in a certain amount of time. Like do-it-yourself, there is no event for the organization to produce, and it has the benefit of allowing supporters and donors to be very involved and excited about financing a project. This could apply to funding a certain type of research, feeding a certain amount of people during the holidays, providing shelter to fire victims, and so much more!

Is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Right for Us?

Though exciting, P2P fundraising is not a fit for every organization for a variety of reasons. Before you get started it is wise to do a self-assessment and some evaluation.


Every nonprofit is looking for the silver bullet of fundraising, but we all know there usually isn’t one. Like anything else, raising money takes time, effort, and budget. Before starting off, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do we have staff available to dedicate to these efforts? There should generally be someone or a team who is ultimately accountable for generating revenue through this campaign. This is typically a fundraiser, not a member of the marketing or IT team, though those functional areas will also be critical to setting up the campaign. If your organization is smaller, is everyone’s plate already overflowing?
  • Do we have budget to invest in a new campaign? There is a lot more involved than just setting up a website and letting your supporters go to it. Costs for marketing, event costs, and supporter resources are just a few things to consider.


Looking around the industry and your own organizational niche can shed some important light on what the market will bear when it comes to introducing a new campaign.

  • Take a look inside: Does your organization already have a P2P campaign? Have you ever tried one before? If so, how did it go? The past is not always the best predictor of the future, but it can provide hints on what went well and what did not, providing you with ammunition to improve upon existing or prior campaigns.
  • What is working in the industry: As you evaluate different types of P2P campaign, talk to others who have been involved in managing these campaigns. What are the primary pros and cons from their point of view? What would they do differently? Observe their campaigns online and in-person and look for insights that can help you. Remember, there is no better form of flattery than “borrowing” techniques that are working well for others!
  • What is working in your local area or with your direct competitors: Can your immediate market sustain a new fundraising effort? Are there other programs like yours that already exist? If so, what spin could you put on a new campaign that will set it apart from the competition?


Internal and external expectations can go in several different directions, but here are the two most common, but very opposite, possibilities.

  • No buy-in: You are very excited by the prospect of starting a P2P campaign, but you are having difficulty finding any other champions within your organization. Starting a new campaign of this magnitude takes commitment throughout the entire organization. Continue to build your case until you have solid buy-in, particularly from senior management.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Your board chair saw the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge or some other P2P campaign and believes that you too can bring in a windfall with very little effort or investment. This kind of attitude is setting you up for failure. As noted above, adequate resources and staff time must be dedicated to a campaign like this – and not just at the beginning. An ongoing commitment and the realization that most “overnight successes” are actually years in the making.

Get Started!

Peer-to-peer fundraising is one of the most rewarding experiences for both participants and staff alike. If you’ve done your homework and are ready to take the plunge, you will not regret your decision!

To see how your existing event stacks up against similar P2P campaigns, or to see what may be possible for a new one, be sure to check out the recently released Peer-to-Peer Benchmark Study from Blackbaud!

Crowdfunding: The Do’s and Don’ts

nonprofit crowdfunding tipsCrowdfunding is exploding in popularity in both the for-profit and non-profit space. According to a Massolution report, the crowdfunding industry is doubling, or more, every year and will far surpass the yearly average of $30 billion raised from venture capital by the end of 2016.

Currently, the most successful campaign of all time on crowdfunding platform GoFundMe supports the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and their families. So far, more than $7 million has been raised for Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBT community.

Crowdfunding allowed the organization to quickly solicit donations and get much-needed help to the victims of this tragedy. Funding could have been secured in other ways, but crowdfunding allowed the organization to drastically increase their donor base and likely took significantly less time, manpower and money than more traditional forms of fundraising. The campaign also garnered more than 239,000 social media shares, increasing the reach of the nonprofit’s message.

Any nonprofit can start a crowdfunding campaign, but to do it effectively keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:

Do: Clearly Explain the Cause

The first step in any successful crowdfunding campaign is to outline what the specific cause is, why it’s important and where the money will be going. Be completely transparent and get specific (i.e. $30 will fund a child’s education for one month). Include details about your nonprofit, its history and the results of past fundraising campaigns as well.

Don’t: Overlook Local Regulations

Laws regulating crowdfunding and other fundraising efforts vary by state. Skip the state registration process allowing your organization to solicit donations, and your organization can be hit with civil or even criminal penalties. Soliciting donations from multiple states? You might be subject to the jurisdiction of all of them.

The specific regulations surrounding crowdfunding are debated, but the Charleston Principles written by the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) can help provide some guidance. Your tax professional should also be able to provide valuable counsel.

Do: Build a Strong Support Base

Potential donors who are not already familiar with your organization or cause are much more likely to contribute if the crowdfunding campaign already has strong traction. Before promoting the campaign with the public, reach out to current and past donors who can start to build momentum. Ideally, 30 percent of your crowdfunding goal will already have been reached before your campaign even goes public. This builds credibility for your campaign from the start and helps to nurture your relationship with your donor base.

Don’t: Ignore the Tax Implications

No matter how noble a cause may seem, donations made through crowdfunding are only tax deductible if they are made to a 501(c)(3) organization under the IRS tax code. Emphasize that your nonprofit has this designation and explain the tax implications to prospective donors to give you a leg up over requests from individuals, for-profit organizations and entities that aren’t designated as qualified charitable organizations.  Any questions on this aspect should be addressed by your CPA.

Do: Offer Matching Gift Programs

You can also incentivize corporations to participate in your crowdfunding campaign with a matching gift program. Giving companies the option to match any individual gifts received through a crowdfunding campaign gives them additional exposure and builds excitement around their contribution. Matching campaigns also can encourage a surge of donations from individuals who see that each dollar they donate will go much further. In lieu of a monetary donation, companies can also get involved by providing in-kind gifts for various levels of individual giving.

Don’t: Forget to Thank Supporters

Just as you should with traditional donations, every single person who contributes through a crowdfunding platform should be thanked. This can be a daunting task for viral campaigns, but by keeping proper records, it is doable and invaluable for building relationships with future potential donors. Show gratitude and make it clear exactly where their money is going. Many campaigns offer tiered rewards for donating above certain thresholds, which furthers goodwill with new and existing donors.

Do: Use Crowdfunding to Solicit Corporate Sponsors

When asking for larger donations from corporations, decision makers may need more convincing than your typical pitch. Competition among nonprofits for corporate sponsors is fierce, and a history of successful crowdfunding campaigns can help you prove that your cause has a strong support base.

Take the time to build and follow through with a solid strategy for your organization’s crowdfunding campaign, and it can become an important tool for soliciting donations on a large scale.

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