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Beyond Grants - Develop Business Partnerships to Support Your School

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

As we've been discussing in the last few weeks, this School Support Pyramid demonstrates how various sources of revenue can work together to provide additional funds for your school.

Develop Business Partnerships
You can develop partnerships with local businesses that provide mutual benefit to your school and to the business.

All schools receive general school funding, whether it is from private school tuition or per pupil funding for public schools. Most schools engage in school-based fundraising of some type. Donations are another important source of supplemental funding. Grants are somewhat less common but I hope to improve that through these trainings and articles. Business support is a mostly untapped source of revenue, and we'll be discussing strategies to attract those partnerships in this article.

Develop Business Partnerships

You can develop partnerships with local businesses that provide mutual benefit to your school and to the business. The approach is similar to asking for corporate sponsorships, except that you are offering access to your families through advertising in exchange for funding. Some schools display banners in the gymnasium or cafeteria. Others post ads on their websites or newsletters. If the business funds a specific item, such as a piece of playground equipment, the business name might be shown on a plaque in a prominent location.


Before you start offering to allow businesses to advertise, it is important to have a clear policy. There are many questions to consider once you open up to advertising. Does your board of directors want of banners in the gym? Who approves the advertising designs? How much money are you hoping to make in advertising fees and what will those funds be used for? What is the expected rate for a banner on your website compared to a banner in the cafeteria? What size banner will you allow and how will it be displayed?

All of these questions should be discussed with your leadership team. Work with your board of directors to develop an advertising policy, and then develop a pricing and procedures plan to be sure there are no surprises. Display your pricing information on your website and announce the opportunity to your parents. Many of them may have businesses that would like to support your school.

Once you have your plan in place, reach out to the vendors you already work with. Would the company that provides your school uniforms be interested? How about the copy machine service or the local sports equipment store? Think about who wants access to your parents. This sort of advertising provides a positive context for local businesses and is highly valued, especially because many schools either do not want to allow advertising or have not put the work into setting this up. After you have established your program, use the basic approach described in corporate sponsorships above to develop a campaign for business partnerships until you reach your goals.

These contributions are not truly donations, however. Because they are given in exchange for something of value (advertising), the IRS will likely expect the business to claim the cost as a business expense but not as a donation.

A Model Program

There are many successful programs to be found, but here’s one example of how a school might structure business partnerships. For each contribution amount listed, the business is recognized with advertising placements across various school communications and events.

Platinum - $3,000

Banner ad on webpage

Rotating daily electronic board sponsor

Sports/club joint banner

Outdoor banner

School website sponsor

Gold - $1,000

Sports/club joint banner

Outdoor banner

School website sponsor

Silver - $500

Outdoor banner

School website sponsor

Bronze - $200

School website sponsor


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Set Your Goals for Business Partnerships

Clearly define your goals - how much do you hope to attract in new dollars, what will the new money be used for?Determine your biggest win - what source of fundraising is likely to provide the biggest impact with the least effort from your staff?Define what you are willing to offer - will you allow advertising on your website but not on campus? Will you allow advertising on the back of student jerseys for your sports program or would you prefer a gym banner?Clarify responsibilities - who will track the advertising program and handle any questions or concerns? Who will report results to the board? What data will you share with the advertisers?

This article is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Grant Writing for Impact: Leverage Grants to Dramatically Increase Funding, Impact, and Credibility for Your School. Visit my website to learn more at

What types of business partnerships have worked for you? Can you share any other tips that would be helpful to our readers? Comment below and share with a friend.


New Series by Peggy Downs

Book 1: Start-Up Guide for School Grants (Answers to the Questions You Should Be Asking)

Book 2: Charter School Grants (Save Time and Write a Better Grant)

Book 3: Grant Writing for Impact (Leverage Grants to Dramatically Increase Funding, Impact, and Credibility for Your School)

Each book in this series addresses a different level of grant writing skills. Just getting started and full of questions? Start with book 1. Ready to write your first grant? Choose book 2. Interested in learning how to develop a school grants program? Then book 3 is for you.

Each book offers links to free resources to help you be successful with school grants. Order yours on Amazon today.


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