• Peggy Downs

5 Steps to Develop Corporate Sponsorships for Your School

Updated: Mar 6, 2021

5 Steps to Develop Corporate Sponsorships for Your School
Be sure that any business you invite into partnership is one that will enhance your school’s image.

Corporations often invest in their communities both as part of their mission and to reduce tax liability. They may offer grants, goods, or services to nonprofits and schools that serve the communities in which they operate. You can build relationships with potential corporate sponsors with just a little effort. 

What is corporate sponsorship?

Corporate sponsorship – a donation of money, goods, or services from a corporation or business for a specific event, project or funding need

Although in the past only large corporations could afford sponsorships, today even small businesses may be open to the idea. You may find a sponsor for your fundraising gala or your soccer team. Perhaps a local restaurant will provide food for teachers during your parent-teacher conference week or a snack for parents at your Parent University. A local technology firm may be excited to contribute money for your new computer lab or to support your Robotics team. Perhaps your custodial service will provide trash bags and gloves for your community service clean-up day. A local bank may love to provide t-shirts for Field Day. You office supply vendor may sponsor the cost for your student planners. The possibilities are endless.

Corporations and businesses want to be associated with success and with projects that align with their business goals. Corporate sponsorship is a form of marketing for them. Sponsorship of your school can enhance their image and visibility in the community. They are linking their names to your school’s name in a partnership of shared goals. And that works both ways. Be sure that any business you invite into partnership is one that will enhance your school’s image.

The possibilities are endless.

1. Identify potential sponsors

First, consider what you have to start with. What businesses operate in your community? What vendors provide services to your school? What parents work at corporations with a presence in your community? What teachers have spouses with important connections to these businesses? What businesses are currently active in supporting nonprofits in your community? Pay attention to the news and search online to find articles about recent donations and grant awards. Make a list of whatever comes to mind as you begin to answer these questions. 

Once you identify a few potential businesses, ask around to see if any board members, parents, or teachers have connections. They may be able to set up an introduction or share information that will help you plan your approach. Research the organization to discover what projects they have funded recently and their current funding priorities. Look for connections between the problem you want to solve and your mission and goals, and their funding priorities and business goals.

2. Plan your request

Corporate sponsors may support your school in a variety of ways. You can request equipment, such as copy machines, computers, used vehicles, appliances, or furniture. They may provide materials, such as curriculum packages, training materials, or musical instruments. You may find support for general supplies, such as copy paper or classroom supplies. Some businesses may cover expenses for professional development, including travel and registration costs, or for professional services, such as consultant fees for training or school improvement. A business may support a student activity, such as a sports team or STEM competition. They may wish to cover the costs of the full event or only a portion. You can also ask about matching grants, where they will match any funds raised by your parent organization or a fundraising event, for example.

Develop your plan before you contact any businesses. Decide on your priorities - what is the most important project you want or need to fund? How much do you need? How soon? Do you need money or supplies? How will you advertise their contributions?

3. Make contact

When you have researched the organization and planned your request, make contact with the person who manages sponsorships and donations. You may do this by telephone or email. Plan your initial conversation carefully. If you choose to make a phone call, write out a script to plan what you will say (but don’t read from the script when you make the call!). If you choose to send an email, proofread the email before you send. Be prepared to:

  • Introduce yourself and your school. Give a sentence or two describing what is special about your school.

  • Explain why you are calling. Emphasize the connections and shared vision, NOT your school’s need.

  • State the problem.

  • Describe the solution and how they can help.

  • Share the dollar amount or other support needed.  

  • Ask permission to submit a full proposal and discuss any questions about the process.

  • Thank the contact for his or her time and follow up promptly with a full proposal.

4. Prepare your written proposal

When you have been invited to submit a proposal, you will need to compose your corporate sponsorship request letter. This will be submitted on your school letterhead and should be no more than one page long. Follow standard business letter protocols. You may be sending the letter by US Mail or attached to an email, as requested by your contact. Either way, keep a record of the original letter and the date sent for future reference.


Here's your free planner!

Would you like to get started? Grab your free copy of this Corporate Sponsorship Planner. Join my mailing list to get your free copy today and also sign up for awesome weekly emails that will help you find resources and information to fulfill your school's mission.

Download now: Corporate Sponsorship Planner


Your letter needs to include a strong introduction stating the reason for your request. You may start with a startling statistic or an anecdote about a student at your school (protecting the student’s confidentiality). It could be a quote from a parent or teacher, or a description of a recent and related fundraising event. 

Next, you will want to describe your school and the important work you are doing. Share any recent accomplishments, such as expanding to include new grade levels or more students, earning recognition for academic improvement, or other grant awards. If someone at your school helped make the introduction, be sure to reference their name here.

After you have introduced your school, you will describe the problem you want to solve. Tie it back to your first paragraph and show how this problem is impacting your ability to serve your students. Explain exactly what is needed to solve the problem and what you are asking for. Continue with the measurable objectives this donation or grant will help you achieve. Consider the organization’s priorities, and show how funding this project will help them fulfill their corporate giving goals. Demonstrate how their partnership with your school will have a meaningful impact on the community you both serve. 

In the final paragraph, give your contact details and any related information, such as a deadline for when the funds are needed and why. Express your appreciation for their time and consideration. Continue to build this relationship with professional courtesy.

The letter needs to be signed by a school leader who is authorized to make requests of this type. This is generally the school principal or a member of the board of directors.

You may wish to include attachments to support your request. Any of the following may be appropriate:

  • Project budget

  • Recent school budget

  • Marketing materials, such as a brochure or fundraising letter

  • IRS nonprofit letter – 501(c)(3)

  • Catalog page or link to a specific item you wish to purchase or to a special event or conference to be funded.

P.S. – a handwritten postscript to your letter is always a good idea. These tend to be noticed (often before the rest of the letter) and are your best chance to appeal to the reader’s emotions. Make the human connection that takes you beyond the typed words. Even if you send the message by email, a postscript in a different font at the bottom of the email tends to get noticed.

5. Follow up 

Make a note in your calendar to follow up with the organization if you don’t hear back within 90 to 120 days. Call the contact, re-introduce yourself, and ask if they received the request letter. If they were not able to fund the full amount, consider asking if they could support your school in another way or with a smaller amount. Look for opportunities to build that relationship for the long-term, not just for this one donation. Ask if you can send them periodic updates on what the school is doing and build an email list of potential supporters.


Here's your free planner!

Would you like to get started? Grab your free copy of this Corporate Sponsorship Planner. Join my mailing list to get your free copy today and also sign up for awesome weekly emails that will help you find resources and information to fulfill your school's mission.

Download now: Corporate Sponsorship Planner


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Ready to learn more? Check out some of my favorite posts:

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Peggy Downs works with school leaders who want to leverage grants to dramatically increase funding, impact, and credibility for their schools. More info and a ton of free resources are waiting for you at: www.peggydowns.com

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