Understanding Sponsorship Levels For Nonprofits

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Published:

September 3, 2022

Last Updated:

January 22, 2024

A partnership between a nonprofit and corporation can be a vital fundraising asset, generating private revenue that can support your organization for years to come.

Through well-designed nonprofit sponsorship levels, your organization can expertly leverage corporate sponsorships to diversify and increase revenue over the long term and support a variety of programming, projects, and events.

The following article will discuss the basics of nonprofit sponsorship packages, including: 

  • how to determine nonprofit sponsorship goals
  • how to create sponsorship levels
  • and how to maximize their usage to benefit your organization.

Let’s begin!

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What Are Nonprofit Sponsorship Levels?

Corporate sponsorships are a great way for nonprofits to bring in extra revenue for their organizations. And one of the best ways to engage and attract potential sponsors is by developing nonprofit sponsorship levels. 

Definition of Nonprofit Sponsorship Levels

Nonprofit sponsorship levels are tiered sponsorship packages that your nonprofit can offer to potential corporate or business partners

In general, each sponsorship level comes with a different price and different sponsorship benefits that the corporation can choose from. This allows potential sponsors to choose how much they would like to give in exchange for certain sponsorship benefits. 

Here’s a great example from the Coastal Bend Food Bank. They offered different sponsorship levels for one of their upcoming events, each with different price tags and different benefits: 

Coastal Bend Food Bank Sponsorship Opportunities

While this example uses fun names like “Cookbook” and “Top Chef” for its sponsorship levels, many nonprofits use the standard Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum system for their sponsorship tiers. 

As the names entail, each sponsorship level offers increasingly more appealing (and exclusive) benefits to the sponsor for a higher price.

By developing these tiers, you give your corporate partners clear and easy-to-understand choices for contributing to your organization. 

Mutual Benefits of Sponsorship

Sponsorships provide mutual benefits for both the corporate sponsor and the nonprofit organization being sponsored.

In most sponsorship deals, the nonprofit receives financial or in-kind support in exchange for the corporation getting their name promoted and brand associated with the nonprofit’s cause. 

This promotional marketing could be very beneficial to the sponsor, as their business receives both positive advertising and increased name recognition. The corporation also gets to help a mission or cause they about. 

Here are some of the most common benefits offered to corporate sponsors: 

  • Their name and logo on the nonprofit’s website
  • A shout out on social media
  • Advertisements in event programs, banners, or signs
  • Complimentary tickets to an event

Common Events Sponsored by Corporations

Corporations and businesses generally sponsor specific events since they are a great avenue for promotion. 

Some of the most common nonprofit events sponsored by corporations include:

  • Galas 
  • Golf tournaments
  • 5K runs or bike races
  • Auctions 

In exchange for their support, the sponsor can get their name and logo on t-shirts, banners, posters, programs or brochures, and other types of marketing materials. 

For example, the Alzheimer's Association’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s event has various local sponsors listed on their website! 

Example of sponsors

We have free nonprofit sponsorship agreement templates here that you can use for your next fundraising event!

Role of Sponsorship Levels in Strategic Partnership

Sponsorship levels are a great tool for securing strategic partnerships with corporations

Creating different sponsorship levels allows you to easily partner with both small businesses and larger corporations depending on their capacity to give. 

And in many cases, a one-time sponsorship can turn into long-term support for your nonprofit. Whether through additional sponsorships, grants, in-kind donations, or more, cultivating relationships with corporations can be a great way to secure support for your organization for years to come.

Why Are Nonprofit Sponsorship Levels Important?

Now that we’ve explained what nonprofit sponsorship levels are, let’s dive deeper into why they are so important for your organization. 

Attracting a Diverse Range of Sponsors

Structured sponsorship levels are important in nonprofit fundraising because they make your organization more attractive to a wide variety of businesses and corporations (both small and large).

For example, smaller businesses may not have the capacity to provide a substantial cash gift, but could manage to provide in-kind gifts like t-shirts or water bottles (more on those below!).

A larger corporation, on the other hand, may be able to contribute a large amount of cash support as long as a “gold” or “platinum” sponsorship level comes with enough positive promotion of their name and brand.

Streamlining Fundraising Efforts

Creating sponsorship levels also relieves your fundraising team from the burden of developing customized packages for every individual corporation they approach

Overall, sponsorship tiers allow you to reach businesses more effectively and efficiently. This means you can solicit more businesses and your team can focus more time on the work of stewarding and deepening those relationships. 

Building Stronger Local Community Connections

Partnering with local businesses through sponsorships is also a way to build stronger community connections

A corporation is not going to associate their name with your nonprofit unless they believe in the cause and your organization’s ability to make a difference. Corporate sponsorships add credibility to your nonprofit and its efforts in your community.

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What Are the Types of Sponsorship?

Many sponsorships will be financial in which sponsors offer money in exchange for some type of recognition. Yet, there are more ways to attract sponsors to help with your cause. We will discuss five types of sponsorship below, including their characteristics and advantages.

Event Sponsorships

If a corporation provides money to help you put on your event (in exchange for the promotion of their business during the event) that is considered an event sponsorship. 

Depending on the type of event, you may also offer the corporation contact information on attendees, speaking opportunities, or discounted tickets for their employees.

In-kind Sponsorships

In-kind sponsorships give sponsors the opportunity to provide a product or service in lieu of cash. Some popular in-kind sponsorships include:

  • Food and drinks
  • Giveaways, such as t-shirts or water bottles
  • Travel expenses for attendees
  • Venue space or hotel accommodations
  • Technology (i.e., a media wall, social media filters, etc.)

Media Sponsorships

Media sponsorships are a great way to create awareness for your events and your nonprofit’s philanthropic goals. This sponsorship gives the media an opportunity to promote your event in exchange for recognition of their media outlet.

Not only will a media outlet promote your event in return for having their logo prominently displayed during the event, but this coverage may also attract new sponsors by expanding your advertising reach essentially for free.

Cause-Related Marketing Sponsorships

Cause-related marketing sponsorships are when a business supports a social issue or belief that is important to their organization. The organization and the nonprofit organization then work together to implement the campaign. 

Cause-related marketing is important to both the philanthropic organization, which gets the funding needed for its campaign, and the company as they receive a positive image and illustrate community engagement.

For example, Alex’s Lemonade Stand was founded by the parents of Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who was diagnosed with childhood cancer at the age of four. Alex wanted to sell lemonade to raise money to fight cancer, and her first lemonade stand raised $2,000 in one day.

Alex passed away at the age of eight, but her parents started the organization in her name and today has numerous cause-related marketing sponsorships, including Applebee’s and Rita’s. 

Example of partners for a nonprofit

The cause-related marketing sponsors give money to the organization and obtain donations from their customers. Northwestern Mutual alone has given more than $20 million to the nonprofit organization.

Team or Individual Athlete Sponsorships

Many local recreational or school teams will also partner with nonprofits through sponsorships. For example, a local soccer team may choose to sponsor a nonprofit that has a mission they want to help advance.  

Individual athletes have also chosen to donate to nonprofits they care about through sponsorships. Many professional athletes have their own charitable foundations they use to partner with causes they care about, while other individual athletes put their own names on an event through a sponsorship donation.

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When Should You Use Nonprofit Sponsors?

Not every situation is right for a corporate sponsorship. Keep reading to learn when the right time is for your organization to start seeking out these kinds of partnerships. 

Launching New Initiatives or Projects

Sponsorships are a great option when launching a new initiative or project at your nonprofit organization. 

Specifically, sponsorships can help you bring in needed revenue without adding to the overhead or costs of the new initiative or project.

And by using streamlined sponsorship levels, your team can receive sponsorship support while simultaneously focusing their energy and time on launching the new initiative.

Organizing Large-scale Events

Large-scale events are expensive, which is why enticing both small and large sponsors to offset the cost is a great strategy. 

For example, if you are hosting an evening gala, you could contact the hotel and see if they would offset some of the cost in exchange for being a platinum sponsor.

These types of large-scale events are a win-win, as they are the perfect way for sponsors to promote their businesses while also supporting a nonprofit through monetary or in-kind gifts. 

Expanding Outreach or Services

Sponsorships can also be extremely beneficial when your nonprofit is trying to expand its outreach or services

Businesses often want to partner with nonprofits that are making a tangible difference in their communities. They want to see the impact that their donations and support make. 

If your nonprofit is planning on expanding its outreach or services, you can approach local businesses to see if they would be interested in helping you increase your capacity to serve the community. They’ll be able to clearly see how their support would make a tangible difference. 

During Financial Shortfalls

Nearly all (if not all) nonprofits have financial shortfalls, which make sponsorship levels that much more important. 

When your nonprofit is struggling to bring in needed revenue, corporate sponsorships can help you fill in those fundraising gaps.

This is why it’s so important to create different sponsorship levels at different price points—you can attract financial support from a wide variety of interested partners with different giving capacities!

Who Can You Ask to Sponsor Your Nonprofit?

In this next section, we are going to share some ideas for who you can approach for potential sponsorships and why targeting the right kind of sponsor based on your nonprofit’s mission, needs, and the nature of the event or project is so important. 

Let’s dive in!

Local Businesses and Corporations

Local businesses should be your first choice for sponsors if you are holding a fundraising event. 

When soliciting these potential sponsors, you should not only focus on who you are helping, but also the audience attending the event. That way, the local businesses have a clear understanding of the brand awareness and advertising they will be receiving in exchange.

Philanthropists and High-net-worth Individuals

Philanthropists and high-net-worth individuals that care about your nonprofit’s cause can be the perfect candidates for sponsorships! 

To find these individuals, you can actually attend other nonprofit events to see what names are prominently displayed. You can also check out annual reports to find these larger donors. 

Alumni or Long-term Supporters of the Nonprofit

Some nonprofits have an established group of alumni or long-term supporters that they can reach out to for sponsorship.

For example, maybe some of your long-term supporters or alumni work at local businesses that would be interested in sponsoring your nonprofit. Or, maybe some of your long-term supporters are philanthropists themselves. With a little research, you may realize you have lots of potential sponsors you could reach out to. Remember—they already care about what you are doing and your mission!

Other Nonprofit Organizations or Foundations

There is no reason you should not contact other nonprofit organizations or foundations that may have an interest in promoting themselves at your event.

Don’t forget that a sponsorship is a partnership between you and the sponsor. If there is another organization or foundation that shares your mission, they may be interested in supporting your event or project.

What Are the Different Titles for Sponsorships?

How you choose to name your different sponsorship levels is up to you and your nonprofit. However, there are a few common sponsorship titles and naming conventions that we will discuss below. 

Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Sponsors

The most common types of sponsorship titles are bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. As the names suggest, each level gives more benefits in exchange for a higher-level of sponsorship.

For example, you could set your sponsorship tiers as:

  • Bronze - $1,000
  • Silver - $5,000
  • Gold - $10,000
  • Platinum - $20,000

Path International, a nonprofit that supports equine-assisted services, is a good example of a nonprofit that offers different sponsorship packages. On their website, you can click on each individual tier to learn more about the benefits that come with it. 

Example of sponsorship levels from Path International

Title Sponsors

A title sponsor is a larger corporation that gives money, goods, or services to your event in exchange for having their name appear before the title of your event.

For example, if Giant Food Stores decides to be your title sponsor, the title of your event could be: “Giant Food Stores’ a Night at the Gala.”

A title sponsor will typically give a great deal of money for this exclusive benefit because they are given the branding rights to your event—so make sure you have a committed contract drawn up so that they don’t fall through at the last minute.

Presenting Sponsors

A presenting sponsor is similar to a title sponsor, but while the title sponsor is the main sponsor of the event, a presenting sponsor is featured and recognized in programs and on banners. 

Here’s the an example of the distinction:

  • Title Sponsor: The Giant Food Store Night at the Gala
  • Presenting Sponsor: Our Night at the Gala, Presented by Giant Food Stores

A presenting sponsorship is a level below the title sponsorship, but still offers prominent branding opportunities to the companies involved.

Associate Sponsors

A lower, yet still prominent level of sponsorship is an associate sponsor. These are usually companies that give either money or in-kind support in exchange for having their name or logo featured in a program or on a banner with other associate sponsors.

Product or Service Specific Sponsors

Product or service specific sponsors are just that—they offer products or services for your event in exchange for promotion of their company.

This could include a catering company offering the food, a local textiles company providing free t-shirts, or even a security company offering their services for a gala in exchange for advertising and branding promotion throughout the event.

10 Steps to Creating Successful Nonprofit Sponsorship Levels

Ready to start creating sponsorship tiers for your own nonprofit organization? Follow these ten steps below. 

1. Establish a Clear Objective

The first step to developing successful sponsorship levels is establishing a clear fundraising goal. 

Any type of fundraising initiative should start with a clear objective in mind. Make sure you understand how much you are hoping to raise with sponsorships before you start designing each tier.

2. Conduct Market Research

Next you will want to conduct market research to identify potential sponsors. 

Start by looking at other nonprofits in the area and check out who sponsors them. You can make a list of local businesses you think may be interested in supporting your nonprofit as well. 

You can also use your donor database to see if any of your supporters own or work at local businesses near you. And don’t forget to reach out to philanthropists and high-net individuals as well. 

3. Make a Plan

Before you create the actual sponsorship levels, you need to have a plan in place. 

You should establish a timeline that details:

  • When you will design the sponsorship levels 
  • When you will send out your sponsorship requests 
  • Who will be responsible for sending out each request 
  • When/if you will follow-up with potential sponsors who don’t respond 

You should also meet with your team to determine whether anyone on your team already has connections with local (or national) businesses. For example, if someone on your board works for a local hospital, they should be the one to contact that hospital for a platinum sponsorship.

Existing connections can strengthen a request, so be mindful of who is responsible for outreach.  

4. Identify and Segment Potential Sponsors

Once you’ve identified the potential businesses and individuals you want to reach out to, you will need to segment them into different levels based on how much you think they can give. 

You can use your market research to help with this, and also review how much they have given to similar nonprofit organizations. 

For example, if you discover that most of your sponsors are local, family-run businesses, you should make sure that your lowest tier is attainable for them and their budgets.  

5. Identify Benefit Types

The key to successful sponsorship packages are the benefits your nonprofit organization can offer potential sponsors. 

Here are some of the most common benefits you could offer your sponsors: 

  • Their logo to appear on print materials—event banners, programs, tickets, etc.
  • Acknowledgement in a press release
  • Acknowledgement in a speech/directly to an audience
  • Ticket packages
  • Access to a reception or a VIP event
  • Control over naming rights to an event, program, project, building, etc.
  • Social media shout outs 

6. Determine an Amount for Each Level

Determining the amounts for each sponsorship level should connect directly to your project’s budget and fundraising goal.

Make sure each level of giving is associated with the appropriate benefits. For example, if you have a $5,000 dollar sponsorship level and a $15,000 sponsorship level, be sure to indicate stark contrasts between the benefits each level will receive and why there is potentially a greater benefit to giving more.

You will also want to make sure the amount for each level is attainable; otherwise, you will be positioning your event or project for a difficult uphill fundraising battle you may very well lose.

While your annual gala might be a priceless event in your eyes, a sponsor may not be willing to part with tens of thousands to secure a table or have their logo appear on print materials.

7. Name Sponsorship Levels

Do sponsorship level names matter? Yes! Creating appealing names for your sponsorship levels is a task that should not be taken lightly.

You can always go the precious metal route we have discussed, as these are well-known to sponsors and indicate prestige as the metal gets more precious: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. These are simple, yet effective because they are easily understood.

You could also name your sponsorship levels based on a theme that aligns with your organization’s mission. Take for example the Antigonish Farmers’ Market. They have created sponsorship levels like “planter” for $500 gifts and “barnraiser” for $50,000 and up. 

Antigonish Farmers’ Market levels

8. Design Attractive Sponsorship Packages

Now that you have your different sponsorship levels, you can design attractive sponsorship packages. The main goal is to make each level easy to understand so that sponsors know what they are getting when they give more.

The design itself should be eye-catching while also aligning with your nonprofit organization’s branding. For example, if your logo is blue and yellow, these colors should be prominent in the packages. 

Using a table to depict each level is the perfect way to illustrate your sponsorship packages. That way, potential sponsors know exactly what they are getting for their support.

9. Engage and Build Relationships

Since your sponsors are your partners, you want to engage and build relationships with them over time. You will want to take the time to get to know each of your sponsors and build a connection with them.

The reason they may want to work with you is because they share your values and concerns. Building a relationship overtime helps ensure that they feel connected to your cause and will continue to sponsor you in the future.

10. Review and Iterate

Last but certainly not least, you will want to review everything you have done to see if you can repeat these sponsorship levels in the future. 

If you go with the standard medals, they can be used for numerous events. On the other hand, if you name your sponsorship levels after the theme of your event, you may need to revise those names if you hold a different event at a later date.

Wrapping Up: How to Create Sponsorship Levels for Your Nonprofit

Creating nonprofit sponsorship levels for your organization can feel like a difficult task.

However, corporate sponsors are a crucial fundraising tool and an important mechanism for leveraging relationships.

For even more tips and tricks, check out our post for more information on building strong relationships with corporations. We also have a free nonprofit sponsorship levels template you can use as well. 

With the tools and examples provided in this article, you will be well on your way to developing successful sponsorship tiers that attract a variety of corporate sponsors who will become critical allies in your work moving forward.

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