How to Create Sponsorship Levels for Your Nonprofit

The partnership between a nonprofit and corporation can be a vital fundraising asset, generating private revenue that will support the 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, how to create nonprofit sponsorship goals, how to determine sponsorship levels, and how to maximize their usage to benefit your organization.

Let us begin!

What Are Nonprofit Sponsorship Levels?

Sponsor

First things first: what exactly are nonprofit sponsorship levels?

Nonprofit sponsorship levels are tiered packages developed by a nonprofit organization to secure corporate sponsors.

Corporate sponsorship is a mutually beneficial relationship—while the nonprofit organization receives financial support from the business or corporate entity, the business also benefits from the partnership. Businesses are eager to leverage nonprofit partnerships to their advantage, mainly as a form of positive marketing and increased name recognition.

Commonly, corporations will often sponsor a nonprofit’s special event such as a gala, charity run or walk, or concert. Corporations want their name to be associated with popular and charitable causes to draw in more customers and create a positive image for their brand.

However, as corporate sponsorships become more ubiquitous and therefore competitive, nonprofits need to be more strategic about how to secure and foster relationships with sponsors.

This is where nonprofit sponsorship levels come in.

Nonprofit sponsorship levels provide corporations with a variety of attractive packages to choose from based on the financial contribution they are willing or able to make. Creating sponsorship levels gives corporations the flexibility to choose how they can contribute and allows your nonprofit to be strategic in how they approach potential sponsors.

For example, creating a bronze level (low giving level), a silver level (mid-range giving level), and a gold level (high-range giving level), will indicate to your corporate partners that they have clear, easy-to-understand choices for contributing to your organization.

Why Are Nonprofit Sponsorship Levels Important?

Person thinking

Nonprofit sponsorship levels are important because they make your organization more attractive to a wide variety of businesses and corporations and relieve your fundraising team of the burden of developing customized packages for specific corporations.

Nonprofit sponsorship levels offer businesses varying levels of benefits to choose from depending on their own ability to give. For example, a smaller business may not have the capacity to provide a substantial cash gift but could manage to provide in-kind gifts.

On the other hand, a larger company may be able to contribute a great deal of cash support, but may not be as willing to contribute without a comprehensive advertising and recognition package offered by the nonprofit.

While it may seem smart to only go after larger corporations with great capacity to give and flexibility in how they do so, this is a mistake.

Corporate sponsorships should always be viewed as a partnership, not just a one-to-one transaction. Partnering with small, local businesses can be just as fruitful (sometimes more so) in terms of outreach and networking as a partnership with a large national chain.

Smaller local connections can also create community trust in your own organization and open the door to practical relationships that will help you advance your work in immediate, tangible ways.

Developing nonprofit sponsorship levels also alleviates the amount of labor your fundraising team has to put into soliciting businesses and forming those very first connections. Creating diverse and attractive sponsorship tiers will allow you to more effectively and efficiently reach more businesses.

Instead of working to tailor individual packages for individual corporations, you can create a set of sponsorship levels that would fit a certain kind of business (e.g., a package for small businesses, a mid-size package, etc.). That way you can mail out more solicitations to the types of businesses you are reaching out to.

With this first step already managed, your team can focus on the work of stewarding and deepening those relationships.

Overall, sponsorships are crucial to building out a robust fundraising program. Sponsorships not only provide vital dollars to your organization, they are also an incredible networking tool—a great way to fundraise while creating critical connections within your community.

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5 Steps to Creating Successful Nonprofit Sponsorship Levels

Success

Now that you have a baseline understanding of what nonprofit sponsorship levels are and why they are important, it is time to get to the important details!

The following are key steps you can take to create successful nonprofit sponsorship levels that will help you attract support for your events, projects, or programs.

Let’s get started!

1. Establish a Clear Objective

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

Any type of fundraising should always begin with goal setting. Not only should your nonprofit set a clear financial goal for your event, project, or program that you will seek sponsorships for, but you should also establish other clear objectives related to the project.

Before you start creating sponsorship levels, you should ask yourself if sponsorships are appropriate for the project or event you are fundraising for. How will sponsorships benefit and advance the overall goals of the project? Will sponsorships be an effective way to bring in support for the project and help you reach your goals?

Think strategically. You should have a cohesive plan in place before you begin developing your sponsorship levels and approach anyone with a sponsorship package. You can learn more about strategic planning and developing smart objectives here.

2. Make a Plan

The bulk of the work that goes into developing successful nonprofit sponsorship levels is strategizing and planning.

Many organizations may approach the process of developing sponsorship levels without much thought. It is easy to assume that because your nonprofit organization is successful and has a great track record, the work will speak for itself.

Who wouldn’t want to sponsor a nonprofit that boasts such excellent achievements? If only it were that simple!

Before you go any further in creating your nonprofit sponsorship levels, it is important to consider the following steps:

  • Identify several organizations you plan to reach out to.
  • Consider the type of organization and businesses you are targeting and how that will influence level development.
  • Establish a timeline of when you plan to send out sponsorship requests.
  • Work with your team to identify who will be making the request—will one team member be responsible for all sponsorship requests? Are there team members who have connections to any of the businesses you intend to reach out to? Remember: existing connections can strengthen a request, so be mindful of who is responsible for outreach.

If you start the level creation process with clear objectives and a plan at the ready the rest of the pieces will more easily fall into place.

3. Identify Benefit Types

The obvious keys to any successful nonprofit sponsorship level packages are the types of benefits your nonprofit organization can offer potential sponsors.

It can seem like a daunting task. How do you identify what types of benefits to offer and what kind of benefits will draw in the perfect sponsors?

As previously mentioned, it all comes down to first identifying the types of corporate sponsorships you want to seek out.

Are you looking for a diverse range of businesses to sponsor your project? Are you only looking for small to midsize businesses to partner with? Broadly identifying the types of corporations you intend to solicit will help you narrow down the most effective benefits to offer at each level.

Marketing and advertising are essential benefits to any nonprofit sponsorship level. You will want to break down the types of marketing opportunities you can offer depending on the tier sponsors wish to give at and the projects they support.

Some potential benefits are:

  • Sponsor’s logo to appear on print materials—event banners, programs, tickets, etc.
  • Acknowledgement in 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.
  • Sponsor’s logo to appear on web content/social media

4. Determine an Amount for Each Level

Determining a specific amount to associate with each sponsorship tier should be as thoughtful a process as any. If you haphazardly choose random amounts for your sponsorships, it could spell disaster for your project.

Be aware of your project’s budget and the aforementioned fundraising goal. This will be your guide for determining the amount associated with each sponsorship level.

You will want to associate each level of giving with the appropriate benefits. 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.

Be sure the amounts for each sponsorship level are realistic as well. While your annual gala might be a priceless event in your eyes, a sponsor may not be willing to part with six-figure sponsorship to secure a table or have their logo appear on print materials.

Amounts should be attainable. You will want to strategically assign an amount to each level that you will feel assured you can secure. Otherwise, you will be positioning your event or project for a difficult uphill fundraising battle you may very well lose.

5. Name Sponsorship Levels

What’s in a name? Well, there is actually a lot in a name, and creating appealing names for your sponsorship levels is a task that should not be taken lightly.

Many nonprofits stick to something basic to help easily identify and exemplify the importance of each sponsorship level. A very common sponsorship naming approach is the Olympic medal convention—a bronze level, a silver level, and a gold level.

While this approach may seem too simple, it is effective all the same. If you are a smaller nonprofit just starting your sponsorship program, you may want to begin with the basics. Basic naming conventions like bronze, silver, and gold are universally understood and communicate a lot of information about each level without getting into the minor details and benefit specifics.

Once you start adding more than three different levels, you can begin to get really creative!

A great way to approach naming your sponsorship levels is to develop 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.

Creating special names can help engage potential sponsors and further highlight the work of your organization. It can also help create a greater sense of partnership, connection, and camaraderie between you and your sponsors.

Examples of Successful Nonprofit Sponsorship Levels

Example

One of the best ways to kick off the process of creating a successful nonprofit sponsorship level is to look for examples of what works. As corporate sponsorship becomes more and more prevalent in the nonprofit sector, nonprofits are becoming more creative in the development of sponsorship levels.

Take for example the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s sponsorship package for their 2020 Gala event “Countdown to Zero”.

AIDS Foundation of Chicago sponsorship package

The foundation established three distinct sponsorship levels—Impact Sponsor, Innovative Sponsor, and Inspiration Sponsor. These levels are a great example of a standard three-tier sponsorship package with very typical offerings in terms of advertisements (print, mail, online, and social media), event day exposure, and other miscellaneous benefits such as reserved seats for the dinner.

Something to consider when creating different sponsorship levels is the changing landscape of nonprofit events and programming. Events, for example, significantly shifted to online arrangements after the onset of the recent global pandemic.

Despite this, virtual events still need sponsors!

Take a look at the YWCA of Minneapolis sponsorship packet from their recent virtual forum, “It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race”.

Despite the event’s medium, the YWCA found ways to develop unique benefits and create engaging tiers that stand out. Some of the unique benefits offered are logos on signage at partner YWCA fitness centers and event access for a stated number of guests with facilitated dialogues.

YWCA of Minneapolis sponsorship packet

Wrapping Up: How to Create Sponsorship Levels for Your Nonprofit

How to guide

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 this post for more information on building strong relationships with corporations and businesses. 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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