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If you run a student organization, you probably have a wishlist of places you’d like your group to go and events you wish to host. You understandably want to provide maximum value for all participants, but you need money to transform your vision into reality in today’s society.
You have various ways of amassing the requisite capital, and your position as a student group at a university gives you a decided edge regarding fundraising. Many companies recognize the value of education and donate money, time, or both based on your school affiliation. You also have a rich alumni network.
However, you still need the correct approach — you don’t want to randomly beg for cash. Does your student group qualify for an educational sponsorship? Here’s what you need to know.
Funding Sources for Student Organizations
Before taking a deep dive into education sponsorship, pause to explore the various potential funding sources for your student group. The most financially successful organizations use a combination approach to pad their coffers.
However, before you launch any one of these methods, please check with your university administration to review any rules they have surrounding student organization funding.
You should also check to ensure your student organization has nonprofit status. If not, you may wish to work with your school administration to go through the process. You may need to do so for tax purposes and abide by school rules. But have no fear. While the process sounds daunting, even high school students have successfully started nonprofits — with help and guidance, you will succeed and learn a valuable skill.
This status enables you to take advantage of any potential funding sources for student organizations outlined below. When you determine you need to fill your coffers, your first question should be which methods or combination thereof will fill it quickly and with minimal trouble.
College grants don’t only apply to individual learners. Outside of school, it’s challenging for individuals to qualify for any — the majority require the recipient organization to hold 501(c)(3) status. Here’s another reason why forming a nonprofit is vital to securing funding.
You can find grants for students in your organization to attend conferences and workshops or fund unique projects addressing problems your school community or society faces. For example, a student group dedicated to sobriety and addiction recovery could apply for a grant to further a research project helping incoming first-year students resist the urge to binge-drink at off-campus parties.
The beautiful part of grants is that you do not need to repay them. Once you qualify, your organization is free to use that money for its intended purpose, interest-free. Check out these four primary sources of grant funding:
- The federal government: You can find their database at Grants.gov.
- The state government: Your state will likewise provide a directory.
- Your institution: While it’s somewhat unusual for schools to offer grants to student groups, check with your financial aid office.
- Private grants: Some nonprofit organizations provide grants to students. Often, these awards go to individuals, but it could benefit you to reach out on behalf of your organization.
2. Fundraising Campaigns and Donation Accounts
Your student organization will need to have a dedicated donation account for soliciting money from outside benefactors. You’ll need your federal tax identification number, so have it handy when you go if you don’t already have an account established.
Shop around at various institutions if so — you want to understand the rules, such as who may access the account and what identification they need to do so.
Once you establish your account, you can do whatever types of fundraisers your college or university permits. Consider some of these fun activities with your student group:
- Bike, walk, or ride-a-thon: Participants pay a fee to enter. Many make it possible to win prizes, which you might obtain for free through corporate sponsorships.
- Car wash: Who doesn’t love a little fun in the sun while you wash and wax your way to your fundraising goals?
- Bake sale: Are you the president of the Young Chefs and Bakers Club? Even if your student organization devotes its time to a different activity, you might still have members anxious to show off their culinary expertise.
You’ve seen the heart-wrenching commercials on television for various rescue organizations. If your school rules permit, you can offer memberships in your organization. Participants typically receive VIP access to club activities and events. You might also reward new members with a gift, put out a quarterly newsletter, or provide a certificate thanking them for their ongoing gift.
The benefit of this form of student group sponsorship is a reliable income stream each month. You’ll want to keep the goodness going by acknowledging your members on special events like their birthdays and holidays.
Sometimes, you might receive financial support from another student organization. This method works well when you have an idea you realize is too big for your group alone.
For example, you might want to invite a major corporation to host a recruitment event at your university. It’s unlikely that the Young Astronomer’s Club alone has sufficient membership to make a draw worth it for a company like Google or Microsoft. However, if you join forces with several other organizations, recruiters now feel more tempted by the enlarged candidate pool they can draw.
5. Corporate Sponsorship
The final funding source your student group might qualify for is educational sponsorship from a corporation. In such arrangements, the business benefits from goodwill and recognition of its charitable efforts. They also promote their brand awareness among a group of future consumers.
Depending on the type of event you host, corporate sponsors stand to gain more. If they fund or provide supplies for a career exploration or recruitment event, they might walk away with a stack of resumes from highly qualified job candidates. They gain access to a pool of young innovators who may help propel their enterprise forward.
However, it isn’t easy to entice busy executives to donate money or time. The remainder of this piece devotes itself to teaching you how to succeed in your quest to have your student group qualify for this type of funding.
The Three Types of Corporate Sponsorships
Before you identify a target and make your presentation and ask, you need to understand the three principal ways corporate sponsors can help. You can then target your request to the type of support you feel each potential donor is best equipped to provide.
Monetary donations are the most common. They’re also potentially the easiest to obtain because they require less effort on the donee’s part — all they have to do is open the corporate checkbook. However, you must clearly outline what the company receives in return.
Please don’t overlook this type of corporate sponsorship, particularly when networking with alumni. It could provide the ideal opportunity for someone with an up-and-coming business to improve their name recognition without making a capital expenditure they may lack.
For example, someone who recently opened a restaurant might cater a student event, letting patrons taste the goodness and leaving them craving more.
3. Media and Promotional
Media corporate sponsorships either come from such organizations or involve a company paying for radio or television advertising of your event. Promotional sponsorship is quite similar, although it frequently focuses on individuals, such as YouTube recording artists or social media influencers.
Identifying Potential Funding Sources for Student Organizations
Now that you understand what corporate sponsorship is and how it can help, how do you find the right people and businesses to approach? Give the following five methods a try:
- Network with alumni: Many colleges and universities host alumni-student meet-and-greet events. Please plan to attend and network. You might also speak with recent graduates you met as upperclassmen in freshman year or talk with your campus alumni affairs office.
- Attend outside networking events: Outside networking events can benefit you and result in student group sponsorship. If you fly solo, you won’t have to concern yourself with university rules of what you may and may not discuss. Mention your ideas — you may get lucky with unsolicited offers of help.
- Speak with industry experts: Your professors are excellent resources. For example, if you are the president of the Young Engineers Association, speak with your physics instructor about people they might know who work in the industry and who would be willing to talk to student groups or potentially sponsor events.
- Understand target markets: You could sit down with Google and look for nearby businesses that seem like logical matches for your organization. If you go this route, please ensure you understand the basics of target markets. Remember: your sponsor wants to get something besides warm fuzzies out of your relationship — a rational alliance might involve a student agricultural society and a local farmer’s market collective.
- Start a letter-writing campaign: This method is a bit like cold-calling, only less intrusive, and follows your market research. Once you identify businesses that seem like logical partners, you can craft letters introducing your group and your aims.
How to Qualify for Student Educational Funding Through Corporate Sponsorship
You’ve done your research and identified some organizations that may make appropriate funding sources for your student organization. You’re ready to put together your proposal and make your approach. What’s next?
- Create a realistic timeline: You need to give the businesses you approach adequate time to decide and amass the materials they will need to sponsor your event and give presentations. It’s wise to start the process several months in advance to prevent a last-minute rush on any party.
- Put together a proposal package: To save time, your organization can create a sample template including the event type, the intended audience, location, presentation lead and flow, advertising, and total costs. You should also indicate whether resumes and recruiters are welcome at your event. The more detail you provide, the better. Even if you use a standard format for each proposal, customize it to each organization.
- Ask for what you need: Here’s the challenging part — the ask. For this role, you must identify a confident student who isn’t afraid to say, “Can we count on you to provide X support for our club?” It should be someone with a cheerful, optimistic attitude who understands objections and avoids taking “no” personally.
- Follow up and deliver: You might not get the answer you want on your first try. It’s on you to follow up in an appropriate timeframe and manner if the company representative you approach says they need to think things over. Once they commit, you need to deliver on your half of the bargain with what you promised in your proposal.
If you do a thorough and transparent job, you might be able to count on the same sponsors returning to help with future events. Please remember your etiquette — and always follow up with a written thank-you letter and perhaps a small token of your appreciation.
Does Your Student Group Qualify for an Education Sponsorship?
Now you understand more about funding sources for student organizations and student group sponsorship. Does yours qualify for an education sponsorship?