How to Find Higher Education Sponsorship Opportunities

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May 19, 2021
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Higher education sponsorship opportunities have been around for many years, and many student organizations have taken advantage of this kind of funding. From college sports teams to LGBTQ+ activist groups, students everywhere have used sponsors’ contributions to support themselves and the community.

This funding has been so helpful that many clubs and organizations still heavily rely on educational sponsorship to keep achieving goals and making an impact. Yet, finding sponsors can be a difficult task, especially for new organizations or those that might not have worried about funding in the past. Where do they look? Who should they ask? How much will these sponsors be willing to give?

If nonprofit fundraising seems daunting, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know before you begin the search for college student organization sponsors.

What Is a Higher Education Sponsorship Opportunity?

A higher education sponsorship opportunity is a form of support college nonprofit organizations receive from a corporate sponsor. This support can include financial assistance, goods and services, media promotions, and more. For instance, if your agreement includes promotions, you’ll likely be obligated to mention one another in media coverage and advertisements. Likewise, they may donate canned goods if you’re hosting a food drive or offer free services as a raffle prize. 

However, the most common types of educational sponsorships are monetary in nature. These sponsorships are essentially business transactions because they generally benefit both parties.

What Mutual Benefits Do Sponsorships Offer?

Educational sponsorships benefit both companies and student organizations. The symbiotic relationship between the two groups allows them to enjoy increased awareness and brand recognition. As you publicly share one another’s goals and achievements, you’ll both benefit from exposure to new audiences, which can help you and your sponsors attract new customers and supporters.

Sponsorships can also benefit organizations by boosting their credibility. The more people know they’re a legitimate club or organization, the more likely they are to donate money. More importantly, the more willing companies will be to sponsor you in the future.

Meanwhile, companies will receive tax deductions for making donations to your organization. They’ll also attract more employees who value the community and want to make a difference.

What Kinds of Companies Sponsor Student Organizations?

Many big companies offer educational sponsorships to student organizations, with Wells Fargo being the top sponsor. However, other businesses like Starbucks, Whole Foods Market, Gatorade, Subway, and Barefoot Wine also make indirect contributions to college clubs and organizations. For instance, Subway has sponsored a wide variety of college sports teams and even partnered with the Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland to support local teams.

Of course, big brands aren’t the only ones looking to sponsor college clubs and related events. Many local companies and small businesses rely on sponsorship agreements to get involved in the community and simultaneously garner publicity.

How Can You Get a Sponsorship for College Events?

Getting a sponsorship for college events is no easy task. However, it is much easier to do if you plan ahead and can clearly communicate the essence of your event or organization. If you can’t paint a clear picture of either, potential sponsors won’t feel confident enough to form a sponsorship agreement.

Define your organization and plan your event far enough in advance to attract sponsors. Then, figure out what you might have sponsors do at your event. How can they support you and your nonprofit of choice? Know what your process will be once a sponsor is ready to commit and be timely in responding to questions. Then, ask a few questions of your own to discover what each brand’s goals are for the arrangement.

Where Do You Find Higher Education Sponsorship Opportunities?

Finding sponsorship opportunities is all about knowing where to look, and the best place to do that is the internet. Find the right college student organization sponsors by conducting a bit of online research. Which big brands are currently sponsoring organizations and events similar to yours? Do they have a relationship with other clubs at your school? If they don’t have any affiliation with your objectives or the nonprofits you support, it’s best to take your search elsewhere. 

You might also find higher education sponsorship opportunities by connecting with other organizations at your university. Who have they received support from in the past? Do they recommend staying away from a certain company? Often, they’ll be able to recommend both small businesses and larger corporations that they’ve had good experiences with.

How Can You Outreach and Recruit College Student Organization Sponsors?

Once you find a few viable companies, it’s time to reach out and recruit them as sponsors. Of course, this is easier said than done. And depending on their response time, the process may take a few months. Therefore, it’s crucial that you make the first move as soon as possible.

First, personalize your request by stopping by the business in-person or by sending an email that explains how they would benefit from supporting your club or event. If a few days pass and you still haven’t received a reply, follow up with a quick phone call or email.

Consistently request to speak with them and continue to inquire about funding until they give you a clear “no.” While this approach may seem pushy, it likely won’t come across that way to busy professionals who appreciate frequent reminders. Plus, it will show the company you’re serious about garnering support for your organization and value serving the community.

Gain more sponsors by thinking outside the box and delegate one person within your organization to be the point of contact. Brainstorm and form ideas as a group. Then, have your point person provide you with ongoing updates so you can announce donor support on social media in a timely manner.

How Do You Create Sponsor Packets for Funding?

Another great way to attract and recruit sponsors is by creating and distributing a sponsor packet. When face-to-face interaction is limited, a packet will help you present your organization in more detail and explain how potential sponsors can get involved. This way, they can review it on their own time and decide whether or not to pass it along to other big donors.

So, what should you include in a sponsor packet for funding? Well, your missions and goals are a good place to start. Frame your packet around a major moment or project to provide focus and immediately engage the reader in your organization or project. Then, describe how the company might benefit from sponsoring it.

Potential sponsors will also be more willing to support groups that can show change through measurable results. Therefore, it may be beneficial to include hard numbers, statistics, and graphs documenting your achievements as a student organization. Highlight your impact by contrasting the before and after and tie each success story to critical funding. Better yet, link each one to a specific sponsor. 

Prepare to update your sponsor packets regularly with new initiatives, programs, statistics, and sponsors. Moreover, it should explain your big picture goals in real-time as they develop to remind companies you’re always striving to do more for the community and everyone in it — including businesses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Finding higher education sponsorship opportunities can be quite complicated. So, if you still have questions about the process, you’re not alone. Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions to help you find the best sponsors for your organization.

What’s the Difference Between Grants and Sponsorships?

As you look to increase revenue from corporations and earn more money for your organization, it’s important to understand the difference between sponsorships and grants. While both can be important sources of funding, grants typically come from larger brands that have corporate foundations.

Meanwhile, sponsorships are usually part of a company’s marketing budget, making them more common among small businesses and less expansive regional companies. Grants also tend to have deadlines and submission and reporting guidelines while sponsorships do not.

Are There Federal Grants for Student Organizations?

There are many types of organizations generally eligible to apply for federal funding opportunities, including educational organizations. Groups in independent school districts, public and state institutions, and private institutions of higher education are all eligible.

However, you may not be able to apply for these grants directly. Contact your student organization advisor or department head to determine the best course of action before trying to submit an application. Remember to ask whether or not your organization will have to repay the grant, too.

How Much Do Sponsors Pay?

Many students aren’t sure how much money they should request from sponsors. Yet, putting a dollar amount out there is one of the most important parts of asking for support. So, just how much money do sponsors pay?

Well, depending on their size and budget, a corporate sponsor may pledge a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. However, there’s no way to know how much a sponsor will give your particular organization until you ask.

Make an educated guess as to how much the small business or big brand is worth and try to figure out how much they’ve given to other nonprofits in the past. These numbers will help you determine how much money to ask for without shocking your potential sponsor.

What Costs Do Educational Sponsorships Cover?

You and your sponsor should discuss exactly where their money will go before making any agreements. This way, they know how you’ll spend their contribution. However, it’s up to you to decide what the educational sponsorship will cover.

Often, student organizations will use it to promote your organization, complete a special project, support other students, buy supplies to volunteer in the community, or host a fundraising event. Thus, a sponsorship can cover a wide variety of costs associated with building an organization and supporting the community.

What Benefits Should You Offer Sponsors?

If you’re hosting an event, honor your sponsors publicly by mentioning them throughout the evening. You might even offer to let someone from the business speak or present a giant check in-person to help boost their reputation. Will your event include a photo booth? Make a backdrop with all of your sponsors’ logos on it.

You can also offer to thank your sponsors on social media to improve their brand recognition and help them reach a wider audience and attract new customers. Publicly expressing your gratitude will also make them more likely to sponsor you in the future.

How Do You Score Repeat Sponsors?

Speaking of future sponsorships, obtaining repeat sponsors is one of the best ways to keep your organization up and running. Thanking current sponsors is just one way to secure ongoing funding. Following up after an event and sending a personalized thank-you is another great idea. You might also include the sponsor in your next sponsorship packet to further incentivize them to support your cause again.

Of course, helping your sponsor achieve their goals by following through on your promises is also an important part of scoring repeat sponsors. Use a spreadsheet to create checklists, meet deadlines, and keep your promises. By the time your event or project rolls around, you should be able to provide measurable evidence of how you’ve helped the company grow.

How Do You Qualify for Sponsorships?

Student organizations don’t have to qualify for higher education sponsorship opportunities. However, they do have to create those opportunities and reach out to sponsors. In other words, you should have a clear idea of how you want your organization to get involved in the community and how a sponsor can help you do that. However, it all comes down to you making the first move, so be bold and reach out.

Making a Difference Together

While a higher education sponsorship is, in many ways, a business transaction, it’s also a way for smaller organizations and companies to make a difference. When the two work together, they can change their communities for the better, which is something both sides can appreciate and feel good about.

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