Creating Open Doors: Sponsors Who Ask to Contribute

One of the most difficult tasks in fundraising is also the most important: asking for money.

Some fundraisers find discussing money to be uncomfortable or impolite. It’s been especially awkward in the past year, as the pandemic triggered more and more nonprofits to reach out to donors for help, and those donors began to feel fatigued.

What if you could skip that step, and instead create an open door for sponsors to offer up their own donations—without even having to ask for money?

Focus Conversation on the Sponsor, NOT You

From your very first pitch to a potential sponsor, you should be gearing every conversation to what the sponsor wants.

Listen more than you talk!

It’s easy for fundraisers to get on a roll talking about their nonprofit, the importance of their work, and all the great things the organization has accomplished. Nonprofit work is passionate work, and who knows your cause, your mission, and your work better than you do?

But dominating the conversation like this can send potential sponsors and donors the wrong message about who you are and the nature of the partnership you want.

No sponsor wants to work with someone overbearing; often, these decision-makers have their own agenda that they want to pursue. The key to success in soliciting a sponsor is aligning what your nonprofit can offer with their interests, and
showing that you are receptive to their ideas.

Pay close attention to social cues and body language!

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Is your potential sponsor losing interest? Ask a question about themselves and what interests them. As the conversation proceeds, ask what has caught their interest in your pitch so far, and focus more on those specific cause areas. Spend your time with the sponsor discussing that topic in-depth. Let them talk about themselves, their experiences and their story. And never interrupt!

Let your sponsor guide the conversation to how they want to participate in your nonprofit work, and use that information to create a wide open doorway for a sponsorship.

Creating an “Open Door”

A truly sponsor-focused conversation will tell you a lot about them, how to communicate with them, and eventually how to ask them to join your team and become part of the solution.

So now you know what interests them, and what causes they feel passionate about. It’s time to approach your ask: what your nonprofit needs, and how your potential sponsor can help make that happen.

WAIT! It’s not about what you need—it’s about what the sponsor needs!

There are a lot of great ways to reach the “ask” part of the conversation that don’t result in you asking them for money—which is what a lot of fundraisers are afraid of doing, and can make an otherwise great conversation suddenly feel awkward.

By this point in your relationship, you should know whether or not your potential sponsor is really interested. And if they are truly passionate about the same cause that you are, then they should be ready and excited to become a part of the solution—with you there only to help make that happen for them.

Your nonprofit is just the vehicle for a sponsor to achieve their own goals.

You wouldn’t be having a conversation with this sponsor if they didn’t have some personal interest in a potential sponsorship. Present your “ask” in the same manner: your potential sponsor has something they want to accomplish in this cause area. How can your nonprofit organization make that happen?

Open That Door!

Now all you need to do is say what’s needed to accomplish that goal. This is a great time to have numbers ready and prepared for how much money you need to achieve that specific benchmark or result. “We need $20,000 to do this, and here’s where that money will go.”

That’s all you need to do! You’ve said the number without asking for anything—all you’ve done is open a door to your sponsor that they can choose to walk right through. If your potential sponsor is truly dedicated to this goal, they’ll be getting out the checkbook and offering what you need to achieve it.

Remember: sponsor relationships are a partnership where you both share a passion for the mission. You’re in this together to help create change!

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