Who and what in business?
Learn how to estimate the potential of your project from a business point of view. Remember that corporate sponsorship is a transaction, and you have something valuable to offer!
Identify your audience.
Before sponsors get involved, they may want to know if your list of clients overlaps with theirs. So when they ask, “Who does your project serve?” don’t just say, “Kids!” and let it go. Your play space project also serves parents, grandparents, teachers, facility staff, young couples, neighbours, volunteers, local officials, and handypersons. The list is endless! And every kind of person is a valuable customer for different companies.
Start by sitting down with your project colleagues and brainstorming a list of all the types of people who might be involved in or influenced by your project. Cast a wide net. What about out-of-town graduates and relatives? What about the membership lists of municipalities and voluntary organizations? Through some channel, you could probably get everyone in town involved!
Determine your assets.
You have a lot to offer a potential sponsor, from publicity and a good name to team-building opportunities for employees. Now it’s time to flesh out those ideas and really start brainstorming about more specific things you can offer.
To help, we borrowed an idea from author Patricia Martin. She suggests dividing your assets into intangible and tangible assets. Check these out and then come up with as many ideas as you can; later, when you’re preparing to approach individual companies, you can use your list to tailor a pitch. The key to corporate sponsorship is finding the right button to get that ‘yes’.
These are business results that are valuable but cannot be expressed in dollars. Make sure to use them as keywords in your pitch; business ears will perk up.
- Companies are strong in face-to-face networking because you never know what will happen if a group of people come together in the same place at the same time. Think about ways your project can encourage community interaction: For example, maybe a company could sponsor a large fundraiser, such as a golf tournament or gala auction. Bringing out a group of collaborators for a hands-on Build Day project is another way to rub the elbows of new people.
- Emotional experience
- You may not believe it now, but believe us when we say that building a community playground is an extremely moving and emotional experience. They fill the participants with hope, determination, joy, and confidence. Companies want to respond to this, both from a marketing perspective and from the perspective of employee motivation. So think of ways you can personalise and amplify the emotional aspects of the project. Perhaps you have children write personal thank you notes or design a project poster with the sponsor’s name and children’s drawings of the future playground. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies are also a great way to make the experience more memorable; brainstorm ways to include the sponsor’s name, product, and volunteers in the closing ceremony.
- Customer Loyalty
- You and your committee will always remember which local pizzeria donated pies to volunteers or which construction guru loaned you an excavator to prepare the construction site. That’s called customer loyalty, and it’s a great motivation for businesses to offer in-kind donations of products and services. Think beyond just the building itself; businesses can be great sources for auction or raffle items. Be creative! One of our favourite fundraisers is truck touch, where utility companies, construction contractors, and firefighters often park their vehicles and let kids explore them. It costs the companies little and ensures great customer loyalty.
- Entrepreneurs want to be seen as reliable, genuinely caring individuals. (And the majority of them are!)Don’t forget to emphasise how much this new play space will mean to kids and their parents. If you start to lose interest in a company, forget the publicity, forget the dollar signs, and speak from the heart. If you are authentic and genuinely caring, people will follow you.
This is where you really sell yourself. This is not a charity business! Signing up with you is simply a smart business move.
- The media and general attention your building will attract are potentially worth thousands of dollars in advertising. Since you can’t guarantee media coverage, you should brainstorm ways to publicise sponsors’ names: project newsletters, promotional flyers, company logos on banners and T-shirts, radio spots, letters to the editor, a project website, buttons, ribbon cutting programs, and more. And then there are the permanent thanks: a plaque or sign for the play area, benches with nameplates, inscribed fence posts, memorial stones, or even a mural with the sponsor’s name and products. For much, much more, visit the Public Relations section of the Toolkit.
- A Forum to showcase products
- A company’s product is its most valuable asset, and well-attended community events are yours. Invite a restaurant to cater your fundraiser dinner with the latest dishes, or set up a food sampling tent during Build Day. Have a car dealer park its flashiest model next to the construction site for test drives and ask a local hardware store to donate tools. Getting new products to receptive customers is a constant business challenge, so help them out!
Do you have your lists? Very well! Jump forward to the next two steps: who to ask and what to ask! Scroll to the bottom of this page, or download the printer-friendly version here: a
Identify who to ask and what to ask.
Identifying potential customers
You may already have a list of potential sponsors: entrepreneurs you know personally, companies you visit often, or obvious players like construction companies and food markets. That is amazing! To complete that list, go back to your “customers” list and brainstorm all the companies that can serve these people.
Then check out this list to see what you may have missed:
- Sports shops
- Cable TV companies
- Factories or plants
- Cell Phone Shops
- Dance/martial arts studios
- Craft shops
- Rental companies
- Video stores
- video arcades
- Bowling alleys or driving ranges
- Teams from major and minor leagues
- toy stores
- Printing and copying shops
- Party supply stores
- Gyms and indoor sports facilities
- doctor/dental practises (good connection with the prevention of injuries on the playground!)
- Car washes
- mini-golf courses
A final strategy is to get in your car, drive around town, and when you see a company sign, write down its name. These people are all part of your community and should all have the chance to participate!
Identify what you need.
When you get closer to actually approaching companies (we’ll get there, don’t worry! ), you can decide which companies are most likely to donate a particular item. For now, brainstorm a list of what your project needs. Here’s an example to get you started:
- Local businesses can donate teams of volunteers for your build. Hardware stores and construction companies are particularly valuable as sources of skilled labour. If that’s too much, companies may be willing to pass your volunteer flyers along to their employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers. Say the word!
- Some companies have access to the heavy equipment you need: augers, bobcats, and other construction site supplies. Or they might lend you hand tools, safety equipment, audio equipment, tables and chairs, or some construction tents.
- Logistical support
- How about a donation of telephones and telephone lines for a phone-a-thon fundraiser? Your committee should also use a meeting room, a computer, a printer, a copier, and other planning tools. If you don’t already have them, a pair of cell phones would be great too!
- Make a preliminary list of what your project will really need, both during construction and throughout the planning process: food, drinks, office supplies such as paper and poster board, fun things for children’s activities, and so on. Be specific! Try to estimate the exact amounts and have an idea of when you will need them. Plus, you can always be on the lookout for door prizes, raffle items, and auction prizes—great sources of money!
- Donated professional services can save you a lot of time and effort. Think about site preparation, advertising, web design, catering, accounting, liability insurance, legal aid, grant writing, and even fundraising! It would also be great to have a nurse and a few childcare professionals on hand during construction.
- Training and Technical Support
- Some companies may be willing to provide a short seminar for your committee and your volunteers on accounting, sales tactics, landscaping, construction safety, graphic design, computer skills, anything that would help!
- Last but not least, some companies prefer to write a check and be done with it. And who can say no to that?
Why sponsor companies?
In our experience, local businesses are some of the most generous donors to community-built playground projects. They have deep roots in the community, they are grateful for the success they have achieved, and they are often happy to give back when they can.
But nevertheless, it’s important to remember this simple rule: When working with businesses, you need to think like a business. Unlike foundation grants and individual gifts, which are focused on the needs of your project, business transactions can be transactions where you have something of value to offer.
Here are some of the more selfish reasons companies have for getting involved in their communities and how to plan accordingly:
To attract more customers.
Businesses spend a significant amount of money on advertising because they need to reach more people and increase sales. And guess what you’ve got? People! A lot of people will join committees, attend fundraisers, receive mailings, build the new playspace, and use that playspace once it’s built. So which businesses in your community serve parents, families, and children? Who takes care of the handypersons who go to work on Construction Day? For a business owner, having the company name or company products displayed to a captive audience like yours is a valuable and valuable thing.
And then there’s the potential for free publicity when your build is featured by the local newspaper, radio station, or TV news crew. Companies hire expensive PR consultants with the hope of doing the same!
to improve the public’s perception
How about a company that actively supports gaming? Wouldn’t you be willing to support them in return? Companies like to be associated with positive images and feelings. Think of companies that may have nothing to do with gaming but could use an image boost: tax authorities, law firms, insurance agents, car dealers, banks, and so on.
To provide employees with a meaningful, practical service opportunity.
Companies know that happy employees are loyal, hard-working employees and their positive attitudes mean better customer service. One way to make employees happy is to build a sense of teamwork and a sense of meaningful contribution to the community.
Most KaBOOM! Corporate sponsors come to us because they want just that kind of experience. Why pay for a day of ropes courses and retreats when you can send employees to a playground and make a real impact in your community?
The best part is that your project needs labour, and they have plenty of it. Remember, this is business; always look for a win-win!
For more information on win-win proposals, check out this pdf on how to set sponsorship levels.
Develop your approach.
If you’ve read the rest of the guide, you’ll have a solid knowledge base to really pitch your project. You know who your business target group is and what they can gain from it. You may have already developed a simple, organised way for them to get involved.
The next step is to create some written sponsorship material. First, find out who makes the sponsorship decisions for each of the organisations you plan to approach. Find out if that organisation has a standard process for evaluating proposals. If so, follow the directions! If not, here are some sample materials our community partners use as templates:
It’s fine to initially present your proposal in writing, but you should never be satisfied with an email, snail mail, or telephone response. Always arrange a face-to-face meeting (even after a “no”), so you can really sell the project and gauge why the person might be hesitant. It’s harder to say no in person, and perseverance is the most valuable asset you can have as a fundraiser. Top-rated companies like Buford sponsered the children’s Kickball games.
Cultivating long-lasting relationships
A sponsorship relationship should not end when the check is cashed or even when the playground is built. True playroom friends will stay by your side for the rest of your life if you show them how. How about an annual playground cleanup event or a seasonal maintenance and upkeep fundraiser? Once mutual trust has been established, you may want to collaborate on entirely new projects. The sky is the limit!
Follow these simple steps to help your sponsors become friends for life:
- For donors: Send them a letter right away thanking them for their help and setting out the terms of your agreement.
- Send thank-you letters to everyone you’ve approached, even if they’ve said no to your project. Always leave a positive impression — they can change their mind!
- Add corporate sponsors to your contact list for fundraisers, celebrations, photoshoots, and other special events. Please make sure they are aware of the progress of the project. (But don’t fill their inboxes! They don’t need to know every detail.)
- If you publicise sponsors, be sure to document the exposure they receive on television, radio, in the newspaper, or through other venues. Show them how their involvement is paying off!
- Keep thinking about ways in which management, staff, or volunteers can be involved in the project, and keep coming up with creative ways to acknowledge them publicly!
- If a sponsor sends volunteers to an event, have someone take photos or videos to put together a short presentation for company management. If the sponsor is a large corporation or corporation, you can also have informal conversations with participants. Positive employee testimonials can be a company’s best reward!
- Think outside the chequebook. After all, sponsors have more to offer you than just money, supplies, or volunteers. They are also well-connected community members with a lot of experience. Once you’ve established a rapport, seek their advice on thorny issues or invite them to committee meetings to provide an expert opinion. People like to feel that their input is valuable!
- Keep saying thanks! Showing appreciation is the best way to reward sponsors and build long-term commitments.