A primary consideration for parent-teacher groups planning events and activities is how they’ll align the funding to make it a success. For example, gathering sponsors to help offset costs can mean the difference between extras at the back-to-school barbecue and not being able to hold the event.
The best part about asking businesses for their sponsorships is that by donating money to a PTO or PTA, it shows a dedication to community involvement and betterment; and, if nothing else, provides exposure to families (and decision-makers*) that could potentially need their services.
So, what’s the best way for your parent-teacher group to take ideas for gathering sponsorships and turn them into actual partnerships?
Make a plan. Work the plan.
Just like you would approach other elements of your group’s outreach and internal orders, the first step is putting the right people in the right places to manage and make contact with potential sponsors.
Rather than assign this to a particular lead, mention the sponsorship endeavors at a meeting and gather interest of all committee chairs and parents. There may be a person — or a select few people — who are familiar with the process and have the capacity or interest to take this project on.
Does this person have good organization skills? Check. Not afraid to go out and have conversations with people and talk money? Great!
It’s OK if they have a crew to help with the behind-the-scenes work, but, you’ll certainly want a single person on point for planning and actual contact to avoid confusion when building these relationships and rapport with business owners.
Rather than control the best way for tracking their efforts, allow the person or small team to determine the best way of monitoring their outreach.
There are user-friendly apps such as Google Drive (Includes documents, spreadsheets, etc.), and then there are more intricate tools such as Trello Team Management (FREE!). Depending on their set of skills and comfortability, there are endless applications and possibilities for tracking emails/letters sent, phone calls made, and meetings with businesses.
Why track all of this? You won’t want to double over on your efforts, and next year’s team will want to see who and what worked to know how to best spend their time.
Since it can be overwhelming to get started, just start with what you know, or rather, who you know nearby or who’s already in your network.
Are there teachers, faculty, or even parents/members that are connected with a local business? There could very well be a business owner in your midst, or better yet, connections to a local business that would be willing to sponsor your group and events. Begin searching within the group and then work your way out, but, follow these three rules when you start to explore:
- Don’t be shy: We hate hearing ‘no, thank you‘ or ‘nah, we’re just not interested,’ but a ‘no‘ should mean ‘next opportunity.’
- Inside & outside the district: Don’t assume that everyone has to be inside the district or have an immediate connection to the school or your group. There could be someone who has an old connection to the school, or maybe they don;t. It’s about the kids, and there could very well be a business who doesn’t require a personal anecdote/connection to be willing to support you.
- Timing is everything: You can imagine asking someone for financial support days away from an event may not be the best way to approach sponsorships. The more planning and preparation — 30 to 90 days — shows a commitment to the plan and execution of the event. Plus, it gives that business some time to prepare for the commitment, and even give some additional support beyond the financial kind you’re searching for. (i.e. exposure, outreach, or product/personal support)
Personalize your process.
Yes, that hand-written letter or beautifully-crafted email is nice for having a record of your efforts but, people want to have a personal connection.
Especially when dealing with a financial ask, it’s best to have a face to connect with that group and sponsorship request. Otherwise, you potentially become a piece of paper or email that can be ignored or misplaced. Hand-deliver your hand-written letter, and ask to speak with the people who make those decisions, if possible.
You never know, your connection may expedite paperwork processes that business require of an organization, or spark some additional interest and willingness on their behalf. Your meeting gives you a chance to speak in detail about the event you need funding for, and accept questions from the business manager/owner. (Click here for a specific fundraiser “ask” example).
PRO-TIP: Call ahead and ask for the person who handles these requests. This will help you know what to plan for and how to make the most of everyone’s time. And always include your organization name and branding on the letterhead that you’re delivering so that the business owner can easily recall upon the group for information and details.
What to include?
The organization’s 501(c)(3) status and tax ID number
Estimated attendance & participation
Sponsorship levels and sponsorship commitment deadline
How funds will be used, if applicable
How their sponsorship — donation — will be used
PRO-TIP: This process takes time, and follow-ups. Hence, the importance of putting the right person on-point for outreach and closing. Be sure to remind sponsors that contributions to your 501(c)(3) organization are tax-deductible as that fact alone could be the difference between ‘yes‘ or ‘no‘.
“But, what do the sponsors get back?”
The promotional aspect is a sponsors primary concern.
They’ve decided to be involved because being perceived as involved and supportive of the school and student community is a positive.
It’s never about them, it’s about the event, so, find a way to build sponsorship levels for their tasteful exposure at the event. This can include gear or shirts, banner and tent advertisements, or even supplies, personnel, or products to support the event. (i.e. water bottles, photo booth, etc.)
Sponsorship levels example: Holiday Jog-A-Thon
Bronze ad ($500): Small company name on event shirt
Silver ad ($1,000): Medium logo/ad on event shirt; logo placement on the PTA/PTO website and social media accounts
Gold ad ($1,500): Large logo/ad on event shirt, logo placement on Jog-A-Thon start/finish line banner and listed on marketing materials; logo on PTO website and social media accounts
Front-Sleeve/Premium ad ($2,000): Logo/ad on front OR sleeve of shirt, logo placement on Jog-A-Thon start/finish line banner and listed on marketing materials, name announced at Jog-A-Thon start, and listed on other marketing materials; logo on PTO website and social media accounts
The event is done. Now what?
Within two weeks after the event occurs, you’ll want to deliver personal ‘thank you‘ cards or letters. This should include a receipt of their donation for tax purposes.
PRO-TIP: Include a certificate or event details placard that explains how the sponsor helped accomplish your goals or attendance. It’s even better if it can be framed in their business.
You’ll want to update spreadsheets or notebooks with the event and contact information, budgets, returns, etc. from the sponsors you gathered before you shut down operations. This will help next year’s team know where to get started.
Looking to learn more about implementing a store tool for selling sponsorships? Click here for more information on how PTOffice helps you build custom stores and product variants to reach sponsors in your community.