At a loss for Sponsorship Funds

Hi everyone!

I’m a senior on 5113 this year and the team president.

We’re currently low (but not urgent yet, that’s why I’m making this post now) on funds for our team and we’re trying to get sponsors for this year. We already have significant funds from the usual big companies like Lockheed and Comcast, but those donations alone aren’t enough to cover our season. I’m having great difficulty this year with the smaller businesses (the bulk of our funds) because our previous advisor, who had many connections with those sponsor companies, left the team and we have a new advisor now who is very new to running an FRC team. I also have very little experience with fundraising and wasn’t trained in this due to last year’s strangeness.

So my questions: How on earth do you go about asking companies for sponsorships? We have a huge list of all our previous sponsors and most of their contact info, but every phone call, voice mail, and email I’ve made has been left unanswered (it’s been about two weeks). What am I missing/doing wrong? Does going into the businesses in-person with a flyer really work? Is there something else I should be doing? Do I need to bring an adult mentor or parent with us to make us seem more legit? Are food fundraisers (like Chipotle/Chick-fil-A) worth it?

I’m really sorry if these questions have painfully obvious answers. I just have very little experience and I want to get the team in a really good place financially.

If anyone here could offer some advice or point in a direction I would be very grateful. Please, brutally honest answers are highly encouraged here.



I recommend continuing to contact businesses through your list, especially the ones that have donated in the past. If they don’t get back to you, try calling them back after a few days. Try to get a meeting set up instead of walking in because the team/person that has the power to make the donations in the business might not be there if you come in unannounced.

You probably won’t need an adult mentor to come with you, our team basically does every business talk without a mentor, and just be prepared to answer any questions they might have.

Food fundraisers are also a good way Imo, Each franchise/business might do it differently but usually, the business will have a “restaurant takeover” where there will be a day and a window of time where your team and anyone can use a promo code that they will give you and a certain percentage of the proceeds will be donated to your team afterward.


One of the best ways to get sponsorships is to go through the parents. We usually hold parent meetings multiple times per year. These are mainly to inform parents why their students don’t want to come home after school, and shows all the benefits of the FIRST program. Usually at the first one we just mention getting their companies to sponsor us. You don’t want to force it on them, but definitely put it in their mind that robots aren’t free, and anything they may be able to contribute will help. Once they see what the club does for the students, and what goes into making a robot, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in helping out. For example, one of our students a few years ago had a parent who worked for Altice(the cable company). He came to one of our meetings, saw what we did, and he went and asked his company if they’d be willing to help. They were able to donate some money, but also sent the parent back to be one of our team’s official mentors. Basically, just having that foot in the door to start out will definitely boost the companies likeliness of sponsoring.

Regardless of how many relationships you have with a company, they’re probably going to want a better understanding of what their money will be going towards, and what else they’ll get out of it besides helping kids. This is where having a good sponsorship letter/packet comes in handy. 1293 Sample Request to Sponsor Letter.pdf (1.3 MB) This is a sample letter from some other team that I found in an old binder a little while ago. It has different levels/tiers to their sponsorship, and each comes with their own perks. Obviously the dollar amounts are up to you and your team, but giving companies publicity by way of logos on websites and shirts is a great way to convince them to support you. You’ll also probably want separate tiers for corporate and local sponsors, since $500 for a mom and pop paint store is a lot more meaningful than $500 for companies as large as Lockheed Martin.

Yes, especially if it’s a smaller business. For my team, we went to a local paint store and just explained to the owner/manager what we do as a team, and they gladly were able to donate some paint for us, and gave us discounts. Obviously paint isn’t the most necessary thing for a robot, but not having to pay for it allowed us to use that money elsewhere while still being able to use some creativity for signs and other projects.

It definitely helps, but it’s not always necessary. Depending on the business, having an adult there might help them realize that you’re not just some high schooler trying to scam them out of money/products.

They can be, but you have to look into them to see how much you can actually profit. For example, an Applebees flapjack fundraiser requires a down payment of I believe $100. If you know that you’re only going to be selling $150 worth of tickets, then it may not be worth it for your team. We have done many of the Flapjack Fundraisers, and one way we try to boost profits is to have raffles at the events. That’s another place where parents could get involved.

Also, another way of raising money is simply a GoFundMe. Getting parents to share it on Facebook and stuff like that will definitely earn you a bit of extra money.


Does your team have a tax-exempt organization to receive donations? Make sure you know.

There are a lot of reasons why you might not be hearing back from sponsors. It doesn’t hurt to follow up, but you also might want to review your approach. Maybe do a “practice call” with one of your mentors to see if there is anything about your presentation that may be turning them off,

Networking is key. Reach out to the parents of your teammates to see if the companies they work for might sponsor the team. Many employers have charitable giving programs that will sponsor you for the price of a short letter.

And speaking of networking, don’t discount the value of asking a local supermarket or shop for permission to set up a table in front of their store. Bring a robot and have students take shifts talking to people about your team. You’ll get cash donations, but also occasionally a new student, mentor, or corporate sponsor.

Keep the message positive, never pushy, and never take a sponsorship for granted.


Check out the FIRST Fundraising Toolkit, collected and assembled by the illustrious @Renee_Becker-Blau
It’s full of tips and strategies and advice.


Two thoughts. If the previous advisor left on good terms he, or she, would probably be willing to do an introduction of whoever is going to be handling this end of things. Lots of outreach just hits the spam folder unless it comes from a known source.

Also…since FIRST is supposed to be teaching real world skills, it sounds as if your major funding is still intact. Perhaps this is a situation where scaling back expenses is in order? The decision to do one or more than one event, the call on how many students to take, tech upgrades…these are all within your power to decide. In our sixth season I’m impressed by how much “stuff” we have accumulate. We probably have enough in hand to build two robots. Unless of course the fabled Water Game finally arrives.



A one-day fundraiser might be something you can do before winter break, but with more time on your hands you could scale up. If you have a summer school or weekend classes going on, ask school admin about setting up a snack shop. You could sell lunch, pizza, etc. pretty effectively, since its something simple for students to grab and go, and there will always be people there around break time.

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.