I’m a part of team 1539 and most of our team graduated last year taking all of the knowledge on how to get sponsorships with them! We’re located in South Carolina, and we are only about a 45 minute drive from Charlotte, NC. With that being said, our team got a very late start this year and we currently only have one or two sponsors! Does anyone have any leads on where I can start looking for sponsorships?
I would look in your local community to see if some of the businesses there would be willing to support the team. Most places will in order to support the local community. We do a Patron Drive every year in our local community where students request sponsorship from local companies. That works well for us.
Talk to your mentors and see if they work at companies that are willing to sponsor the team.
I highly recommend looking through the FIRST Fundraising Toolkit. There are lots of great bits of information on how to fund raise there.
Our first go-to for finding sponsors are always the team parents. Do they work for a company that would be willing to sponsor? Do they know someone at another company where they could advocate for your team? Do their companies do matching donations so if the parent donates $100 to the team, their company will match? Though that may only work if you have a registered non-profit on your own or through the school or other organization.
Is there a local paper that would be willing to write a short piece about the team and get the word out? A local Chamber of Commerce or other small business association? UNC Charlotte has a College of Engineering and College of Computing - would they have connections to local tech companies or even their own entrepreneurship/tech development center that could help make connections?
Are there any community events you could attend, either outdoors (since that’s still feasible in SC in the winter!) or virtually? Something through the library or other civic groups? For example, our community just held a Virtual Holiday Bazaar where all the local school and non-profit groups could make a video presentation to the community. Get the team in front of the community and then build on those relationships to find sponsors. It takes some time, but can yield great results not just for this season but for future seasons, too.
And then document everything you do so that future team members won’t face the same struggle you are.
Who sponsored your team in the last several years? The team treasurer should have financial records showing who gave your team money in the past. It is probably easier to convince them to continue to support your team than to convince new sponsors. That does not mean that you should not approach new sponsors.