How do you get big corporate partners?

Posted by Kate Leach, Student on team #166, Team Merrimack, from Merrimack High School and Unitrode / RS Machines.

Posted on 5/15/99 9:50 PM MST

My team has been having problems with corporate partners… Or should I be saying lack thereof? We lost one of our corp partners from last year cuz they had to cut themselves in half… And our other corp partner will give us no more than $4,000 for one entry fee… We’ve asked companies like Sanders to sponsor our team… But they’ve said no cuz they already sponsor a team… I don’t see why they don’t want to sponsor more teams like NASA and UTC and others do… So I was just wondering how you get them to sponsor more than one team… I’d wicked appreciate it people would help me out with this cuz we’re lacking the $$ that we need to be able to do this competition… Granted I won’t be on this team next year, but we’ve pulled my mom into being an official advisor for the team next year even though I won’t be on the team, and my sister won’t be yet… So, it’s cool… Well, thanx in advance for your help!

Team Captain '99
Team Merrimack #166

Posted by MaryEllen, Other on team #180, S.P.A.M., from South Fork and Martin County High Schools and UTC/Pratt & Whitney, FL.

Posted on 5/16/99 6:47 AM MST

In Reply to: How do you get big corporate partners? posted by Kate Leach on 5/15/99 9:50 PM MST:

It’s best to have someone from the school approach corporations. Most big
companies have budgets for community efforts and what they like to see is
sort of a proposal - what you what, what it’s for, AND how they’ll benefit
from their participation. Benefits to a corporation involved in FIRST
range from free publicity to creating a generation of new engineers who
may someday work in their company. I heard somewhere that half a million
high tech jobs went unfilled last year because there weren’t enough skilled
people in the workforce. Search the net for statistics such as that to
show the need for organizations like FIRST.
If you can’t get just one big sponsor, try for 4, 6, 8, however many smaller
companies. And fundraise like crazy. Locally, I’ve seen a high school band
raise enough money to travel to England for a week. It’s a year-long effort but it can
be done.
And look for smaller engineering and manufacturing companies and your
local community colleges. They may not have the big bucks of a UTC or
NASA, but they have talent.


Posted by michael bastoni, Coach on team #23, PNTA, from Plymouth North High School and Boston Edison Co.

Posted on 5/16/99 9:29 AM MST

In Reply to: How do you get big corporate partners? posted by Kate Leach on 5/15/99 9:50 PM MST:


The very best way I know of to get corporate involvement is through the
‘Grass Roots’ approach…The issue with corporate partners is not
money…In this economy they have gobs of cash to throw around…

The problem is the human resources…the bright energetic motivated
young (and old like me) technical types you need to help get the job
done…This demographic is usually concerned with helping develop
FIRST teams but they are also concerned with getting ahead in their
careers, raising families and traveling for their company in order
to pay the bills at home, not to mention sick parents leaky roofs and
all the other things that fit into the hectic 10 weeks needed to
design build and produce spare parts for a robot…

So…here’s my advice

It’s about the kids…get as many kids as you can find that are not just interested
in science math but also in doing something cool…The chances
are good that one of those kids has a parent that works for a potential
sponsor…and parents as a rule …will do almost anything for their
kids…remember that parents have skills too, after all someone is paying the mortgage


You have that kid’s parent pitch the idea to the potential sponsor(employer) with the
added thrust of your pitch being that the parent of that kid will assume
the corporate side of the responsibility…This is a big issue in
potential corporate sponsorship…not the money…but whose going to
do it…

so simply put…

You need to find someone on the inside…a parent of a student interested in being on your team
is a good place to begin…but there are other grass root ‘windows’ to use
in accessing corporations…

A fundemental problem with the current FIRST model is engineering/corporate/education
burnout…legitimate life situations compete for the time and resources of these volunteers as
mentioned above…and there simply is not a cadre of folks trying to push these volunteers
aside so they can run the FIRST teams in their companies…The result is that the same
volunteers are expected to do the program every year…and that is simply an unfair expectation
on a volunteer basis…so that is why I council you to access parents that are
part of the corporate sponsor to be targeted because they have a value added reason
to become involved…THIS IS WHY YOUTH SOCCER RULES THIS COUNTRY. The moms and dads
of the participatin kids are the coaches and organizers.

Anothe interesting way into a corporate sponsorship is something we have dabbled in this past year
and we found this quite accidently.

We think it is viable to do the following.

FIRST teams are rich with young ambitious and highly energetic high school kids…
What they lack in technical acumen they more than make up for in energy.


Try identifying a local charity already being sponsored by a corporation…
say Habitat for Humanity (a VERY POPULAR ONE WITH companies and a very worthwhile
cause)…Go to your local Habitat center for info…


VOLUNTEER your entire FIRST team for a Habitat Project…and work your
butts off for them…This will get you established as a legitimate entity
and provide you with the ‘currency’ you need to approach the corporate
decision makers with your request for say…20 thousand dollars…

You have to give to get…

We’ve adopted the building of a new Boys and Girls Club in our town
and we provide alot of technological support in the form of Power point
slide presentations, animations and desktop publishing as well as the equipment
to display the messages. LCD projectors and computer networking resources

In return the community views our students as worthy of the generous
support they receive…They are seen as givers not just receivers of
corporate largesse…

So go to work and good luck


Posted by Joe Johnson, Engineer on team #47, Chief Delphi, from Pontiac Central High School and Delphi Automotive Systems.

Posted on 5/16/99 10:22 AM MST

In Reply to: How do you get big corporate partners? posted by Kate Leach on 5/15/99 9:50 PM MST:

While the Fortune 500 sponsors a ton of teams and I think that we are far from through mining that vain, I think that there is a VAST untapped sponsor list out there.

Specifically, I think we should go after more folks like Bill and Brian Beatty.

I am very serious. Forget about the Fortune 500, I’m talking the Beatty Billion. I can’t speak for your area, but Within 100 miles of Detroit are 1000’s of non-descript brick buildings housing the worker bees of the auto industry: tool & die shops, proto-type shops, specialty equipment manufactures, plastic injection mold makers, etc.

I am convinced that with the right message, we can make a good percentage of the owners of these businesses supporters of FIRST.

My suggestion to any high school team looking for a sponsor is to put together a flashy road show and a group of students, head for a commercial section of your local community, and start knocking on doors asking for 1/2 hour of time to make your case.

Don’t forget to end with a specific ask for cash/machine time/engineering time.

Good luck.

Joe J.

Posted by MaryEllen, Other on team #180, S.P.A.M., from South Fork and Martin County High Schools and UTC/Pratt & Whitney, FL.

Posted on 5/16/99 10:56 AM MST

In Reply to: Looking for Mr. Beatty… posted by Joe Johnson on 5/16/99 10:22 AM MST:

Great idea - but also have a letter on school letterhead signed by a your principle or
advisor to give yourselves credibility; make it look more official. If you
have a draft of the letter handy when you go for a signature, you’ll save
someone a lot of time.
Once you can get your foot in the door, how can anyone turn down a bunch
of enthusiastic kids? This was a very succesful ‘tactic’ for getting
donations for an auction we held.