How does your team solicit local/community sponsors?

We’ve been very fortunate to have several national corporations support our team as sponsors but we’d like to get more local/community sponsors. We tried sending sponsor solicitation letters to dozens of local companies and got no response. So this year we tried calling dozens of local companies and again, no response. So if any if you have tips/tricks on how to land some local businesses as sponsors, it would be greatly appreciated.

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My team has found moderate success in sending out 2-3 students to personally visit local businesses and talk to the owner/store manager. We wear our team shirts and bring sponsorship material to leave with the person if they’re interested. Shaking hands with people is much more effective than sending letters and making phone calls.

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What kind of business? Our town is mix of corporate retail (Kohls, Wal-Mart etc), locally owned restaurants (pizzerias mostly) and corporate offices for small-ish or niche businesses (Zero Water, AmQuip etc.). I have no problem sending the kids into the local pizzerias but that’s not really our target demographic (we host a district event and solicit them for pizza donations instead) and corporate offices, no matter how small the business, generally don’t allow solicitation.

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Our team is located in Fresno, CA, where there is a good amount of industrial/engineering businesses (machine shops, metal suppliers, engineering firms, automotive shops, etc.) Most of our local sponsors fall into this category. Additionally, we have several local hardware stores that are willing to give us a $50 credit to buy nut, bolts, etc.

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My team sends out sponsorship letters to businesses in our area, which often lead to us getting money and creating a partnership, which is very important to our team. There are a few different ways you could go about this, but there are going to be some that are better than others. Trial and error is the best way to determine that.

We get on the phone and call. Over the years we’ve built up a bunch of relationships and keep in touch with our local sponsors. We’ve been able to get anywhere from $200 to $5,000 sponsorship just by having the right kids with personality call.

If we can’t get money over the phone we’ll try to get an appointment to send kids out there to do a presentation. There’s room for improvement on this because our team is pretty awful at presenting material and we’ll present the same stuff to a returning sponsor as we do a new sponsor. So if I had a say in this, I’d focus on making sure presentations are clear, concise and crisp along with tailored to the auidence. If its a new sponsor, yes they need to understand what FRC is and who you are. For a returning sponsor, tailor towards here’s what we did since the last time we visited. Either way, if we get into a local business for a presentation its usually a minimum $500 sponsorship on the spot.

For machine shops we take a little different approach. We’ll talk about 148 and 118 and how we have to compete against teams with tons of manufacturing resources that we don’t have ready access to. So, we started building up a few relationships with shops that understand not only do we want free/cheap work but also it has to be white hot priority and done quickly when we do call them. We place a high value on time and ability to get something machined correctly.

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My team is thinking about starting to do cold-calls, and I have a question for those that have done them (successfully) before: Do you ask for a specific amount of money?

When I was in high school I was a dedicated fundraiser for the local YMCA, and at the trainings they always instructed us (very firmly) that we should always ask a potential donor for a specific amount, and try to highball it. The premise was that if you call up someone you know and ask them to donate to your youth organization without mentioning a number, they’ll always give you $20, but if you ask for a hundred they’ll give you $50, and some people will give you the full $100. This did seem to be pretty much how it played out when I was fundraising from my neighbors, teachers, relatives, etc.

I could imagine that the psychology might be different when you’re talking to businesses/strangers vs people you know, and maybe also different when larger amounts of money are involved. Has anyone had success with one method or the other? If you’ve asked for specific amounts, what amount did you ask for?

We go to local businesses in person with two of our business team members (usually our CEO or CBO is one of them), and we talk about who we are and why we would greatly appreciate their sponsorship, and we’d email them if we haven’t previously been sponsored by them