Need advice on reaching out to a large corporation for potential sponsorship

My team is located a few miles away from the North American HQ for Leonardo (formerly AgustaWestland), an Italian aerospace, defense and security company. We want to reach out to them for about a potential sponsorship but aren’t sure of where to start.

For local/small business, it’s no problem–we just call them up and ask if we can talk to someone about sponsoring us but for a large corporation, I’m not sure that would work. So what’s the best way to reach out to them and start a conversation about becoming a sponsor? Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated!

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I am not the person on my team to reach out for sponsorship, but I can still give a few pointers.

Try to know/find someone high up. If you find someone higher up, invite them to a meeting and be on your best behavior. A lot of our sponsors come from people who we invite to our meeting, are impressed, and want to help out.

Try not to go through HR. It’ll get lost in the sauce.

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Aim for someone who has the authority to decide to give your team support. It almost doesn’t matter how much you are liked by people without the authority, since it is unlikely anything will happen.

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Many large corporations donate through foundations, not directly from themselves. Knowing someone that works there can often be the best way, but contacting them through the foundation can be a great way to get started as well. Two minutes of poking around on their website turned up this:

It has links out to a couple of their foundations, which have direct contact information.

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Agree that foundations are the most direct route. Often it is necessary to have a current employee submit the request…do you have any such folks as team parents? Of course do your research ahead of time. What sort of things does this company do that overlaps with FIRST technologies. Could be lots of things…run through their products page…you’ll see “Land Unmanned Systems” that look rather FIRSTY if you remove the weaponry! Go through their job opportunities, its a long list. If FIRST is training their next gen of employees this is a good angle to pursue.

And be patient. Sometimes these things take years to cultivate and sometimes things that seem a perfect match just don’t work out.

I note that their Students and Graduate page specifically talks about supporting STEM and helping develop future talent…but just refers to Italy and UK.

I would not discount HR entirely, but be ready to make a strong case that them helping you will eventually be developing possible future talent for them.

pm if you want more helpings of this sort of advice.

T. Wolter
5826

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Thanks so much for the detailed response! Unfortunately, no one currently affiliated with the team is an employee or knows an employee there. I’m at the point where I might just look them up on LinkedIn, see who works there and see if I have any “Connections” in common and go from there.

Because the subject interests me I took a peek at Linkedln also. The folks from Leonardo appear to have recently been at the Society of Women Engineers. Figure out who they had in attendance and seek them out.

Good luck!

TW

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Treat the whole exercise as “business outreach”, not just a search for sponsors. Ask who can set up a meeting for your team to present the FIRST program to their engineers and leaders. If you ask who can set that up they may refer you to someone who has authority to say yes. If you ask for a donation the answer will often be no. Get in the door to make a presentation about the program, inspire them and include an ask for support. Include a variety of support oportunities; mentors, donations in kind (materials), internships, and monetary support.

If you get nothing but a chance to present to their team and a tour a cool manufacturing facility it is still a great experience and the possible start of a future sponsorship, build the relationship, invite them to a competition.