Sponsorship Advice for Rookie Teams

Hey guys!

My school is starting a robotics team for the 2010 FIRST Robotics Competition. This team was created in mid-June this year. We are currently fundraising and thinking of potential sponsors.
Our team is trying to put together a list of sponsors right now. I was wondering if anyone could answer some questions I have about sponsorships. How is our team able to receive a sponsorship from Boeing and BAE Systems? Does anyone know of any potential companies that would be willing to help us? What would be a good approach to these specific companies? Would delivering a letter to a company directly in person be more effective than mailing a letter?
I also have a question about writing the letter to specific companies. How should the letter be formed? What kind of content should we place inside the letter?
I have read about the NASA Grant that is available to rookie teams. What kind of rookie grants are available? How will be able to receive these grants from companies?
Feel free to post if you have anything you want to comment on!
All advice will be appreciated greatly!

Don’t just hit the big companies. Hit everybody up for anything they can donate that will help. Take a look in the Fundraising subforum here and see what you can come up with.

For the NASA grants, read the information carefully. You need to make sure to apply correctly, and fulfill all the requirements. (I’ll let Dave Lavery get more specific if he chooses; I think he already has in a thread on the NASA grants.)

As for the other companies, try going through their respective Community Relations departments.

I second Eric’s approach. The only big sponsor we have is BOEING. They have only been with us for one year. We still manage to raise 50k from our local area. We have gotten to the point where we have 70+ little sponsors. Some don’t even give us money, instead they donate: aluminum, powdercoating and food. Also, Robotics teams tend to easily qualify for school grants.

Heres what I suggest:

-Have a parent/student meeting and ask the big question “Does anyone think they know someone or company that could sponsor.” As funny as it sounds, we made 10k before Atlanta this way.

-Go out to the community and promote FIRST (such as fundraisers: selling food works pretty well or going to community functions: have a booth with flyers of your team)

-Apply for Grants: ask school.

-Go to the Board of Education with a veteran team and show the possibilites and advantages of FIRST.

There is endless supply of info in the fundraising section. Btw, what would help is where are you guys located. Its is very important to work with other teams and Veterans teams can point you guys in the right direction.


If you need more help or a further explanation, PM me.

Giving it to someone that someone on the team knows personally who works at the company is much better…

Getting support from companies is not as simple as a letter and bada bing bada boom you have money.

First off, you’re a rookie team, you don’t exactly have a solid foundation to base your “give us money” argument on. (unless of course if you’re stepping up from FTC o’ FLL)

I would highly recommend that you try to get smaller/local sponsors, and build your team a stable background. Our team did not have a large company sponsor for 3 years.

Also, use parents who work in companies that can potentially sponsor you. Our main sponsor is Motorola, and 3 years ago, a team mom (who works in Motorola) talked to a moto Foundation rep. and we got started from there. And I know of another instance, where a ROOKIE team has used a parent to get MAJOR financial support from a large company. (But this rookie team had major FTC achievements)

As for your letter to the sponsor, I would think that you write about the potential that your team can have. The potential for publicity and overall community exposure. As for Format, it can be simply a letter or like a pamphlet. (I’ve found that a nice, catchy letter head is always nice)

Whereabouts in CA are you? This can affect some things like who can help you in person and what the odds are of getting funding. (Not to mention, there may be some companies that you wouldn’t think of that somebody nearby has gotten funding from.)

This team will be located in Silicon Valley.
Thank you for all your posts! I am definitely taking your advice into consideration!

I think you guys can also try to ask from some colleges near you.

Like said above the little sponsors can go a long way. Instead of holding out for one large company go to every local business you can find. I don’t know the size of your team but lets say you only have 10 members and each one gets $200, that’s an easy $2000. I say easy because most every local business would be willing to part with $50 for a little incentive. Make a poster with the companies logos and put it up in your pit, put top 5 businesses logos on your robot, send them something at the end of the season telling how their money made a difference. They will really appriciate the last.

It won’t be easy and you’ll get turned down a lot, but people that donate one year will tend to donate the next. Don’t count on the one big sponsor being the life blood of your team.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of meeting with businesses in person. Show them video of the competitions. Bring FIRST’s annual report. Once the PBS documentary is available, bring that. Face-to-face meetings (in front of the right people) are 10x as effective as letters at bringing in sponsorships.

  2. Don’t underestimate the value of having many small sponsors. Big sponsors are hard to get (and there are only so many of them to go around, and most are already sponsoring teams) and if you lose them, it will devastate your team’s finances. In investing, it is suggested that you “diversify your portfolio” with a mixture of small, medium-sized, and large businesses across a variety of industries. The same goes for FIRST.

Some tips from 1760:

Develop a sales package for your team. (Include pictures and some narrative of who you are and why FIRST is good.) Paste some of the canned presentations from the FIRST site on the back. Also include a letter from your school saying you are legit.

Go after anyone your team touches. Doctors, Lawyers, Dentists, Car Dealers, Plumbers - and don’t forget Grandma and Grandpa. Hit the employer of every mentor and parent.

The NASA grant is great for first year teams. It gets a little more complicated after the first year.

Have fundraisers at the school - sell candy bars, have a garage sale, and McPrincipal night is good.

Develop a newsletter to send to sponsors. Send them one a month in the off season and one a week in the build season. Make them feel like part of the team. (Remember, you need them back next year…)

So far we have not had to have our kids pay their way (I don’t want to exclude anyone who can not pay), but many teams have the students pay travel expenses.

The other half of the equation is to trim expenses. We run on about $16K per year. (unfortunately that means no Championship trip, but we do well with one regional and IRI.) We get parents to donate snacks. We drive. We have very few bells and whistles on our robots.

Good luck on your season.

Disclaimer: I have not checked these in the past 3 months
Great examples of team handbooks:**
President’s Circle Sample Team Handbooks: http://www.usFIRST.org/community/frc/content.aspx?id=7022

Great examples of business plans:

Cyber Blue 234 Business Plan and Team Continuity Plan http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/papers/224

Skunkworks, Team 1983,Robotics Business Plan, 2007 - 2008 http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/papers/2100


Sponsorship 101: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=68051

NEMO: 25 Ways Sponsors Can Help Your Team http://www.firstnemo.org/resources.htm

NEMO: Invoice to Give to Sponsors http://www.firstnemo.org/resources.htm

NEMO: Request to Sponsor Letter http://www.firstnemo.org/resources.htm

NEMO: Creating a Killer Team Packet http://www.firstnemo.org/resources.htm

**NASA grants: **

2009 FRC NASA Grant Writing Tips http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/papers/2167

NASA grants: http://robots.nasa.gov/

Sample team timelines: http://www.usFIRST.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/Team_Resources/Appendix%20D%20Team%20Sample%20Timeline3.pdf

FIRST Season Calendar & Important Deadlines for 2009-2010-Official: http://www.usFIRST.org/community/frc...nt.aspx?id=454

Where to send questions for Official answers:**

FRC Support (8:30am-5pm EST) 1-800-871-8326 ext 0 [email protected]

Find your local Regional staff. Regional Directors are the primary FIRST representative in the field, working to support sustainable teams and events. They can connect you if there are Senior Mentors or VISTA volunteers in your area, and to the local Regional Planning Committee: http://www.usFIRST.org/regionalcontact.aspx

* FIRST Senior Mentors: http://www.usFIRST.org/community/volunteers/content.aspx?id=3310
* FIRST VISTAs:http://www.usfirst.org/community/volunteers/content.aspx?id=3312


Great resources !.

I would like to add one more :
The Boeing Company Grant, provides $6,000 directly to the FIRST Organization to pay for the entrance fee. In 2008/2009 Season 100 Teams across the nation got awarded this grant. The requirement is that the team has a Boeing Mentor that applies for the grant in behalf of the team.

If you know an Boeing Employee interested in becoming a mentor, there is a club that can be a resource for “rookie mentors” :
BEMRC - Boeing Employees Mentoring Robotics Club.


An inside contact to a company (mentor or a parent) is definitely more effective than a cold call trying to explain who you are and what you do. Also like said before, making presentations to boards with lots of statistics about the power of FIRST is a good way to go. We also have finance packets we distribute at PR events that explain more about FIRST and our team, giving possible sponsors lots of background info. The one we use can be found at www.mvrt.com under “News.” Some large corporations like IBM and Lockheed Martin also give money if their employee donates time to become a mentor for the team, just something interesting you can look into. Right now we primarily rely on team members and corporate sponsors since our school doesn’t allot any cash for us. Hope this helped.