This is what I have learned about securing financial sponsors for a less-than-250-runners event - ask small business owners! Small business owners would much rather pay a non-profit organization for advertising for several reasons: (1) they can write-off the cost, (2) it's an affordable method of advertising and (3) they feel a sense of giving back to the community.
Before you begin asking for contributions, break down your levels of sponsorship. Will your Gold level cost $1,000 and your Silver level cost $500? Make sure to list the benefits associated with each level as well. For example, O'Hare-Midway Limousine Service agreed to sponsor the Sonic BOOM 5K at the Gold Level ($500) this year. At this contribution level, they will be listed on all marketing materials and their logo will be included on the back of the race shirt. On the other hand, I just had a family donate $100 at the Friends of SMdP level. At this level, only a name will be listed at the event.
Most large companies require donation requests be made months—if not a year—in advance. This may work if you are seeking a product donation, but your chances of receiving financial support are much higher with business owners who have a vested interest in the area. I consider myself blessed to work with Santa Maria del Popolo School because the families and parishioners of the church truly support one another. Most of my sponsors have a strong connection to the school and/or parish.
Asking the businesses you patronize—your doctor, insurance agent, landscaper, restaurant owners, etc.—is a great place to start. Remember to not be afraid to ask. If they say no, just thank them for their time and consideration and move on. Here's what I tell others - do you think the person behind the counter at McDonald’s is hurt when they ask me if I would like to supersize my order and I say no? Not one bit!
This is key - when you are composing your solicitation letter, be sure to state your organization, event, event day/time and why you need their help. Include a deadline date to respond, methods in which they can reply, your contact information and, most importantly, tell them about your organization, your mission and what you plan on doing with the funds raised.
There is so much that goes into fundraising, but these are just a few important pointers that have always helped me. Fundraising is hard work, but it’s so rewarding when you see for yourself how the results impact a non-profit organization. Feel free to contact me for an example of one of my solicitation letters. Best of Luck!