To grow your association, you need programs to attract members; without members, how do you pay for programs?  Catch-22? No. There are other options, like getting sponsors to underwrite new programs.  Even in a difficult economic climate, there are corporations and for-profit companies that still have money to spend, and that they are willing to, if your association’s goals are similar to or compatible with their own. 

            The first step in identifying a sponsor is to consider your association’s needs and set a goal, then decide what types of assistance are available to meet that type of goal. There are grants for support daily operations, events or publications; endowments for long-term support; and single-event sponsorships, such as an educational seminar. You can even find money to sponsor an event to raise more money! 

            Next, create a list of potential sponsors and research them. For smaller amounts, say, under $1,000.00, look to local businesses and business owners in your industry that have an interest in both the community and in having their name linked with that of your association. Local sponsors are more likely to support programs that have an impact on the community.1  For amounts greater than $1,000, larger corporations, national organizations and private philanthropists with an interest in or history with your associations industry or profession will be a better resource.  Look for ones that have similar values, missions and histories.  You can also research government grants at Check out the website for your state and/or city as well, as many of them offer grants for local projects and organizations.

            Develop a campaign first, so you have a definite plan to present to potential sponsors. They will, quite understandably, want to know exactly what their money will be used for, and why, and if you cannot answer all those questions right at the top, you won’t see a penny of support. Every member of the fundraising or sponsorship committee should be familiar with all aspects of the association, its monetary needs, its mission and vision, future plans, goals and aims.  Each member should be comfortable with asking for financial support, ready to answer questions and prepared to explain the benefits for the sponsor.

            Target potential sponsors with pitch materials, then follow up with personal calls to schedule meetings for presentations and to answer questions.  It’s harder to say no to an association when you have a personal connection to one or more of the members. 

            This is key – whether you get any money this time or not, send a thank you to every potential sponsor with whom you talked.  Always.  The world is full of two kinds of people – sponsors and potential sponsors.  Just because an individual or group didn’t sponsor this particular program for you doesn’t mean they cannot or will not sponsor a future program or event, unless you burn that bridge by being rude.  Your chances will be better next time if the potential sponsor remembers your group as “that bunch that sent the thank you note when we didn’t give them anything” than as “that lot that wasted our time on a presentation, without so much as a ‘thanks’.” 

            In a nutshell, plan your campaign, make your pitch, mind your manners.  Not that complicated at all.




1.         T, Alex, (2011)  “How to Find a Sponsor For a Non-Profit Organziation,”, 1