With the increase in costs for many V5 parts, especially for electronic components, teams will certainly need to fundraise more. With thousands of dollars being spent on parts, registration, and not to mention travel, it is a major investment. Raising such a large amount of money can certainly be daunting and bake sales alone likely won’t help to achieve this goal. Asking parents and friends for donations might work, but your results will vary.
Before 2021, my team never had any sponsors. As our team needed to do fundraising and bake sales were not an option due to the coronavirus protocols at the time, I looked for an alternative and found that getting sponsors was my best choice. After lots of trial and error, I was able to gain over twenty-five sponsors for my team in just five months. Hopefully, with my advice, your team will have sufficient funding to have access to all of the parts and other materials you need.
When companies donate, they will usually only donate to teams that offer a tax-deductible option. This automatically applies to public schools, but private teams would need to apply for the 501(c)(3) status using Form 1023-EZ, which is faster and shorter than the previous Form 1023. While the application fee is $275, it is the single best step you can take in fundraising.
This packet should include a welcome letter, contact information, what VEX is, awards, budget for the upcoming season, sponsorship levels, and any other relevant information about your team. Most of these categories are self-explanatory, but we should discuss sponsorship levels and a budget in more detail.
Companies want to have different options on how much they would contribute to your team. For instance, they may start with $250 the first season and give $500 the next season if they see the team is performing well. Also include the benefits of each level (logo on the team shirt, website, banner, etc).
A budget is often overlooked. Companies will want to know how you plan to use the money. The more detailed your budget is, the more likely it is for a company to contribute to your team in the long term. The main categories to include are parts, registration fees, tools, and marketing.
You should always attach your sponsorship packet when you email a company.
Start with Local Companies
Companies nearby will give you the best shot at gaining a sponsor. Not only this, you will usually hear back faster, as there are typically fewer steps in determining whether or not they want to donate. Additionally, don’t limit yourself to tech companies. Reach out to law firms, dentists, banks, etc. Try researching which companies donate to other nonprofits in your area as a starting point. The majority of your sponsors will likely be within a ten-mile radius of your team.
Apply for Grants
Larger companies and nonprofits will typically offer grants which you can apply for. While these may result in gaining more funding, the review process for these applications can take four to six months, or even longer. Be sure to start early if you choose to do so and take note of the deadlines.
Have a former team member who works at a notable company? Does where a teammate’s parents work offer donations? Don’t be afraid to see what connections you may have.
Start Reaching Out
I’ve found that sending an email first, waiting three weeks for a response, and then following up with a phone call/email, works the best. Don’t worry if very few companies reply at first. Just be persistent and keep trying. The truth is that you’ll never know who will sponsor your team.
Keep in Touch with your Sponsors
To build long-term relationships with your sponsors, updating them about your build progress and performance at competitions will make it more likely they will choose to sponsor your team the following seasons. If possible, invite them to competitions or your meetings to showcase your team.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. If you have any other advice, please feel free to contribute to this topic.