The Guide to Getting Sponsors for your Robotics Team

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.

Non-Profit/Public School

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.

Sponsorship Packet

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.

Connections

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.

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STEM Robotics has closed general grants to teams. Our team grant season is from 1 Sept to 1 January. These grants carry the requirement of having STEM Robotics logos on your robot. (About the size of a business card) ($2,200 were awarded in 2021)

We offer grants to teams that have a worlds invite but can’t raise the fee. Those grants open 15 Feb and end 30 March. Grants can not be used for travel, but can be used for the entry fee and for robot shipment. These grants carry the requirement of having STEM Robotics logo on your robot. (About the size of a business card)

In the Delmarva region there are graduating robotics seniors grants. These open 15 April and close 30 May. If you are a graduating senior that has participated in VEX robotics you are eligible. No logo on your body is required. Max award is $500.

For all event grants please contact events@STEMRobotics.org.

( If you think you have a grant in progress and it has not been paid please contact events@stemrobotics.org)

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Thanks for sharing about STEM Robotics Foster! This seems like a great opportunity for teams to find grants.

This also reminds me of the grants available on RobotEvents from time to time and the grants offered by the REC Foundation itself. Be sure to check those out.

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???​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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/sigh, women are still treated as a minority. And asking if

– do you have robotics grants
– do you have robotics grants for women

may get two different answers.

Not sure what timeline you are living in, women are still discriminated against and yes this is 2022.

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Edited to add context

@242EProgrammer had asked where women were discriminated against. They later deleted the post.


The US, large swaths of the rest of the world. You should read up on:

  1. Women’s rights and how they have changed in the last 10 years.

  2. Women’s salary histories, look at the “glass ceiling” for women. Look for articles on how women get wages of about 75-85% of men wages for similar jobs.

  3. Rates of acceptance into engineering schools for women. Its based on current public schools moving students away from science studies, specifically math and physics into the arts (history, language, etc.)

  4. Rates of women in the trades (construction, maintenance, etc,) across all of HVAC, electrical, architectural, etc.

Ping this this thread in a month with what you found out.

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@Foster @242EProgrammer Could we keep it to discussing grants and sponsors? I’m not disregarding the importance of this matter but I would really like more information on how vex teams could get some sponsors. Also, Foster thank you for the information in the first post on the thread my team will definitely look into it!

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@Anjo548W If you don’t mind could you please list some of your or other good sponsors. Thank you

Our sponsors are available on our website. They are primarily local sponsors. The link is in my bio.

How do you get google to sponsor you. I have been trying to find that out.

I was connected with Google through a grant last season with the REC Foundation.

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I wanted to ask a question, but keep it on a relevant thread. We had a few businesses in mind for our team, and wanted to make a video introducing us and what our team is about, and then email it to them. Would this be the best way to gain interest in our team, and what information should we include in our pitch?

That’s definitely one way that you could approach sponsors. However, I would advise creating a sponsorship packet when reaching out via email. The most optimal way would be going in person or talking over the phone to businesses (for local).

Regarding information you should include, you it would generally be the same as the sponsorship packet. Those details are included at the top of the thread.

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Any advice on how long/what the structure of the email should have to ensure they’re interested in us? Wouldn’t want to make it too short/long. Also not doing VEX robotics, its for robobrawl

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Please don’t revive a forums, but I had a question as well. Would this work for IQ as well?

It is perfectly fine to revive a dead thread when you are provide useful insight/ asking a relevant question.

Yes. companies like to give money to robotics programs regardless of their type.

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Using email to gain a sponsor should be your last choice, while networking personally with potential sponsors should be your first choice. You should only send an email to a sponsor if you have talked with them in person or on the phone to Prime them to expect an email from you.

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That works great if you already have a contact at the place you want to get a sponsorship at who happens to be a decision maker in the community outreach program, but even when I worked at a company that did give grants, the best I could do is say “here’s the email for the STEM outreach person, email them, I have no idea how to get money”.

If you have no contacts then sending cold call emails out to nearby businesses is basically the only reasonable way to initiate contact.

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A lot of great points mentioned above. I would recommend a shorter email attached with a sponsorship packet. Having too long of an email can seem daunting. Instead, having that information presented in a sponsorship packet helps to build credibility and makes it more likely you’ll end up receiving an in-kind or monetary contribution. Another great strategy is visiting local businesses in person and then getting the contact information from there.

For VEX IQ, be sure to check out the grants that the REC Foundation offers. The same applies for VRC.

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