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By Sandra Davis on March 13th, 2018

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Corporate Donor Prospecting with Donorly (Guest Post)

Tips and Tools | Prospecting | Fundraising | Sponsorship

The world of corporate giving and fundraising more broadly can be opaque, to say the least. Corporations, for instance, don’t always report on where their philanthropic dollars are going the way that a foundation does, and figuring out the right person to talk to at a corporation isn’t always as clear cut as identifying an individual prospective donor. You’ve probably even heard that there isn’t much corporate giving in the arts these days. All this means is that you just need to get a little creative, and that shouldn’t be a problem for you — as a Fractured Atlas member, creativity is what you do best.

Corporate sponsorship is possible if you’re strategic about your approach.

So, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you embark on the exciting journey of cultivating corporate donors in the arts:

Are you looking for sponsorship or a grant?

Corporate Sponsorship typically happens through a company’s marketing department and entails some sort of tangible benefits in exchange for corporate dollars. The most obvious way this happens is through visibility of the corporation’s branding on your materials and at your event, but it will likely include other benefits such as tickets to a performance, a private event for the company to entertain employees or clients, or access to artists.

A grant is a gift given outright, sometimes from the corporation’s foundation, and sometimes through a Corporate Social Responsibility division. You might treat these donations the way you would certain patron-level individual gifts, by offering benefits, such as tickets, in return.

What do you have to offer a corporation?

As mentioned above, tickets (or other kinds of access) are always a great asset to use, but if you really think about what you can do, you may come up with some other more creative ideas. For example:

  • Do you have artists who can offer public speaking or other kinds of training to company executives or employees?
  • Do you have a venue you can offer up for a company’s use?
  • Does your mission and programming align with the kind of public image that a particular corporation wants to present to its customers?

Thinking about the way that you can offer a corporation a real partnership is a good place to start in terms of engaging a company in a potentially fruitful, long-term relationship.

Who is already in your community?

Sure, a big sponsorship gift from a large financial institution would be a dream, but if you’re small or just starting out, you may not have the audience size to make sponsorship a compelling option for a major corporation. If that’s the case, start by thinking small and local. For instance, are there restaurants or bars in the neighborhood where you perform or present that might be willing to support you in exchange for you sending customers their way? Taking this approach also means that you can show up in person, get to know the owner, and develop an authentic personal relationship.

Just a little bit of planning and strategy around what kind of support you’re seeking, and what you think you can offer in return, is a great (and easy) first step toward securing corporate support. The process may be trial and error until you find the right funder, but don’t give up hope. With a little creativity there is (almost) always a way!

[For more information about fundraising, check out Fundraising for Artists: The Ultimate Guide.]


Donorly is a New York City-based consulting firm with the mission of empowering nonprofits to fundraise beyond their size. To learn more about Donorly, visit them here.