Sometimes it feels as though everybody and their brother has a hand extended in the hopes of getting a donation. Whether it's Girl Scout cookies, the cheerleader car wash, a spaghetti dinner at the VFW hall or a church pancake breakfast, folks needing financial help to keep causes and projects alive and functioning are always looking for ways to generate a buck. In your case, it's basketball uniforms for the youngest Patricks, Michaels, Kobes and Shaqs. Even if the competition for donations feels daunting, there's no reason you can't mount a successful sponsorship search --- with a little help from the parents of these basketball stars-to-be. Use the tips in this article for approaching potential sponsors and don't give up until you've made a slam-dunk. Be bold and promote your cause unabashedly when you go after those uniform funds. It won't hurt to carry around a photo of your team in their current uniforms either.
Survey companies in the business of screening or embroidering children's basketball uniforms to compare pricing on their materials, styles, prices and turn-around time. Think like a suit. Your sponsor will want to know that you have done your homework and looked out for its best financial interests by comparison shopping up front.
Get together a committee of parents whose kids are on the team. Have each of them submit a list of companies that can be approached to underwrite your sponsorship. Have the moms and dads think about their sphere of influence to include folks with whom they do business, socialize and, in particular, the people to whom they turn for services and goods, like their carpet care professional, banker, mortgage broker, doctor, hair cutter, dentist, local government officials, etc.
Draft a "marketing letter" that asks for an in-person meeting with whomever is responsible for considering charitable contributions. Your letter should be friendly and direct but compelling. Your message? "Our kids are counting on your company to keep our team on the court. Be assured that your generosity will pay off in increased business when game attendees see your corporate name on our shirts." Personalize each letter and have the parent responsible for suggesting the lead sign-off at the end. If the mom or dad feels comfortable doing so, encourage him or her to add a personal note at the end of the letter. This type of personal addendum has been proven to lift response rates.
Use the 80/20 marketing theory to anticipate the number of positive responses you can expect. If you've mailed out 80 letters, you should be able to schedule around 20 meetings. Ask the parent responsible for the company lead to call the company and make an appointment. If possible, have that person lead the pitch meeting. Bring with you photos of the team, a complete workup of the cost of the uniforms with imprints (bring several options -- this will give the potential sponsor a chance to participate in the decision-making process) and include a list of opportunities you plan to create to further the sponsor's visibility (e.g., including its name in game programs, on signage and other collateral).
Get the check before you leave. If you've been warmly received but the company representative is not prepared to cut a check, this is the time to put subtle pressure on him. Understanding that the donation may have to be kicked upstairs to a higher authority for final approval, give the company a deadline by which you plan to offer the sponsorship to another interested party. Thank the company representative for his time and follow up with a thank-you letter. It won't hurt to send the letter with a photo of the team enclosed to pull at a few heartstrings after the fact.
Continue to solicit sponsorships until you land one. Once you do, make it your mission to do everything under the sun to acknowledge their generosity. If someone on the parent committee is comfortable writing one, send a press release out to local media announcing the company's uniform donation. Every time you send a note or a flier, include a tag line that acknowledges the company's gift. When the team has a dinner to celebrate the start or end of the season, always invite the company head. He or she may not attend, but it's the invitation that counts and if team coffers can afford the expense, a nice plaque acknowledging the sponsor's uniform gift is almost guaranteed to wind up in a prominent place on the wall of the benefactor's office.