Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators


Securing corporate sponsorship of your program or events can be a great way to secure funds and build strategic partnerships.


This section looks at the differences between sponsors and corporate innovation before examining some of the motivations, likes and dislikes of different sponsors. It provides guidance on how to first approach a new sponsor as well as some tips for maintaining a strong, ongoing relationship with sponsors that you want to keep working with.

Who Sponsors Are

What’s the difference between sponsors and corporate innovation?


Sponsors are corporations but, unlike corporate, innovation sponsors (designed around specific programs/workshops/events) are those who support what we are doing without taking on innovation in their own organisation.

  • Sponsors support your vision

    Sponsors value your entrepreneurs as potential customers

Their Motivations and Questions to Consider

  • Why are they driven to do this?
  • Why do they have to innovate?
  • How are they motivated?
  • How are they staffed and equipped?

What Sponsors Like

  • To sponsor events
  • To sponsor direct costs
  • To put their money towards the overall missions and goals of the program
  • Standing in front of a crowd and saying hello
  • Their logos on banners and on social media
  • Data and metrics (reach, demographics, social mentions)
  • Introductions and referrals

Practical Tip

When running an event, get a venue that you will be able to fill up easily. This looks more impressive on the day and in any promotional photos and videos taken.

What Sponsors Don’t Like

  • Proposals that are too big too early
  • Just paying for overheads
  • Lack of reporting

Practical Tip

Understand if they have the resources to meet needs because sometimes they will make offers we rely on and they cannot follow through.

Listen to what they are looking to do and how they are looking to get involved. Use this as a way to work with the partner.


Introductions Spreadsheet

  • 1.

    Spring has a spreadsheet that they use to track every single introduction they ever made to a sponsor. It includes who the person was referred to, date, and origin of the referral.


    They send it to their sponsors at the end of the program or every quarter. This makes sure the sponsors know what referrals they are getting and helps Spring to stand out from the crowd. It shows them to be more organised.


    Source: Spring

Sponsor Influence

The influence of a sponsor can be positive and negative, depending on how heavily they want to influence and how much alignment there is about what success looks like.

Collaborative design (or co-creation) of programs can help minimise this and it also allows for a stronger relationship to be built.

The more structured the program design is when you approach sponsors shows you have thought about it, done your research, have a strong rationale and can decrease the amount of influence they typically exert.

Practical Tip

When dealing with corporates, make sure there is a value alignment, that their brand enhances/adds to yours, otherwise it can take you away from what you are doing or rebrand your project too far.


This can cause you to lose your credibility with your main cohort customers.

Making Your Initial Approach

Sponsors need to learn how to trust the work you do and that it will fit their goals, objectives, and budgets. Sponsorships often take a long time to get so look ahead to the next 1-2 years and consider with whom you might want to engage and invite them to events.

They also don’t like to be the only sponsors; this gives them a sense that the risk. If there are more sponsors, then costs can be divided among organisations, which also means lower risk to any one individual sponsor. However, there are some who want exclusivity (e.g. Toyota Impact Challenge).

  • Remember: this is relationship building

The most important step is to cultivate relationships. When speaking to tentative sponsors, always lead with your strongest partners but try to develop multiple relationships, and let them know that there are multiple conversations to build confidence and trust. Be sure to demonstrate your confidence in what your organisation does and has to offer, and know your program through and through.

Try to have the sponsor engage with what you do today. Sponsor field trips can pay off big time as it lets them go in-person to see and engage in the work you are doing on the ground.

Consider starting small and working up in size. Prove to them in the first year what you can do and grow from there.

Practical Tip

Leverage your team. Get them to review and co-create the proposal, inject wisdom and enable them to see hidden costs.

Make sure the team is also confident about it and can verbally share the team’s mission, vision, and goals to sponsors.



There is a big difference between what they expect to see in ‘the ask’ and what they need reported on.

Make sure to take this into account when negotiating pricing.

Practical Tip

  • Start with broad but considered number.
  • Start small, and provide options.


For example: High support: $10K, this includes…


Spring and the Royal Bank of Canada

  • 1.

    Spring was running a one day, 400 pax event. They approached the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) based on a referral (warm introduction). It took 1.5 years of building the relationship.


    What they (the sponsors) liked about Spring:

    – Fit their current year goals (CSR team) – by supporting impact entrepreneurs

    – Liked the size of the audience

    – Like the ability to stand in front of a big crowd


    Support Given:

    – Designed to cover all costs including overheads

    – Wanted a report on attendees, mentions on social etc. (asked for specific deliverables)


    Source: Spring


Spring and Vancity

  • 1.

    The initial sponsorship from Vancity was for one event to cover venue and food. After Spring delivered the event, Vancity saw its value.


    The following year, they started to build on that with:

    – One small project

    – One small event

    – One big event (500 people)


    In the beginning, they did not give a blanket sponsorship, Spring had to go to them each time to tell them what they are doing and asked for sponsorship. Then on Year three, Vancity requested that Spring gave them a plan for the year and they would mutually agree on what Vancity will sponsor over the course of the entire year.


    They are currently on four years of blanket support ($50,00 a year).


    Source: Spring

Maintaining the Partnership

Once a relationship with a sponsor is established it needs to be nurtured and maintained. 

This can be supported in a number of ways:

  • Communications:

    Keep communications current: pre/during/post-event, and quarterly thereafter

  • Strategy

    Talk about strategy as a team and then exceeding expectations

  • Team

    Make sure the sponsors know multiple members of your team to expand the relationship and trust.

    • Have a CRM platform, have email thread in there as well to get the sponsor to speed quickly (e.g. HubSpot)
    • Make sure proposals and supporting documents are in a common filing system (e.g. Google Docs) so everyone knows where everything is at
    • If someone on the team leaves, make sure you reach out to the partners to let them know and to touch base again
  • Stories

    Tell stories of the entrepreneurs who are impacted by their programs. This shows the human side of the impact you are creating and helps the sponsor connect on a personal level.

  • Budget cycle

    Know the sponsors’ budget cycle and build those relationships in advance.

    • Know when they get a new budget and start talking to them three months beforehand so they write you in.
  • Diversification

    Don’t rely on funding from just one sponsor – build multiple relationships to ensure you remain well funded on an annual and recurring basis.


Funding Programs

How to ensure funding for your own program needs as well as for your entrepreneurs