Step 1: Paperwork
To qualify for most grants, you must be a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and you must have a Federal Tax Identification number. Also, every US-based FRC team must fill out a W-9 to FIRST Finance annually in order to accept any funds on behalf of the team. You can find
this form and who you should send it to on the FIRST website.
Step 2: Finding Companies
When searching for sponsors, it’s ideal if you have a contact within the company. If someone you personally know works for the company, your chances of getting a sponsorship increase substantially.
Also, look around to see if the companies you’re targeting support other FIRST teams. Technology based companies, for example, generally tend to cater their philanthropy department towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs such as FRC teams. There’s a page on FIRST’s website titled “FIRST Robotics Competition Team Sponsors” that has a comprehensive list of companies that support FRC teams. If the company isn’t listed there, chances are, they won’t sponsor you. Unless if, of course, you have a contact in the company. Also, research what types of FRC teams the companies tend to sponsor. NASA and JCPenney, for example, almost exclusively sponsor rookie teams.
Sometimes companies will even find you--they may send you a letter with an invitation
code to their cybergrants page after competitions.
Step 3: Writing the Grant
First off, keep the deadlines in mind! The deadlines generally have no exceptions so make sure you turn in your grants on time. They’re also usually towards the end of the calendar year because that’s when companies have leftover money. Most companies have a mission statement that states they donate to nonprofit causes, because it is good publicity. In order to live up to this, these companies donate a certain percentage of their profits to philanthropic causes. This is why if you ask for funding from a new company, it is beneficial to ask at the end of each fiscal quarter. Keep the style of writing professional, and be sure to mention FIRST. Some grants will be done online; others must be submitted as a hard copy, and even some as both. As far as content goes, that’s relative to what your team does and/or how long your team’s been around.
Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
for any help with grant editing.
Step 1: Maintaining Relationships with Sponsors
You’re obviously going to want to have sponsors come back next season and sponsor you again. Business thank you letters should be sent right after you receive any financial support. Since we live near many of our sponsors, we sometimes also go to the corporate sites of our sponsors (we toured Intuitive Surgical), volunteer at events they host (we volunteered at BAE Systems’s Toys for Tots), or have them come in to give presentations (Lockheed Martin gave a career presentation to us).
At the end of an FRC season, you should send something out showing your appreciation. Aside from sending out a formal business thank you letter, we also include something like a yearbook signing page where members can write about how the company provided a unique opportunity for the members by sponsoring us, how the members will consider pursuing a STEM field in the future possibly working for said sponsor, etc. We also mail out our team’s shirt because it has the sponsor’s logo on the back.
Furthermore, most grants will ask you for a grant impact report—meaning you have to write about what you’ve accomplished the past season, obstacles you encountered, and how you plan to overcome them by making changes for the next season.
Step 2: Sponsor Recognition
Our team organizes our sponsors into sponsor levels, based on how much they donate to the team. The more money they donate, the more recognition they receive from MVRT.
- Bronze ($25+) Your name/logo is shown on our award-winning website.
- Silver ($100+) Your name/logo appears on our t-shirts, which is worn by our 100+ members.
- Gold ($500+) Your name/logo appears on our banners, which are shown as backdrops at competitions.
- Platinum ($1000+) Your name/logo appears on our robot, which is used at competitions and community demos.
- Diamond ($2000+) Our team registers you as a major sponsor.
Be sure to check out the MVRT Finance Packet
, which we present at competitions and demos to help people understand our team and how we budget everything within it. It’s often useful to have a business plan and budget for grants and presentations as sponsors require or encourage you to submit them.