Donation vs. Sponsorship…what’s the big difference?

Before you contact anyone about a donation or a sponsorship, make sure you understand the difference! We just received a great blog from one of our CAREER Magazine contributors that we couldn’t stuff away in an issue. This is something every business owner needs to see! Thanks so much Anetra!


To all my Brand ME! solo-preneurs out there who are soliciting companies to support you as you mount your stump and begin telling the world what you believe, who you are, and why we should partner with you, let’s really talk about what you are asking for-a donation or true sponsorship.

First, let me tell you why I am qualified to have this discussion with you. I worked in the beauty, spa, and wellness industry for over 10 years at numerous companies. One of the consistent job functions I had across the board was being a part of the decision making process when it came to agreeing to donate or sponsor certain projects. I admit, in the beginning, it was never one of my favorite job functions because: A) I had many other things to do; and B) no one likes to be the bad guy all of the time. I had to say no way more than I could say yes to 99% legitimate requests. But that was part of the job in an industry that gets what I feel are more than its fair share of requests for support. So, I am speaking to you from the viewpoint of a decision maker, the person who read the requests and said yes, no, or nothing at all. The first reason your request is not getting a response or getting turned down flat is because you don’t know what you are asking for.

I know you looked online and pulled up a generic form that gives you information on what a request for sponsorship should look like. I know the form used nice buzz words that sound great and you punched it up with some of the key words whoever did your marketing gave you. I also know you looked up the definition of donation and sponsorship in the dictionary so you clearly understand the difference, right? Wrong-especially on that last point.

Regardless of what the dictionary tells you, the difference between a donation and a sponsorship request is what the company you are asking gets out of the deal. It is NOT having charity status, it is NOT defined by tragic circumstances, it is NOT in how you plan to use what you are asking for. It is simply and completely this: if supporting you with something of value only adds a warm, fuzzy feeling and a tax write off at the end of my fiscal year, its a DONATION.

Real and true SPONSORSHIP provides an opportunity for partnership between the solicited company and yours. As the decision maker, I want your request to tell me how handing you product and/or money will expose my business to a demographic that I need more of or don’t have at all, or fits into my overall mission and focus. In other words, my business needs to get something sustainable and tangible out of the deal. So if your event is going to expose my spa brand to 1,000 25-50 year old women who earn 75K or more, your sponsorship request is going to the next round for approval. If your event is going to give my spa brand an opportunity to gift to a group of male CEO’s with my new line of men’s skincare products, your request is going to the next round. If your online community is comprised of mommy-preneurs and you are looking for sponsorship opportunities for a Mother’s Day event, your request is going to the next round! These examples demonstrate sustainable demographics that can lead to tangible profits for a spa brand.

So before you send out another email requesting something from a for-profit business as a for-profit business, be sure you know what you are asking for!

If you need help sorting out your event sponsorship requests, let’s talk. I help clients navigate the monetization minefield of Sponsorship. Email me at

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