Getting sponsors for your local civic hacking event

logoPreviously, we had talked about how to plan and run a civic hacking event. Today, we’re going to go into a little more detail about getting sponsors for your event using resources from Code for America’s Brigade toolkit and asking a number of companies that have sponsored events in the past.

Terms to know before we get started

Donations vs Sponsorships

First, it’s important to understand the difference between donations and sponsorships. Donations are tax-deductible and cannot have business benefits for the donor (giving) company. If you’re an official Code for America Brigade Chapter, then Code for America can help intake donations for your local brigade.

Sponsorships are not tax-deductible, require a signed agreement, and will often include specific deliverables.  These deliverables are usually worked out in advance and will include what’s getting purchased and if the company is paying or reimbursing the organizer.

Fiscal Agents 

If you’re working with a local non-profit partner, it may be easier for that partner to accept donations or sponsorships money than for you to handle it as individual organizers. Depending on the organization, they may even be able to pay for things upfront (like food or venue costs) and have the sponsor(s) reimburse the organization. If you do partner with a non-profit partner, it’s recommended that you sign a Memo of Understanding stating what each party will do. (A memo of understanding is a signed document that just lays out 1) the scope of the project or agreement and 2) lays out what everyone agreed to do and when.)

Asking for money – Who to ask

Asking for money can be intimidating, but it’s something that comes with the territory. There are a lot of funders out there – be sure to figure out which ones are most relevant to your organization and interested in your work. They might be corporations, foundations, or wealthy individuals, and they might give anywhere from $1,000 contributions for an Annual Campaign to $500K grants for General Operating Support.

It also helps to know if the company or organization has sponsored similar events in the past. Have they sponsored hackathons for other groups? Have they ever expressed an interest in civic hacking? If they have, then they’re good candidates for sponsoring your event.

The other thing to check on is if any of your non-profit partners have an existing relationship with the organizations you’re thinking about asking for sponsorship. They may be able to make an introduction.

Asking for money – Being prepared

One of the best things that you can do to increase your chances of getting a sponsorship is being prepared.  You should have information about your group and your event that can fit on a single sheet of paper. You should also include information about your group’s previous wins. If this is your first National Day of Civic Hacking event, you can also show what’s been done during National Day of Civic Hacking during previous years.

Once you have all that, all that’s left to do is to reach out and make the ask. The key in making the ask is to show your genuine enthusiasm and passion for your cause, while not being afraid to directly ask for their financial support. You want to be clear when describing how much financial support you are seeking and how you will use their money.

After the event

After the event, be sure to reach back out to the sponsors with a thank you note and to let them know what the results of the event were.

For additional reference, here’s the Code for America Brigade Training video regarding fundraising. You should also check out Code for America’s fundraising toolkit as as well!


The Code for America finance and communities team contributed to this blog post.