Why and What?
Building robots is expensive and that money has to come from somewhere. Yet, as most of us know (we’re very sorry if we’re just breaking this to you), money doesn’t grow on trees and mom and dad or your school will only hand out so much cash, so many teams turn to corporate sponsors. for additional funding.
These sponsorships usually come in the form of money, but we’ve found that just products that that company sells can often be just as useful (such as a 3D printer, filament, plastic sheets, wires, etc). Often companies have part of their budget set aside for sponsorships. Companies are basically waiting to hand out money. All you have to do is ask. The worst thing they’ll say is no, after all.
Who, Where, and How?
But who do you ask and how exactly do you ask someone to just hand you money?
There are two ways Error 404 has gotten sponsors:
1) Calling companies — a team member opened up a phone book and called every engineering company in Houston and we ended up with Jacobs Engineering (one of our most valuable sponsors) and
2) we try to go to as many local engineering conferences and fairs as possible. Some examples for the Houston area is the Houston Maker Fair. Usually FIRST will have several slots reserved (one for FLL, FTC, & FRC) and they usually need teams to staff them. Sign your team up and talk to people. After your time slot is done go walk around the convention hall and look at the booths and talk to folks. If there is a company there that seems to sell something that is sorta in line with robotics then consider talking to them about getting a sponsorship. Error 404 helped staff the FTC booth at the Rockwell Automation Fair and we ended up receiving a sponsorship from the Austin based company Poly Printer because a parent of a team member got into a conversation and called us over. They loaned us a very nice 3D printer for the season accompanied by a bunch of filament (including some rolls of nijaflex!). Just talk to people. Someone’s dad works for a good company, ask if he can send a sponsor letter or if your team can visit and make a presentation.
Once you have a prospective company, how do you ask? Phone calls, emails, and personal visits. Once you have a company in mind call them. You’ll probably be answered by a secretary and you’ll want to give your name, who you represent, and why you’re calling.
Something like this: “Hi, my name is Charles Xavier, I’m a freshman in high school, and I’m apart of an FTC robotics team. On behalf of my team, I was wondering who I would talk to or email about a possible sponsorship.” Then the secretary will either help you out or not. Make sure you have some paper near by to write down an email address if you are given one. Just be prepared to talk about what your team does and how said company can help in case you are passed up the line.
If you have an email address, then send something like this:
Dear Sir or Madam (preferably get a name);
My name is ___student name_____. I am a ___grade____ in high school and a member of _______team name______, a FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team.
On behalf of _____team name____, I would like to ask your consideration for sponsorship for our _____insert year____ season which began on ___date___. It is through the generous sponsorship of companies like yourself that we are able to purchase the needed supplies that have made us a competitive team, (give your team’s single best achievement at competition). Furthermore, it is because of our generous sponsors that we able to learn so much and develop our skills so we can someday be qualified and capable employees of a company like yours.
Our sponsor letter and team flyer are attached for your information. Please contact us if you have any questions. We would love to have you as one of our amazing sponsors. Thank you for your consideration.
____student name_____, member of ___team name_______
You will also need to include an official sponsor letter or packet that you can attach to the email, and a team flyer also helps. Give them as much information as you can. A link to FIRST and FTC, a link you your team’s website and or social media pages. Personalize the email. Add in little bits to customize it and make it yours. Companies can tell the difference between a mass-released email and a message composed directly for them.
Here is Error 404's current official sponsor packet and our team flyer from last year's world competition: