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CLS16 Notes: How to ask for Money

Session 5: How to ask for Money

Google gets about 300+ requests for money annually at Google Open Source

Cat has a background in nonprofit development (financial contributions) and offers guidelines from both perspectives.

Many ineffectual requests submitted, however Cat wants these requests and orgs to succeed. (purely selfish as it makes it easier for her to accept requests).

Recommendations When Asking for Money:

  • Have a reference document!
  • Make sure to proof read the document.
  • Be sure to include contact information.
  • Organizers
  • Fiscal agents
  • Things to include in the document
  • If requesting for an event
    • The dates, location/venues (city/country) of the event.
    • Who is involved and info / demographics of attendees, presenters, organizers
    • Why you’re putting on the event: what you hope to achieve/attendees to get out of it
    • Alignment between and company and event (including organizers, attendees).
      • Be aware of how potential sponsors might view other participants/sponsors.
  • If requesting for an organization/group
    • Who is involved and info / demographics of members
    • Point to any core contributors of your project employed by the company.
      • Be aware of how potential sponsors might view other participants/sponsors.
    • Alignment between and company and your group and it’s members.

Make Your “Ask,” & Be Ready to Collect:

  • These is a difference between philanthropy vs. sponsorship.
  • Not all sponsorships are fiscal:
    • Space (host events)
  • Hardware
  • Services
  • Goods
  • Have a way to collect the sponsorships (can your group accept credit cards? Is there a bank account? Be aware of constraints of payment services, e.g. Stripe, PayPal, etc.)
  • Be flexible to companies payment methods.
  • Many companies may require an invoice / purchase order.
  • Many require the organization to sign up as a contractor/vendor.
    • Also be sure you have a process in place to ensure this account is maintained. Who will manage these accounts if the original contact leaves, next year, etc.?
    • Are contracts involved?
  • Be sure of your tax status.
  • Be aware of what potential sponsors might ask in return for sponsorships. What are you willing to provide? For example,
    • acknowledgment, thanks, logo on T’s, website, promotions, etc.
    • inclusion in press release, swag, etc.
    • mentions (and thanks in) blogs, tweets, etc.
    • a presence at an event: table, comped admissions, staffing (sales people, recruiters, etc.)
    • email lists, contacts of attendees at the event, or the groups’ members’ contacts, scanning badges, etc.
    • sponsored sessions at a conference, dedicated events, targeted communications ,etc.
      • Be sure to denote which sessions are “sponsored” events
  • Be careful of limited bound sponsorships (support for specific activities at an event, e.g. “coffee sponsorship).
  • Consider asking for support for your organizations general funding, not just sponsorships for specific events and/or initiatives.
    • You might include administrative costs. One caution is that this could result in bikeshedding around your costs.


  • Have a short concise description of why project/event exists, how it serves - “tweet-length” - plus longer description.
    • Keep it short and direct
    • Page or two max.
    • Cover letter
      • Who you are (don’t forget contact info).
      • What your org is/does.
      • Why you do what you do.
      • Alignment with the company you’re asking
    • Pitch
      • What you’re asking for.
      • What you can provide.
    • Avoid
      • Lengthy documents, descriptions, etc.
      • Photos not needed (e.g. happy attendees/members, previous events, etc.)
  • Donors Choose (https://www.donorschoose.org/) provides good reference examples for soliciting contributions / sponsors for specific asks


  • Submit your requests and documentation via the resources of the organization your are asking from. Many have specific channels that they expect requests to go through.
  • Not appropriate to ask via Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • It may be that you have a personal contact in a company, but still be sure to work within the guidelines of the potential sponsor.
  • Coordinate your volunteers to limit the contacts (both the frequency and number of individuals communicating with the sponsor)
  • Try to find an internal / local advocate
    • This person is not the person to work through—use the official channel—but OK to reference your work together.
    • Be sure you communicate with your insider so they know you’re referencing them.
    • Consider sponsors in the location of your event/group.
  • Be aware you’re competing with (or that you are aware of) similar efforts, projects, communities, events.
  • If you hear “no,” don’t assume you’ll never get a contribution. Follow up and ask why it was not a fit? When would it be appropriate to approach them again? Are there other opportunities (other departments/divisions on the company, event other companies, i.e. referrals).
  • Look for fiscal sponsors or other organizing organizations/projects that can help run, manage and fund-raise for your event/activity.
  • Be sure to include who the money is being handles by (i.e. “the fiscal agent”).


  • Be sure to contact companies approx 5 months before fiscal year ends/starts to get on budgeting schedule for coming year.
  • Also you may want to contact companies in the 4th quarter, in order to take advantage of funding not spent over the year.
  • Keep your sponsors up to date regarding the status of your org/event so that they can see the benefits of their contributions.


Q: Does the cost of the conference influence the sponsorship?
A: The companies financial status does not determine the amount available for sponsorship. Try to align your audience, project event, with the department/division of the company you’re soliciting for funding.

Q. Is there something that is too small to ask?
A. Many companies have rates for “start-ups” or “non-profits.” Also groups may set contributions based on the company size (employees, revenue, etc.)

Q. How does for-profit status affect?
A. Many companies not interested in supporting commercial efforts. Looking for volunteer efforts.

Q. What benefits are expected from the sponsors, e.g. ads, web site presence.
A. There is a difference in expectations between marketing departments and departments in a company that are part of the community

Q. Should you include specific amounts.
A. Have an ask: OK to provide levels. People may generally “pick the middle” option You might also provide a clear value for the contribution, “Company X provided “Y to happen.”

Q. What are too many levels
A. Maximum of two pages for describing the levels of sponsors

Q. Should there actually be a dollar amount
A. Yes. One idea is to develop and promote matching donors.

Q. What are the fiscal sponsorship options in Europe?
A. Not sure, but assume there are options.

Q. Are other open initiatives considered (e.g. open data)?
A. It’s really about aligning the project (the org asking) with the department and/or company.

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A few of pointers for asking Mozilla for money:

  • Requests for sponsorship of developer-oriented conferences (and requests for conference speakers) go through a Bugzilla form, and are reviewed (usually) weekly. See the Event Request Guidelines for more info.
  • Applications are currently open for the first round of Mission Partner sponsorship awards. The deadline is 2016-05-31, but applications will be considered on a rolling basis after the first round is announced.
Thanks to for being the kind sponsor for this forum!