>Start volunteer group
>Gain a ton of popularity
>Lots of attention from various cities, organizations
>We are good at what we do, but of course still learning
>In process of filing for non-profit status
A company just offered us money in exchange for them being a "sponsor". Should i/we take it? They would want their image on our website, t-shirts, etc.
We are not hurting for money, and are doing pretty well with a current gofundme account, as well as the county we live in just having offered to pay for whatever supplies we need. Also, when we go non-profit that'll open us up for a lot of grants from the state.
Anyone have any experience in this? Not looking for legal advice, just opinions.
Basically I don't want for someone to become our sponsor then try and influence us in anyway as for as what our business decisions are.
At this stage in your organization's growth you should have a corporate lawyer. Have him research typical sponsorship deals to see the least you have to do for them to get their money. Decide whether you can live with that and see if they'll accept it. (For example, their small logo in the corner of your posters and stationery is pretty standard; having their name larger than yours, like on European football team shirts, is not.
The contract should specify that they have no say in your operation.
>Not looking for legal advice
You should be. Depending on where you are in the filing process (and what kind of nonprofit you are filing to be) this can have legal and tax implications for both you and the sponsor. Get some professional legal advice before you make a legal boo-boo.
>We are not hurting for money
That's good, but you want to keep it that way. You'll find it's much easier to get money when you already have money. If you wait until you're hurting for money, your credibility will be shot. I'm not the most experienced in the development world, but I can tell you that crowdsourcing will only get you so far. If you are growing, your funding needs to grow even faster. Also, you really do need to diversify your funding anyway. It makes your organization more stable.
>Basically I don't want for someone to become our sponsor then try and influence us in anyway as for as what our business decisions are.
They can only do that if you let them, and even then I'm not sure if it's legal under a sponsorship anyway. All sponsorships I've seen are limited to money in exchange for marketing. That's it.
You shouldn't be worried about them controlling you in any way. You can always drop them as a sponsor if they act unethically. What you should be worried about is their image. Is the company in good standing? How will their marketing presence influence your image? Etc.
As long as they're an upstanding company, you shouldn't be worried. They probably just want some cause marketing at a popular new nonprofit.
Also, you may want to consult with someone knowledgable in nonprofit fundraising. (Consider a Development Director at a larger local nonprofit.) Your ideas of sponsorship seem uninformed.