Fundraising events take a fair amount of money to produce, and it’s easy to spend more money on the event that it actually raises. There are a number of ways to keep this from happening (like setting a realistic budget and fundraising goal and having a data-backed plan to boost donations), but one of the most efficient ways to ensure your event is a net financial gain is through corporate sponsorships.
So, how do you get corporate sponsors to support your event?
Step 1: Identify prospects.
To start, ask yourself: which companies should be targeted as sponsors? Ideally, you’d like sponsors that fit well with your mission, and whose target markets overlap the demographics of your guests. In other words, the people attending your event would also be likely to support your sponsors.
Leverage your board’s personal networks and see if anyone has any connections that might be a good fit. Ask board members if they’d be willing to contact these companies directly, by signing the proposal letter and making a follow-up phone call after it’s been sent.
Another method of finding potential sponsors is looking at your competitors. Which companies are sponsoring their events? Who are the competitors of those companies? It helps to check out event pages and websites to find out what kind of publicity your competitors are giving their sponsors.
Step 2: Find out what matters to them.
If you want to win over a sponsor, you need to speak their language. Formulate your approach with one question in mind: What’s in it for the sponsor?
A corporate sponsor is looking for benefits like a new business, more customers, a halo effect with their customer base to encourage brand loyalty or visibility. When you approach prospective sponsors, listen more than you talk, and ask them about their goals and priorities. Then, show how it’s a big benefit to them to be in front of your audience.
Chris Baylis at www.sponsorshipcollective.com has five great questions to ask potential sponsor:
- Who is your target audience?
- How do you normally engage in sponsorship?
- What does your target market value?
- What are your sales goals for the coming year?
- What would you consider to be the most important elements of a sponsorship proposal?
While you’re communicating with various organizations, make sure you’re tracking your interactions. Use your fundraising software to create an organization record for every company you approach. If you can’t easily track organizations in your current donor database, talk to us about switching to a system that gives you the option to make a company record.
Step 3: Make them a winning offer.
With all this background information, you’re ready to formulate a compelling proposal. First things first, your job is to sell the benefit to the sponsor. The cost of that benefit is your sponsorship package. Think of this way:
Event Package + Promotional Package + Donation = Sponsorship Package
That means you should lead with “Here’s what we can do for you – let’s make this win-win happen together,” not “Here’s our sponsorship package – please support us.” You need to demonstrate the value to them.
So, how much should you actually charge your sponsors? A lot of it will depend on what you learn from your conversation with them. Also, get to know the market by looking at the competition. What do similar organizations in your region charge?
Then, consider your own event. How many people will be attending your event? What kind of exposure can you offer for your sponsors? The answers to all of these questions can help you come up with a fair dollar amount.
As you’re working to win over your sponsor, make sure you’re clear on what their role will be. It’s critical to establish clear parameters that are ethical and appropriate from the start.
Once your sponsors have agreed to support you, follow-up with a contract – and create a plan to make you both successful. Involve the sponsor in planning and promotion so they feel like an integral part of your event – and so your event feels like part of their overall outreach strategy. The deeper the thought you put into the partnership, the deeper the partnership will be.
Not only are corporate sponsors great partners for funding your event, but they lend your event more reach and recognition within your network. Knowing that a well-reputed business supports your cause gives your organization legitimacy in the eyes of a potential attendee or donor. Take advantage of this strategy for the long-term with your organization. Your sponsor’s for-profit savvy and business sense can be a powerful tool beyond your upcoming event.