You’re having an event?
To make it wildly successful, make it

  • Well attended
  • Highly profitable
  • And FUN!

Since money is what you’re most interested in, let’s focus on the ‘highly profitable’ part.
The best way to achieve that? Sponsorships.
Yep, sponsorships are the best way to explode your event revenue.
No matter what kind of event you’re having, the way you’ll make the most money is through sponsorships.


You’re not likely to make tons of money on ticket sales alone. And auctions can be great, but unless they’re done well, you won’t make a ton on them either.
The nice thing about sponsorships is that you can sell lots of them, unlike attendee seats where you may have a limited number. Hey, even if your event hall holds 500 people, that’s still a limit.
So how do you get sponsorships?

Finding potential sponsors

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can just get your hands on the local Chamber of Commerce list and send out a mailing to all the businesses who are members, then watch the sponsor dollars pour in.
It doesn’t work that way.  You won’t get a response.
Businesses are a lot like individuals when it comes to giving – they have limited resources and they have preferences about which nonprofits they want to support.
And just like individual donors, businesses must have LIA (Linkage, Interest, and Ability) before they will make a gift.
So, when looking for sponsors, look for businesses that you have a connection with and who are interested in the work your nonprofit does.
The connection is the most important thing. I’ve been on committees before where the people with the most connections in the community brought in the most sponsorships, simply because they picked up the phone and called their contacts. People often said “Yes” to sponsoring an event because of who asked.


Great sponsor prospects

Let’s get into the nitty gritty.
There are two kinds of companies that make great sponsor prospects:

  1. Companies where you know the decision maker and they’ll say “yes” because of your relationship.
  2. Companies whose target audience mirrors your event attendees.For example, if your audience consists of people who are very health conscious, then grocery stores like Whole Foods and other healthy life-style stores might be interested in sponsoring.

Keep these two in mind as you start your sponsor search. It’ll keep you from wasting a lot of time and money chasing the wrong businesses.
Tips for getting sponsors
Alright, so once you have your prospect list and you’re ready to go ask, here are some tips to help you:

  • Start early. Many corporations make these decisions in the fall for the next year. Small businesses may be able to make decisions closer to the date, but still, the earlier, the better.
  • Understand your prospect. Each business has their own objectives for sponsorship. They may be interested in particular causes or in using sponsorships to get in front of their ideal audience. They may want exclusivity. The better you understand what they want, the easier it is to give it to them.
  • Be clear what you’re asking for.There’s a difference in asking for a grant and a sponsorship. They typically have different goals and come from different places. Foundations don’t usually give sponsorship money for an event. Instead, they like to fund projects or programs. Sponsorships usually come from marketing budgets and aren’t really philanthropy because they’re meant to draw attention to the business and their brand, ultimately increasing customer revenue.
  • Tell them what they’ll get. Business decision makers listen to radio station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). They want to know what they’ll get for their money. Itemize the ways you’ll promote their business through their sponsorship. Also be ready to share
    • Demographics of your audience
    • Attendee numbers
    • Promotion reach (impressions through your social media channels, website, and newsletter; also any media promotion you’ll get)
  • Put it in writing. Create a written sponsorship packet or proposal that you can give to sponsor prospects that details the event, describes the various sponsorship levels, what they get for their sponsorship, and has clear directions for signing up. If they have to share information with another decision maker, you’ll have a greater chance of success if they have something written and don’t have to remember the details themselves.
  • Work with an Inside Champion. Your chances of cold-calling and getting a sponsorship are slim and none. Your best shot is to either know someone who is a decision maker or have an Inside Champion who can help get your sponsorship for you. Have your committee make a list of people they know at local businesses, then work that list.
  • Be ready to accept in-kind gifts. Some businesses may not be able to give you money, but they can give you stuff or services which may save you money. I once had a large business who donated graphic design services each year for my big event. We always had great-looking materials and it saved us a lot of money.
  • Find hidden prospects in your database. You may have businesses that are already supporting your nonprofit. Look through your database to see if there are any potential sponsors hiding in plain sight. The donation may be listed under the name of the business owner, and a review of your donors with your planning committee may help you identify them. If they are already giving to your nonprofit, then your chances of getting a sponsorship from them just shot up.
  • Get help. A committee can make planning your event much easier – the old saying that many hands make light work is true. Your committee can also help you reach people that you may not be able to reach yourself. Getting sponsorships is usually about having a personal connection, so a committee made up of folks who know a lot of people is ideal.


The bottom line here is that

  • Sponsorships are KEY to making a lot of money from an event
  • People with connections are KEY to getting sponsorships

Use the tips I’ve shared here and you’ll be on your way to your best event ever!

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