Those who have organized a successful fundraiser know the importance of having great sponsors. Whether your event is large or small, sponsors bring a level of legitimacy to your cause, while also significantly contributing to your proceeds. This combination of increased revenue and added exposure is the key to scaling the size of your fundraiser, year after year. Additionally, a healthy collection of sponsors tells your donors that your fundraising event is worth attending!
At this point, you’re probably thinking that bringing in sponsors to your next fundraiser is a no-brainer – and it is! However, the path to attracting and closing many sponsorships can be long and difficult. For that reason, we have created the Ultimate Guide to Fundraising Sponsorship. In this guide, we will walk you through all aspects of sponsorship, focusing on the key areas below:
- Opportunity Identification
- Building a Sponsorship Package
- Soliciting Sponsors
- Acknowledgment and Follow Up
As fundraiser organizers ourselves, we believe this guide will be one of your best tools in attracting new sponsors, growing your event year over year, and increasing donations for your cause!
The very first step that you (and your committee) should take is identifying the opportunity for sponsorship at your next fundraising event. While sponsorship can apply to fundraising events of all sizes, the nature of sponsorship can vary greatly. To begin this process, consider some of the following criteria:
- Size – How large is your event? Do you have an expected attendance? Estimating the size of your audience will help you gauge the size of sponsors to pursue. If you plan on having a very large event with 400+ attendees, you will have a great chance of attracting large sponsors on a national level. Smaller events may have more luck focusing on smaller sponsors coming from local businesses in the city or surrounding towns where the event will take place.
- Audience – Knowing your attending audience will be key to understanding your sponsorship approach. By identifying certain elements of your audience (age, employment, geographic location), you can tailor your sponsorship targeting in order to start with the most relevant sponsors.
Our annual event consists of over 1,000 young professionals and millennials. Knowing this about our audience allows our committee to target sponsors interested in gaining exposure to such an audience. For us, this may include younger startups, or corporations that are keen on growing their consumer base from a younger demographic.
- Event Location & Online Presence – Your event location will include both your physical venue and any potential digital or online plans you may have. Knowing your venue ahead of time will allow you to create a more informed sponsorship package, detailing specific exposure opportunities for your sponsors. These typically include logo placements, banners, and mentions at the event.
While these physical elements will be key to attracting sponsors, knowing your online or digital presence will also be a major draw for sponsors. Do you plan on having an event website, Eventbrite page, and social media pages dedicated to your fundraiser? If so, your event will become a much more attractive candidate for sponsorship, as potential sponsors will see the clear value in generating online impressions.
Pro Tip: When creating online “real-estate” for your fundraiser, try to plan ahead and create immersive or engaging elements for your fundraiser. Using your online pages to create teasers for your audience, or even allowing them to donate through a mobile or online fundraiser will create a fun experience for your audience. Your potential sponsors will be drawn to this engaging experience, and will be eager to support your cause in order to be associated with this positive experience!
Once your team has considered the criteria above, you should have a better understanding of the opportunity for sponsorship at your event – both in the total scope of sponsorship dollars you can bring in, and the type of sponsors you can begin to prospect.
Using your knowledge of the above, you can then set a goal for the amount of sponsorship your team should try to secure. Set a firm goal, and communicate it early and often to your committee. Keep in mind that newer events may attract less sponsorship than a mature event with a proven track record.
Building Your Sponsorship Package
Now that you have gauged the sponsorship potential for your fundraising event, it’s time to create your fundraiser sponsorship package. The fundraiser sponsorship package is an amazing tool and resource for your committee to use as they prospect and hopefully close many sponsorships for your fundraiser.
When creating your sponsorship package, it’s important to remember that the major function of the document will be to clearly communicate the inspiration, message, and history behind your event, while also providing information on the different sponsorship tiers available to potential supporters.
And while information below will be a great guide for you to follow when creating your own sponsorship package, feel free to get creative and add any feedback you have in the comments section of this post!
- Event DescriptionFirst and foremost, take a small portion of your sponsorship package to describe your upcoming fundraiser. Key information to include will be:
- The event name
- Date and time
- The cause or organization that the fundraiser will be supporting
- Venue name and location
- The event theme and dress code
- Inspiration / HistoryOne of the most important sections of your sponsorship package will be where you describe the inspiration and history behind your event. Providing a glimpse into the origin of your event and the story around the great cause / organization you are supporting will help your event stand out among the hundreds of sponsorship requests potential supporters receive. If you have been running your event for more than a year, be sure to include information on the progress or growth the event has made over that time. This could be growth in attendance, proceeds raised, or both!
After describing your team’s motivation and the history behind your fundraising event, you can also use a small portion of your sponsorship package to talk about the organization or cause you are supporting. Here, include the mission statement of the organization and any important progress or history it has made since its origin.
- Event StatisticsNow it’s time to focus on some of the hard data. Do you expect high attendance? Maybe your audience isn’t huge, but consists mostly of a target demographic that you know your sponsors are dying to get in front of. For our annual Boston fundraiser, we focus heavily on our large attendance, consisting mostly of millennials and young professionals.
Some other sources of data that you may be able to pull from include:
- Digital Presence – This will include anything from the traffic / impressions you may be observing on your fundraising event web page, to the number of fans or people in attendance on your Facebook event page. One tip here – make sure you set up a Google Analytics account for your site. This is easy to do, and will allow you to capture impressions and stats to share with your sponsors each year.
- Survey Data – If you plan on holding your fundraising event annually, send out a post-event survey. In the survey, you can gain insights on what your audience thought of your event, but can also ask questions about your attendees’ ages, occupations, and preferences. Once you’ve collected this data, you can include some of the stats directly in your sponsorship package in order to entice your sponsors.
- Yearly Proceeds – Again, it will always help to highlight any growth you’ve seen in your proceeds donated, year after year.
- The AskNow that you’ve provided your potential sponsors with some amazing context behind your event, and stats that will have them chomping at the bit, it’s time to ask for their participation and help!
A strong call to action will provide potential sponsors with the next steps they must take in order to participate as a sponsor. In addition, it is always helpful if you can provide information on what a potential contribution would mean for the organization or cause that your event is supporting. For example, will a contribution of $1,000 provide meals to impoverished children for a week? Let your sponsors know these details, so that they can visualize the impact their organization will have.
- Sponsorship TiersThe most critical portion of your sponsorship package will be the sponsorship levels that you determine for your potential sponsors. These tiers describe the different aspects of each sponsorship (level of exposure, presence at the event, tickets, etc.) and correspond to increasing levels of contribution.
Based on the size of your event, you can determine the different monetary levels that you’d like to assign to each tier of sponsorship. We provide an example of a great sponsorship package used for a real fundraising event at the end of this post!
Typically, levels are broken into categories to make your ask clearer. We use categories such as Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze, but feel free to create your own custom names that play into your event.
Common aspects that are included in most sponsorship packages include:
- Naming Rights – Naming rights are one of the most prominent attributes a fundraising event can offer to sponsors, and typically include a sponsor providing a monetary contribution in order to have their name tied to a certain portion of the fundraising event. For example, a sponsor company may donate $25,000 in order to have the event itself named after the company – i.e., The [Company Name here] Winter Fundraiser.
For smaller contributions, you may be inclined to offer naming rights for different portions of your event (the DJ booth, the open bar, etc.).
- Logo & Name Recognition – This can include a sponsor’s logo on all digital elements of your fundraiser, including email or online communications, social media pages, and your website.
Additionally, logo recognition will include any physical signage present at your event, such as on event banners, programs, or even your photo backdrops.
- Tickets to the Event – Traditionally, most of your sponsorship tiers will include tickets to your event for the sponsoring organization. The higher the contribution, the more tickets you can offer to the sponsor!
- Contact InfoFinally, don’t forget to include your contact information and the address to which your sponsors can send their contributions, as well as any materials you will need from them (logo files, etc.).Keep in mind that your sponsorship package is a great way to start conversations with your sponsors. Emphasize that your different tiers are just guidelines – leave sponsorship opportunities open to discussion, in case your potential sponsors are interested in a custom experience outside of the original details provided in your sponsorship package.
At this point, hopefully you’ve worked with your committee to identify the sponsorship opportunity your fundraising event will have, and you’ve also finished creating a compelling sponsorship package.
Now it’s time to start contacting and closing sponsorship deals for your fundraiser!
Because this is arguably the most important part of fundraiser sponsorship, we’ve broken this section down into a few subsections:
- Best Channels of Communication
- Creating a Prospecting & Outreach Plan
- Process & Example Outreach Messages
- General Tips and Tricks
Coming from years of experience in running special events and fundraisers, the strategies below have been working great for us – but feel free to add in your own strategies, too!
- Best Channels of Communication
Phone and Email – The largest portion of your sponsorship communication and outreach will consist of sending emails and making phone calls to potential sponsors. As with many sales processes, your goal here will be to contact as many potential sponsors as you can, in order to create a pipeline of potential donors.
Social Media – We’ve found that social media can be a very powerful tool to start conversations with potential companies and sponsors. Social channels that have worked best for us include:
- Facebook – Surprisingly, the Facebook Messenger tool has proven to be one of the most successful outreach channels we’ve used. To use Facebook Messenger, first search for the companies you’d like to connect with. On their Facebook Business page, they should have a messenger functionality that you can use to contact them. Here, we’ve seen response rates around 90%!
- LinkedIn – Our favorite method here is to have you and your committee comb through your LinkedIn contacts, seeing where your friends and contacts work, and asking them for potential connections to their employers for sponsorship opportunities.
- Twitter – We’ve also found success in using Twitter to open doors with potential sponsors. Tweeting directly at companies can result in a quick response from them, offering an email address for the right department or employee to contact.
Friends and Family – While the above channels may be the most time-consuming and can be responsible for a large volume of sponsors, your most effective prospecting, and potentially your largest opportunities, will come from leveraging your network of friends and family.
Your friends and family are people who already trust you and will be able to more easily relate to the cause you’re supporting. Furthermore, they should be more than willing to connect you with any contacts they may know who might be interested in participating as a sponsor for your fundraising event. Ask your friends and family to make these connections for you, and try to set up phone calls or in-person meetings with these potential sponsors.
- Creating a Prospecting & Outreach Plan
Once you have identified potential channels for communication with sponsors, we suggest creating a prospecting and outreach plan. To create an effective plan, follow these tips:
- Set a goal for both yourself and your committee, for how many outreaches each person will make each week. An outreach consists of an email, conversation, meeting, or phone call with a new potential sponsor.
- Have your team track the conversations they are having and the companies that they are communicating with.
- Meet regularly with your committee in order to discuss the status of potential sponsorships, and to talk about any new tips or strategies your team has uncovered throughout the process.
- Don’t be worried about having multiple people contacting the same company from different angles! We’ve found this approach to be effective in convincing your target companies to participate in sponsorship for your event.
- Create competitions for your team as a means of motivation, and provide consistent updates on which members of your committee have closed sponsorship deals.
- Process and Example Messages
To help you and your team tackle the process of closing sponsors for your event, we’ve put together some real examples of messages that we have used ourselves!
To begin, our team will typically send an introductory email or Facebook Messenger post to a potential sponsor. These messages may look something like this:
Here, be sure to note a few key elements of the messages used:
- Quick description of the event
- Mention of any eye-catching stats (“1,000+ young professionals and millennials in attendance”)
- Request for a follow-up call or meeting
After your first contact, you’ve hopefully received a response from the person you’ve contacted, and can continue your discussion by setting up a phone call or in-person meeting.
What you will probably find, however, is that you do not receive many responses on your first outreach. If this is the case, we suggest sending another email / message / call a few days to a week later, quickly touching base with an email similar to the screenshot below:
With the follow-up messages, you’ll notice that they do not contain as much information as the first message. Another tactic here is to add in some information on any other sponsors you have secured already, as this will signal to new potential sponsors that your event is an important one to take part in!
As you (and your committee) continue reaching out to potential sponsors, it is important to stick to some sort of process. One of our favorite ways to keep track of those you have contacted is by creating a simple spreadsheet, with the following columns:
- Company Contacted
- Contact Information
- Date Contacted
Using a document like this will allow you to check in on those you have contacted each day, allowing you to plan your follow-up messages or phone calls.
- Tips and Tricks
Over the years, we have learned a few tips and tricks that should help as your team begins soliciting sponsors for your next fundraising event. Feel free to share these with your committee!
- Appeal to your target sponsors – Prior to contacting a potential sponsor, do a bit of research. Is the company interested in reaching millennials? If so, tell them that your attendance will consist of many people in that age range (as long as that is true).
Additionally, try to frame their participation in your event as a marketing opportunity. To do so, you can provide stats on the impressions that your event will generate (both in person and online).
- Mention Your Other Sponsors – Once you begin securing sponsors, include a quick mention of them in your outreach emails to new sponsors. This will be a great tactic in convincing new sponsors to join, as they will see that other companies value a sponsorship opportunity at your event.
- Reach Out Often / Mix It Up – When contacting potential sponsors, multiple outreach attempts will be necessary. We rarely see high response rates from the first outreach attempt to potential sponsors. It is not until the 3rd or 4th attempt that you will get higher response rates. Additionally, mix up the channels that you are using to contact potential sponsors (see the recommended channels above).
- Start Local – Local companies are a great place to start. Any local businesses will already feel more connected to your cause, and will be more likely to support you.
- Target Fast-Growing Companies – Fast-growing companies are also a great target for sponsorship. These companies are always looking to get their name in front of more people in order to grow their brand equity. Furthermore, many of these companies will be looking to rapidly hire new talent – talent that may even be present at your event! We’ve frequently described our event as an opportunity for sponsor companies to meet their next potential hire.
- Don’t Give Up! – Did you receive a hard no from a potential sponsor? Don’t give up there! Instead, ask them what you can do to be considered for next year’s event. And if it makes sense, ask if the business would be able to provide a silent auction or raffle item in lieu of a sponsorship.
Acknowledgement and Follow Up
The final part of our guide is all about thanking your sponsors. Donating funds to your fundraising event is extremely generous, so don’t forget to acknowledge your sponsors adequately.
Of course, the first thing you should do is make sure each of your sponsors receives the recognition they deserve based on their tier / contribution level. As discussed before, this could be anything from logo placements on your website to signage at your fundraising event.
Another great way to give some added attention to your sponsors is to make a quick announcement at your event. Here, you will spend most of your time thanking your attendees and talking about your cause, but also try to sneak in a quick thank you to your sponsors.
Finally, when your event has ended, always be sure to follow up with your sponsors. Handwritten thank yous are always a great way to add a personal touch to your appreciation. You can also provide periodic updates to your sponsors about the progress of your cause or organization throughout the year. This will help keep your fundraiser top of mind with your prior sponsors so that they will turn into repeat supporters!
After reading this guide, we hope that you feel much more prepared to grow your fundraiser by making sponsorship a central part of your next event. Feel free to share this guide with your fellow fundraisers, and good luck with your next fundraiser!
Zach Hagopian is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding. An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.