When you’re in the thick of planning a fundraising event, you know that all the details matter, but sponsorships are especially important to maximize revenue and fundraising outcomes. It’s important to note that sponsors should be stewarded differently than your organization’s regular donors. Sponsors typically give larger amounts of cash, in-kind donations, or assets than average donors, which means that you, as a fundraiser, need to employ different strategies to get them onboard and be prepared to spend more time and effort maintaining the relationship.
The great thing about these types of sponsorships is that they are a win-win for your nonprofit and the sponsor: you benefit from more dollars raised for your mission, while corporate philanthropy provides a brand lift, an association with a worthy cause, and can even motivate employee performance.
These five best practices can help secure sponsors for your next fundraising event.
1. Tap into your networks.
Personal connections make a huge impact in securing sponsors for your fundraising event. Brainstorm a list of potential sponsors and then reach out to your event planning team, board members, staff, or volunteers and identify who has a personal or professional connection they’re willing to leverage. It might be helpful to create a list of talking points, email or letter templates, or other materials to help make these introductions go smoothly and to keep your messaging consistent.
2. Pitch to similarly aligned businesses.
Think about the type of event you’re hosting and what businesses might be naturally connected to it. For example, if you’re hosting a charity golf tournament as an upcoming fundraiser, approach prospective sponsors that want to get in front of the golfer demographic or are related to the sport. Some ideal sponsors include gyms, golf equipment or sporting goods stores, and even beverage distributors or retailers, car dealerships, and healthcare providers.
Also, no matter what type of fundraiser you’re holding, be sure to pitch to businesses that are aligned with your cause in some way. Pet rescue? Look to vet clinics, pet food companies, pet boarding, or daycares. Literacy organization? Think about bookstores, publishing companies, and businesses related to education. Assisting with home ownership? Consider hardware stores, construction companies, home improvement stores, and real estate or insurance agencies.
Approaching sponsors who align in some way with the type of event or your work increases the likelihood they’ll sign on to support your event.
3. Offer a variety of sponsor packages and levels.
Not every business is interested in committing to or has the budget for a top-tier sponsorship. Your nonprofit can effectively fill your event’s sponsor slate by providing multiple sponsorship levels at varying price points. If you have a specific business in mind for some sponsorships, you could also create custom engagements that are scaled-down versions of higher-end sponsorships that might be a better fit for their available resources.
In the case of a charity golf tournament, hole sponsorships are a great entry point for sponsors to get involved and support your cause. These are typically more affordable while still offering great exposure for the sponsor. For galas or auctions, table sponsors, auction item sponsors, registration sponsors, or tiered offerings (platinum, gold, silver, bronze, etc.) allow more companies to purchase sponsorships, creating more opportunities for additional support down the road.
With each sponsorship, detail how you will recognize the sponsor’s support and what they get in return, such as a foursome for a golf tournament, a complimentary table at a gala, their logo on the registration website and printed materials, the opportunity to speak at the event, or social media shoutouts.
4. Measure and report on sponsor impact.
Data can be your best friend in pitching sponsorships for your fundraising event. The following types of data are helpful when it comes to showing businesses the impact of supporting your event and the tangible benefits of cross-sector partnerships.
- The benefits of corporate philanthropy. More and more, people want to work for and do business with companies that prioritize philanthropy. In fact, according to Double the Donation, 93% of employees believe that companies must lead with purpose, and 77% of consumers want to buy from companies making the world a better place. This data illustrates the internal and external advantages for businesses considering charitable initiatives, which can include sponsoring your nonprofit’s fundraising event.
- Past sponsor ROI. If you haven’t done this with past events, now’s the time to start! Survey sponsors shortly after a fundraising event, within a few months, about the impact the event had on their business. When at all possible, ask for quantitative feedback, such as new customers acquired, leads generated, and additional revenue realized to clearly show the ROI of the sponsorship. You can also ask for more qualitative data, such as brand perception and awareness.
- Target audience demographics. If your fundraising event caters to a certain audience that overlaps with a business’ ideal client or customer, be sure to highlight this data in your sponsorship pitch. For instance, if you’re hosting a golf tournament fundraiser, emphasize golfers’ net worth (over $760,000, according to GolfStatus) for businesses that cater to a wealthier clientele.
5. Leverage online tools to identify and engage potential sponsors.
Nonprofit teams are busier than ever, so finding ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness are key. Web-based technology built for nonprofits lets you automate processes, identify prospects, send customized messages, and onboard sponsors. For example, an event management tool is an important piece of your tech stack. You can collect donor information at the point of registration, sell sponsorship packages, process payments, and keep track of all the event’s information in one place. Your organization’s CRM is another tool where you can track donors’ giving trends, pull reports to tailor messaging that resonates with audience segments and create prospect lists for event sponsorships.
Leverage in combination with other digital avenues to identify, research, and even pitch to potential corporate sponsors. Professional networking sites like LinkedIn and other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram let you engage with brands and local businesses and find out more about their philanthropic priorities.
Wrapping Up and Next Steps
Sponsorships for your fundraising events are where you’ll likely see the most revenue, so your nonprofit needs to be strategic in creating sponsorship packages and making asks. Get started by brainstorming sponsorship package ideas and determining costs and price points, list them on your event’s website, then leverage your networks to start making asks. You might also reach out to vendors or current partners to build custom sponsorships that fit their budgets and needs. Set yourself up for future success by having a process in place to steward these sponsors before, during, and after the fundraising event. You’ll lay the foundation for future event support and a potential broader partnership.