Event sponsorships can be a game-changer for nonprofit organizations looking for alternative sources of funding. Securing sponsors can help cover expenses and generate additional revenue streams, but it takes a lot of work to get the support you need. Additionally, securing sponsors brings credibility, thus raising awareness of your nonprofit work. Your nonprofit brand coupled with corporate sponsors can boost traffic to your website, support your fundraising efforts, and help to expand your overall reach and impact.
Here are five tips to help you achieve event sponsorship success for fundraising galas, community fairs, conferences, seminars, luncheons, and more.
1. Start early: Don’t wait until the last minute to start seeking sponsors. Reach out to potential sponsors as early as possible to give them enough time to review and consider your proposal. This will also enable you to build relationships with potential sponsors that may lead to long-term partnerships. There are many times when an organization puts an event together in two months or less, and while this may be something your team can do, it is not a sustainable method, especially when you’re ready to bring in sponsors. If you want to make event planning more sustainable and less stressful for your team, develop a new habit of planning in advance and seeking sponsors at least six-nine months before your event.
If your organization does not have any existing relationships, then it is important to focus on building relationships before asking a company to sponsor you. Your focus should be all about painting the vision for what is to come and how your organization solves a pressing problem in your area. Write the vision, make it easy to understand, and then articulate it to others.
2. Know your audience’s values, interests, and needs: To attract the right sponsors, you need to understand who your audiences are. Identify the motivations of your attendees, their interests, and values, and use this information to approach sponsors that align with your community. This information will help you select sponsors whose products or services are relevant to your audience. Your audience data should always drive your sponsor outreach. For example, if your audience is primarily young professionals in tech, then target sponsors that want to reach this population such as banks, tech companies, health insurance plans, and retailers. By understanding the goals of your sponsors, you can pitch your event or initiative as the perfect solution to help them, while also advancing your mission.
3. Create a compelling proposal: Your sponsorship proposal should be well-written, visually appealing, and include relevant information about your organization and event. Make sure to highlight the benefits of sponsoring your event and how it aligns with the sponsor’s brand values and goals. Your proposal should have a mixture of quantitative and qualitative information. Sponsors want to see numbers and some are moved by compelling stories, so add a transformational testimonial or two throughout your sponsorship proposal. If you include quotes or stories from your beneficiaries, make sure you are approaching it from a place of dignity vs. exploitation, and ask them to approve of any content before you use it.
Creating customized sponsorship packages is an effective way to attract sponsors and provide them with a range of opportunities to get involved with your event. Each sponsorship package should include some standard elements such as information about us, an overview of the event, audience data, event logistics, sponsorship opportunities, and contact information. Sponsorship packages are also a good tool to highlight words that align with your organization’s mission and purpose such as unhoused, marginalized, education, food security, access to care, arts and culture, social justice, youth, college preparation, and entrepreneurship. These words will stand out to a sponsor if they are focus areas or funding priorities of that company.
4. Offer unique benefits: Sponsors want to get something out of their investment, so make sure you offer unique benefits that help you stand out. This could include exclusive access to VIP areas, branding opportunities, or the chance to network with key stakeholders. When deciding upon each brand benefit, be sure to only add things to your sponsorship opportunities that your organization can execute. By following through on the agreed-upon brand benefits you increase your chances of securing a returning sponsor and building a sponsor loyalty cycle. Check out my list on “What to Offer a Sponsor” to learn more about additional brand benefits to give a sponsor.
5. Build relationships: Securing sponsors is not a one-time transaction, but a long-term partnership. Building these relationships can be viewed the same way as you would build with a friend, which means do not skip any stage of the relationship-building process. Take the time to get to know your sponsorship contact and give them the proper time to get to know you and your organization. Then, start having conversations about what it would look like for their organization to partner with you for a specific event, program, or initiative. This sponsoring relationship can turn into more if you steward it with care and authenticity. Make sure you build relationships with your sponsors by keeping them informed, providing them with regular updates, and showing your appreciation for their support.
In conclusion, event sponsorships can be an excellent way to generate nonprofit funding and build brand awareness, but it will take effort, planning, and a well-crafted proposal to secure the right sponsors. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of event sponsorship success and build lasting relationships with your sponsors that ultimately help you achieve your mission.
About the author:
Mariah Monique, MPH is the Founder and CEO of The Sponsorship Catalyst, where she and her team help nonprofit organizations position themselves to secure event sponsors by packaging sellable event sponsorship opportunities. Mariah is a Sponsorship Strategy Educator and Consultant, sponsorship seeker, and a funder, so she has a tri-fold perspective to teaching nonprofit organizations how to secure sponsors. Additionally, she has reviewed and evaluated hundreds of sponsorship packages and pitches, made decisions for sponsorship fund allocation, and built brand activations. She knows what sponsors want.