Experienced event fundraiser marketers know the importance of having great sponsors behind you. Whether your event is large or it’s small, sponsors bring a level of legitimacy to your organisation’s efforts while adding a significant contribution to your coffers. The ultimate combination of increased revenue and added exposure is key to many organisations’ efforts of scaling the size of their fundraising efforts – not to mention that a healthy collection of sponsors that believe in your efforts tell donors that your fundraising event is worth attending.
However great this sounds, the path to attracting and closing sponsorship opportunities can be long and difficult. Your packages will go unsold if you fail to do your due diligence before you start trying to pitch to prospective sponsors.
Many organisations start by creating a sponsorship proposal template that’s based on their event’s financial or organisational goals - a document that serves as a sort of cookie cutter template that’s full of pre-defined benefits. They send these packages out and never get a reply because there hasn’t been enough pre-work work done to target the right prospective sponsors with the right packages and the right messages.
There are a number of things that you should identify before you pitch prospective sponsors if you want to be successful. Here are seven key tactics to consider when getting started:
1. Appeal to target sponsors.
Before you contact a prospective sponsor, take the time to do your research on the organisations you’re approaching. Is the company interested in reaching a specific demographic? If it fits your target audience for the event, tell them that your attendance will consist of many people that are in their age range.
Try to frame the prospective sponsor’s participation in your event as a marketing opportunity. Provide data that supports these assertions - give them an idea of the impressions that your event will generate in-person and online.
2. Outreach should be consistent and frequent.
When you’re pitching to prospective sponsors, multiple touch points will be absolutely necessary. Seeing high response rates from the first outreach attempt to prospects is rare. It typically takes 3 or 4 attempts before you’re able to connect with organisations that you’re attempting to sell sponsorships to. Mixing up channels that you’re using to reach out to sponsors is effective as well.
3. Target fast-growing companies.
Companies that are undergoing a surge of growth are a fantastic sponsorship opportunity. These companies are constantly looking for ways to get their name in front of more people in order to grow their brand awareness. Many of these companies will often be looking to recruit new talent - people who may even be present at your event! You can find a possibly niche by positioning your events as an opportunity for sponsor companies to reach those new potential hires.
4. It’s not how you ask, it’s who you ask.
This is a far easier process than most realise. The trick to an expert sponsorship proposal is that it has little to do with the words you choose to present your organisation to the world, but everything to do with the audience you present it to.
When you have a good list of sellable inventory and a well-defined audience, your ideal sponsors should, in theory, appear on their own. Take your list of targeted prospective sponsors and your list of inventory and match the organisations up with the opportunities that make the most sense to them.
Look at your target attendee list and think about the companies that would want to connect with that group of people.
When you’re done, check out your competition and identify who they’re working with. Not only that but also look at the sponsorship prospects you have on your list and identify their competition. If one of the companies in an ecosystem has interest in your brand, their competitors will too. If you do this with every prospective sponsor on your list, suddenly you’ll have more prospective contacts than you’ll know what to do with.
5. Know what to charge.
The majority of sponsorship sales involve a strategy for sponsorship proposal outreach, but this alone is insufficient to sell a sponsorship. If you have the right products and know your customer, you’ll be much more successful. Knowing what to charge your target prospective sponsor is essential, so make sure to spend some time deciphering what to charge for assets at your event.
Before you start trying to contact your prospective sponsors, assign a cost to everything in your packages. The easiest way to do this is to list everything you plan to sell in your proposal along with who will see it/consume it and give a monetary value to that benefit. Using resources like Adwords or keyword research to determine what to charge for things like logo placement is invaluable. Anything like speaking opportunities, free tickets, table space all have value to sponsors and should be treated as such.
This tells you how much money you can expect to make through acquiring sponsorships, and it also gives you the power to negotiate with sponsors and use benefits a la carte across the levels within your packages.
6. Find the right contact.
The most well-designed and best priced proposal doesn’t matter if it’s sent to the wrong person. How do you find the decision maker? Look for contacts with the following words in their job titles:
- Business Development
Anyone with the terms “Social Responsibility” in their title are generally in charge of philanthropy which can be combined with cause-related marketing.
7. Your sponsorship proposals are only as successful as your follow-up.
Your work isn’t done once you submit that sponsorship proposal to your prospect. Give them a few days to sit with it, but because you spent the time talking to them and getting to know them, you deserve the right to follow up.
Get in touch with your prospective sponsors and ask them what they thought of your request. Ask for their thoughts about the benefits and if there is an opportunity to customise your sponsorship packages to better suit their specific needs. You can expect to follow up with prospective sponsors multiple times.
When your event has ended, make sure to follow up with your sponsors. Handwritten thank you notes go a long way to add a personal touch to show your appreciation. Sponsors love getting periodic updates about the progress of your cause or organisation throughout the year, and it helps keep you top of mind so they will turn into repeat supporters.