Those who have organized a successful fundraiser know the importance of having great sponsors.
When you host a fundraiser, your primary goals are to create awareness and raise money. One of the most effective ways to do this is through corporate sponsors.
Whether your event is large or small, fundraiser sponsorship brings 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 can help spread the word and signal to your donors that your fundraising event is worth attending!
We’re sure that you already know how important sponsorship can be to your fundraising efforts, but sometimes attracting, and closing, those sponsorships can be a long and difficult process.
But don’t worry, we’ve created the Ultimate Guide to Fundraiser Sponsorship to help you out! In this guide you will learn about all aspects of sponsorship with a focus on these key areas:
- Opportunity Identification
- Building a Sponsorship Package
- Soliciting Sponsors
- Acknowledgement and Follow Up
At Accelevents we have extensive experience hosting fundraisers and working with charitable organizations and believe this guide will be the tool you need to attract new sponsors, grow your event year over year, and increase donations for your worthy cause!
The very first step that you (and your employees or planning committee) should take is identifying the opportunity for fundraiser sponsorship at your next 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:
How large is your event? Do you have an expected number of attendees? 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 found in the community where the event is taking place like a local restaurant or business.
Knowing your target audience will be key to understanding your fundraiser sponsorship approach.
By identifying certain elements of your audience (age, employment, geographic location), you can tailor your efforts and target only the most relevant sponsors.
For example, 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 amongst a younger demographic.
Event Location and 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, promotional materials 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 the answer is yes, your event will automatically become much more attractive to potential sponsors as they 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. Use your online pages to create teasers for your audience, or allow people to donate online through a mobile or online fundraiser. This will create a more interesting experience for your audience, potentially increase the amount of money raised, and generate an overall positive experience that potential event sponsors will be clamoring to join!
Once your team has carefully considered the above criteria, you will have a better understanding of the event sponsorship opportunities available to you — both in terms of the amount of sponsorship money you can hope to bring in and they type of sponsors you should be going after.
With this knowledge, you can then set a goal for the amount of sponsorship your team should try to secure. Set a firm goal and communicate that goal early, and often, to your committee.
Remember, newer events may attract less sponsorship than an established event with a proven track record. When setting your sponsorship goals, make sure you are being reasonable.
Building Your Fundraiser Sponsorship Package
Now that you have gauged the sponsorship potential for your fundraising event, it’s time to create your fundraiser sponsorship package!
A fundraiser sponsorship package is a valuable tool and resource that your committee can use when approaching prospective sponsors.
When creating your sponsorship package, it is critical to remember that the primary function of the package will be to clearly communicate the inspiration, messaging, and history of your event, while also providing information on the different sponsorship levels that are available.
Your sponsorship package should include:
Take a moment to describe what your event is all about. Key details to include are:
- The event theme and dress code
- The venue name and location
- The cause or nonprofit that the fundraiser will be supporting
- The event date and time
- The event name
One of the most important sections to include will explain the history or inspiration behind the event.
Provide a glimpse into the origin of the event and explain the story behind why you are supporting the cause or organization. Doing this will help you stand out from the hundreds of other requests your potential sponsor may receive.
If you have been running your event for more than year, be sure to include information on the growth of the event over time. Be sure to indicate if you have seen a growth in attendance and money raised. If you’ve managed growth in both areas, you’ll be an even more attractive candidate!
Once you have described your motivations and the history of your fundraising event, be sure to include information about the cause or organization you are supporting. Provide a mission statement for the organization and any progress or advancements they have made since their beginning.
Hard data is important when making a sponsorship request. It is one of the best ways to enable these potential sponsors to measure the potential cost against any potential benefit.
Even if you are expecting small audience numbers, this audience may consist of a demographic your sponsor has been trying to target!
When we host our annual Boston fundraiser, we focus heavily on our large attendance numbers and the fact that it is millennials and young professionals who come out to support the event.
Some other sources of data that you may be able to use include:
- Digital Presence – This will include anything from the traffic/impressions you receive on your fundraising event web page, to the number of people engaging with 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 into what your attendees thought of your event while gaining details about their demographics like age, occupation, and preferences. Once collected, this data can be included directly in your fundraiser sponsorship package.
- Yearly Proceeds – Again, it is a good idea to share any growth you have seen in terms of proceeds and donation totals.
Now that you’ve provided context and piqued the interest of potential sponsors, it is time to ask for their help and participation.
A strong call to action will lay out the steps that should be taken in order to participate as a sponsor.
At this time, it is helpful to provide information on what their potential contribution would mean to the cause or organization you are supporting. For example, if a $1000 contribution will provide meals to impoverished children for a week, let them know. Sponsors are more join in if they can visualize the impact their contribution will have.
The most critical portion of your fundraiser sponsorship package will be your sponsorship tiers. Each tier will have a set of aspects attached to them that will correspond with a specific level of contribution.
The different monetary levels will be determined by the size of your event.
Typically, levels are broken into categories, making the ask much clearer. For example, you may consider offering Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze sponsorships. Get creative here if you wish and come up with names that correspond more closely to your event.
Common sponsorship aspects that appear in most fundraiser sponsorship packages include:
- Naming Rights – Naming rights are one of the most prominent attributes a fundraising event can offer to sponsors. It typically will 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 that 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, a press release, 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!
Finally, 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 fundraiser 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.
Always be prepared to be flexible.
Once you and your committee have identified sponsorship opportunities and created a compelling fundraiser sponsorship package, you can begin contacting and closing sponsorship deals!
Because this is arguably the most important part of fundraiser sponsorship, we’ve broken this section down into four subsections:
- Best Channels of Communication
- Creating a Prospecting & Outreach Plan
- Process & Example Outreach Messages
- General Tips and Tricks
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. In our experience, the social channels that have worked best include:
- Facebook – The Facebook Messenger tool has proven to be a valuable outreach tool. To use Facebook Messenger, conduct searches 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. When we have done this, we’ve seen response rates around 90%! That’s way too high to ignore!
- 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 to help connect you to their employers for sponsorship opportunities.
- Twitter – We’ve also found Twitter to be useful in opening 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 are likely to provide 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 have who might be interested in acting 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, be sure to:
- Set a goal for each member of your committee in terms of how many outreaches they 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! This approach can 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 with regards to which members of your committee have closed fundraiser 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! You can also find a few more great examples of donation letter requests here.
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 and they would be missing out if they do not participate!
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.
- 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 assuming, of course, that this 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. It is rare to see high response rates from the first outreach attempt.Often, it will be the 3rd or 4th attempt that generates 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 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 corporate sponsors to meet their next potential hire.
- Don’t Give Up! – Did you receive a hard no from a potential sponsor? Don’t give up, it doesn’t have to end there! Instead, ask them what you can do to be considered by them for next year’s event. And if it makes sense, ask if the business would interested in providing a silent auction or raffle item in lieu of sponsorship.
Acknowledgment and Follow Up
Donating funds to your fundraising event is extremely generous, so don’t forget to adequately acknowledge your sponsors.
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 and show your appreciation.
You can also provide periodic updates to your sponsors about the progress made by the organization or on behalf of the cause, at different times throughout the year. This will help keep your fundraiser top of mind with these sponsors so that they will be more likely to turn into repeat supporters!
After reading this guide, we hope that you feel much more prepared to make fundraiser sponsorship a central part of your next event.
It takes a community to grow a fundraiser and expand the awareness of a particular cause or organization. By reaching out to potential sponsors in the community and beyond, you can both benefit by leveraging the exposure and support to perform truly great works!