Getting sponsorship and funding from local businesses and donors is fundamental to the success of many events. However, it can be challenging and sometimes downright frustrating to secure funding for your event. Here are seven steps to make the process a bit easier.
1 – Setting the Foundation For Getting Sponsorship
Before you begin looking for sponsors, you should construct a foundation for sponsorship. This includes a list all the details of what does and does not constitute sponsorship, and any issues that may come up as you seek sponsorship, such as companies and industries you may need to exclude.
Some key issues that should be addressed include:
- Defining the purpose of the sponsorship (marketing, fundraising, establishing long term partnerships)
- Who will be responsible for seeking sponsorship and to whom they should report and how frequently
- What benefits will be provided for each level of sponsorship (number of participants that can attend, policy on company promotional materials, invite to speak at event)
- Policy for payment and deadlines for any materials such as company logo and speaker bios
- How will the sponsorship funds be used? What are the fundamental costs? What are the monetary goals for sponsorship?
2 – Define Your Target Audience
While your marketing plan should be targeting people that may be interested in your event, your sponsorship strategy should focus on obtaining sponsors who wish to communicate with your target market. This may mean focusing on a brand area for a specific product within a company instead of going directly to the corporate sponsorship department, which is usually swamped with requests for sponsorship.
Keep in mind that the company itself probably sells many different products with a target area far greater than the one you are providing, so if you can offer niche marketing to the marketing department of a specific brand, they may be more willing to sponsor you.
3 – Research Potential Sponsors
Before you contact potential sponsors, do some research via business magazines, websites, annual reports, etc. It is good to know what each company’s current marketing objectives are, what new products they’ve just released, who their competitors are, what their current sponsorship policy is, and if they’ve ever sponsored an event similar to yours.
Many companies do publish sponsorship guidelines, so make sure their policy fits with your conference objectives and benefits. You may even want to talk with a potential sponsor either by phone or in person to obtain more information and to establish a personal relationship with the company before presenting a sponsorship request.
4 – Sell Your Organization
Some things to heavily promote when asking for sponsorship:
- Having a strong brand associated with your event really aids this process greatly, so build your brand and promote awareness as much as possible!
- State your purpose and objectives for the event as clearly as possible.
- Include all sponsorship levels and benefits you’ve defined including marketing and promotion, hospitality, public relations and media, special access to events, number of attendees invited, category exclusivity, networking opportunities, speaking opportunities, if the contribution is tax-deductible, etc.
- If you’ve held events in the past, use past speakers, topics, sponsors, and past success to promote your current event.
- Don’t just stress who will be attending your event, but to whom you will be distributing pre-event advertising and promotions, and the amount of publicity you expect to obtain.
5 – Setting Sponsorship Levels
There are a couple of different strategies for setting levels of sponsorship. Ultimately, you want to offer your sponsors a choice, but you should make sure that when developing levels, you are not offering all levels the great benefits with the lower levels receiving less of the supporting benefits.
The most common approach to sponsorship includes “gold,” “silver,” and “bronze” or something similar, with gold receiving the maximum benefits offered. Another approach may be to offer two completely separate packages of relatively equal price (one might be a marketing package while the other may focus participation & involvement in the event).
A third option would be to provide a standard package with the opportunity to upgrade to a premium package. Don’t forget about media sponsorship – you can save yourself a lot of money by asking for free advertising from companies (especially on the web) in return for sponsorship benefits.
6 – Developing a Proposal
A proposal should give your potential sponsor enough information to make a decision. You should include:
- A description of your organization
- Information about your event including date and location, speakers, proposed topics, sponsors, preliminary agenda, ticket costs, background information, and anything else you can include.
- An overview of your marketing plan and a profile of the demographics of your target audience
- Your list of benefits and their corresponding monetary values
7 – Time Frame
Try to approach sponsors 6-12 months in advance to allow them to participate fully in the benefits you offer them. If you are offering your sponsors a time slot for speaking, keep in mind that people plan their schedules well in advance, so ask early to secure a prominent speaker. Planning ahead is also very important in getting sponsorship and sufficient funding to continue with your event planning and marketing. You don’t want to find yourself falling short on funds early on in the game.