Sponsorships can enhance your nonprofit fundraising event, but it can be challenging to find the perfect fit. Learn sponsorship sourcing tips from this guide.
Events are a vital part of nonprofits’ fundraising portfolios. But if you’ve planned fundraising events in the past, you know there are significant costs involved. The good news is that sponsors can help cover the event’s cost and ease the burden on your budget.
So whether you’re holding a gala, golf tournament, run/walk, or any other type of fundraising event, follow these sponsorship dos and don’ts to maximize your nonprofit’s return on investment.
Do: Your Research on Potential Sponsors
Start by creating a prospect list for potential sponsors that align with your organization and event’s goals, mission, and values. Check with your planning team, nonprofit staff, board members, or volunteers for any contacts or connections at these businesses for an initial introduction. Dive into their websites and social media platforms to identify their priorities and trends for sponsoring events and charitable causes.
Don’t: Guess What Sponsors Want
Use any data you’ve collected from past fundraising events to determine what’s worked, what hasn’t, and what you can improve on in terms of sponsorships. Key performance indicators, or KPIs, help you and your team make better decisions. Now if you haven’t collected this information in the past, now’s a great time to start—and you’ll help improve outcomes in subsequent years. Consider tracking metrics such as social media audience engagement, lead generation, the conversion rate on product pages, and overall ROI. This data, along with qualitative sponsor feedback, will help paint an accurate picture about your sponsors’ experiences and where you can improve.
Do: Create an Effective Sponsorship Pitch
A well-crafted sponsorship proposal should clearly outline the benefits and value of partnering with you to sponsor your fundraising event. Are they looking for brand lift? Broad exposure for their business? Association with a worthy cause? Use the background information you collected when doing research on potential sponsors to tailor your proposal based on their interests and priorities. You might even suggest one or two sponsorship packages that could be the best fit for their business.
Don’t: Underestimate Your Event’s Unique Value Proposition
Your nonprofit’s fundraising event is an opportunity for sponsors to reach an audience they wouldn’t normally have access to. Highlight any specific demographics that make your audience especially appealing to potential sponsors. For example, if you’re holding a charity golf tournament, GolfStatus recommends highlighting golfers’ above-average net worth as a selling point for sponsors. You might also consider the success and impact of past fundraising events (if applicable) to demonstrate your nonprofit’s ability to deliver value and positive outcomes for sponsors.
Do: Offer a Variety of Sponsorship Packages & Benefits
While high-dollar sponsorships have their place, it’s a good idea to offer multiple sponsorship levels so you can target even more businesses as sponsors. Not every business can fit a top-tier sponsorship into their marketing or charitable contributions budget, but will jump at the chance to be a more approachable hole, table, or other sponsor. When building your packages, think about the fixed costs associated with the event, and create a sponsorship to cover it.
The benefits you offer to sponsors should be attractive, relative to their contribution, and provide enough return on their investment to justify the spend. You might offer digital exposure in your event management platform, social media shoutouts, their logo on signage, the opportunity to speak at the event or mingle with attendees, and a mention in promotional materials.
Don’t: Forget About In-Kind Sponsorships
Sponsorships can be more than just financial support. Many businesses are willing to donate goods and services to your event, so keep this in mind when making your pitch to potential sponsors. Refer back to your research into the companies on your short list of potential sponsors to see if they have historically donated dollars or goods and services to events such as yours—this will help you craft a custom sponsorship specifically for that business. If your fundraising event includes an auction component, in-kind donations can be leveraged for attractive, high-end auction items that bring in a ton of dollars.
Do: Get Creative
Think outside the box when building your packages. Start by looking at your hard costs and build a sponsorship around it. Think about food and beverage, entertainment, audio/visual, attendee gifts, etc. If you can put a logo on it or provide some type of valuable exposure, you can sell it as a sponsorship! Look for digital opportunities as well—these sponsorships come with fewer risks and costs, such as a technology sponsorship that offers exposure throughout your event management platform.
Don’t: Get Stuck in a Rut
Build on each year’s success and lessons learned to continuously evaluate and improve your sponsorship strategies. Use data, sponsor and attendee feedback, and industry trends to find new ways to connect with sponsors that raise dollars for your event while providing a solid return on the sponsor’s investment. Don’t be afraid to try out new sponsor offerings or go after new businesses!
Do: Build Relationships With Sponsors
Building relationships with sponsors is bigger than just soliciting support for your fundraising event—these relationships can lead to broader partnerships that translate into additional dollars for your mission. Keep lines of communication open, beyond just asking for their support, to stay connected and engaged. Keep them in the loop on major happenings at your nonprofit and make sure you stay abreast of what’s going on at their company to foster an authentic relationship.
Don’t: Skip the Follow Up
Following up with sponsors after your event is a must. Send a handwritten thank you and give them a call to express your thanks for their support of the fundraiser. Help them understand, in tangible terms, the impact of their support on your mission. Kwala suggests framing information about how donations are being used in an emotional way that encourages future support. Be sure to take the time to get their feedback and perspective on the value of the event, either through a conversation or a survey.
As you think about sponsorships for your nonprofit’s next fundraising event, keep these dos and don’ts top of mind. Remember, sponsors are looking for a win-win when making the decision to sponsor your event. Building good processes and having a solid strategy will help make securing sponsorships as effortless as possible for you and your team.