Successfully execute an event sponsorship campaign.
Meeting and event planners are tasked with planning, designing and executing stellar events. But as development budgets get squeezed, planners are often being asked to spearhead the event fundraising efforts as well. Attaining sponsorships for events can be a challenging undertaking for anyone but it is particularly intimidating if you are an inexperienced fundraiser expected to raise funds that are vital to the financial health of the event.
- Who will be attending the event? What is the purpose of the event? The demographics of the past event attendance and projected participants are important to know prior to contacting potential sponsors to ensure that the sponsorship opportunities offered align with the donors’ target audience. Historically, have the attendees been mostly men or women? What ages? Where do they reside? Will the audience be comprised of decision makers or consumers? Compile any and all data that is available.
- What is the fundraising goal? In order to know if the fundraising efforts are successful and to set the appropriate sponsorship levels, there needs to be a measurable goal.
- Where is the event being held? If you have the opportunity, conduct a venue site inspection with sponsorship opportunities in mind. Ask the venue questions before you book, such as: Will the venue allow third party signage? Can you create an exclusive VIP area? Is outside food and beverage allowable? Have they worked with sponsors in the past? Are there any unique venue specific sponsorship opportunities available? This will help discerning sponsorship offerings as well as determine what constraints you may have while identifying obstacles.
- When is the event being held? Timing is critical when fundraising. As budget cycles are particularly sensitive, it cannot be expected that sponsors have the ability to donate with little notice. Successful fundraising campaigns typically begin several months to several years before the event occurs.
- Why is funding needed? This message needs to be concise. Even though most corporate sponsors are providing sponsorship primarily because of the exclusive marketing opportunity that is available, they are still concerned with how they align the company mission and social responsibility policy when selecting who they will sponsor.
- How have fundraising efforts been applied previously? Do you have access to return on investment (ROI) calculations from previous event sponsors? Past funders can be a valuable resource on past performance as well as provide a springboard for current efforts by providing testimonials and/or renewed participation.
Having collected as much historical and current data as possible and narrowed the event focus, it is time to create and execute the sponsorship campaign plan.
- Clearly define the benefits for the sponsors. Be sure the opportunities are clearly defined as well as easily conveyed. Wherever possible, set sponsorship levels with the focus on unique opportunities for each sponsor within each level. Incorporate hybrid marketing opportunities by highlighting the social media and newsletter statistical reach.
- Create a database of potential sponsors. Begin populating the database with the sponsors from all previous years. Next, compile a list of possible sponsors from event stakeholders - staff, volunteers, board - are they connected to anyone in a position to provide sponsorship? Create a targeted list by seeking out corporate sponsors that have a vested interest in the niche that your event naturally aligns with. Lastly, seek out local sponsors by mapping out the venue location and approaching local businesses with the opportunity to sponsor.
- Cultivate relationships with potential sponsors. This is the most time consuming aspect of attaining sponsorships. Contact them personally by phone then follow up with an email that includes all sponsorship materials and event details.
- Exceed expectations. Don’t oversell space, promise what is unattainable or saturate the event space with undue messaging. Graciously and formally thank the sponsors. Maintain relationships throughout the year.
Rachael Alford provides administrative solutions, crowdfunding consulting, meeting & event planning, training, speaking and writing services. Learn more by visiting www.RachaelAlford.com.