Aug 6, 2019

The Biggest Event Sponsorship Mistakes


Fundraising events only come together when a lot of moving parts work smoothly in sync. One of the most valuable parts to focus on is sponsorships. The money for tables, chairs, refreshments and every other component of your event has to come from somewhere, and sponsorships can help reduce the financial burden of fundraising events on your organization.

No matter the scale of the event, sponsors help show that your organization and its work is legitimate — which in turn makes donors more comfortable parting with their hard-earned cash. However, actually securing those sponsorships can be a frustrating process when you’re new to the game or just haven’t figured out the right recipe for sponsorship success. There are right ways and wrong ways to go about getting sponsors, and this guide will help you avoid the biggest mistakes you can make with event sponsors.

The Importance of Finding the Right Sponsors

Finding the right sponsors for an event helps ensure that both your organization and the sponsoring company get what they want out of the deal. When scoping out sponsors for your next event, think of your prospect pool as a target with three rings to aim for.

The bull’s eye is where you want to aim first, and it consists of the existing supporters of your organization. These are the companies that already give to your cause, and are likely willing to do so again in the form of a corporate sponsorship. They have already worked with your organization in one way, and if your organization is proving that it’s an appropriate partner, then they will likely be willing to sponsor one or more of your events in the future.

The next ring to target is the inner circle, made up of your current contacts. Like the companies within the bull’s eye, they have a generally positive relationship with your organization. There is, however, one key difference — these companies haven’t given any money yet. Even so, you can leverage their knowledge of your organization’s good works to your advantage when asking for sponsorship.

The last ring of the target consists of prospects, making it the hardest level to target. Rather than cold-calling people your organization has encountered once in the past, it’s a better idea to begin cultivating these relationships so you can bring them into the inner circle and hopefully transition them into the bull’s eye area. It’s important to understand where sponsors fall on the spectrum so you don’t waste time on companies that just aren’t ready to contribute to your cause.

Common Event Sponsorship Mistakes

Learning to sell sponsorships effectively takes time, and even fundraisers with significant experience can encounter stumbling blocks along the way. These seven event sponsorship mistakes represent pitfalls to avoid in your quest to find the best event sponsors.

1. Seeking Sponsorship Too Late

Budgets are something to be respected in the world of fundraising. The companies you hope will sponsor your event likely have their finances planned out well ahead of time, and asking for sponsorship at the wrong time will result in a firm no even if the company would otherwise love to help you out.

Approach potential sponsors while they’re working out their budgets for the best chance of scoring a sponsorship. If the company works to a calendar year budget, aim to send your proposal sometime in Q4. If they work to a financial year, approach them around Q1 for greater chances of inclusion in the budget.

2. Not Being Prepared

Working around the budget planning of potential sponsors means you have to be prepared with a great sponsorship proposal weeks or even months before your actual event. It won’t be enough to offer a vague outline of how you envision the event — you’ll need a full proposal ready to go if you expect to be taken seriously.

Planning events far in advance is one of the more difficult aspects of successful fundraising, especially if you are working with a small organization. However, thorough preparation is one of the most effective ways to prove to bigger sponsors that your cause is worth their investment.

3. Spamming Sponsorship Proposals

Some organizations prefer to send out proposals via email blast and hope that one or more potential sponsors will respond favorably. The problem is that nobody likes unsolicited emails. This approach has very little chance of inspiring potential sponsors to get involved, and can even damage your reputation among companies you haven’t had a chance to cultivate relationships with yet.

In many cases, email is the worst way to present a sponsorship proposal. It cuts out the more direct communications necessary to build a functional relationship between your organizations and the companies it wants as sponsors. Picking up the phone and talking to decision-makers directly is always the preferred method.

4. Sending Sponsorship Plans Too Early

Just because you manage to get a decision-maker on the phone and have one productive conversation doesn’t mean you should take the liberty of sending off a package sponsorship plan right away. Rushing the process shows you view the company as something of a cash cow as opposed to thinking of them as a long-term partner.

When you’re trying to land a big sponsor, it’s okay to let them take the reins somewhat. Let them tell you when they’re ready to consider a sponsorship package, and you’ll have a much greater chance of them purchasing a higher level plan.

5. Overworking the Proposal

It’s important to have a solid sponsorship proposal on paper, but that doesn’t mean you should agonize over each segment of prose. As long as the proposal is clear about sponsorship plan levels, what sponsors will receive and what they are expected to provide, you can let your people skills do the footwork of selling sponsorships.

Too many organizations waste valuable time churning out new iterations of proposals and don’t necessarily make the document better, just different. Sponsors don’t choose the most elegantly-written packages — they choose the ones that resonate with them. As long as the proposal and plan package is grammatically clean and clear on what the sponsorship entails, you can let your organization’s work speak for itself.

6. Ignoring Smaller Sponsors

It’s natural to want to go after the biggest fish in the sponsorship pond. After all, securing large companies as sponsors means you’ve gotten a better return on your efforts. The problem is that there are many more small sponsors than there are huge catches, and those smaller local companies are more likely to support your cause even if their contributions are relatively small.

With small sponsors, part of the value is their potential for future growth. If you develop a strong partnership with a company that grows over time, you’re making an investment that will likely deliver worthwhile returns in the long run.

7. Permanently Writing “No’s” off the List

When you’re rocking through your list of potential sponsors, it’s easy to write off every “no” and move on to the next prospect immediately. There’s actually value in retaining a list of some companies that turn down your request for sponsorship. Maybe the company wanted to sponsor your event, but it didn’t work out financially this year, or maybe you couldn’t fully convince them that the event is a good investment for them.

If you believe a company that said “no” could still be a good sponsor in the future, keep them in the loop. Inviting a company to your event can help them see some of the good you’re doing, and how effectively you’re doing it, in a way that proposals just can’t. Keeping prospects involved rather than writing them off completely can turn a “no” into a “yes” in the future.

8. Undervaluing Your Packages

You need to know your costs for the event as precisely as possible before you get down to the business of actually negotiating your package prices. Negotiating is a useful tactic, but if you give too big of a discount, you may end up busting your budget just to get one particular sponsor on board.

Another issue with discounts is that they set a precedent with the sponsoring company. They may feel that, if they got a deal once, they should get it again going forward and might not want to sponsor again if you don’t give them the discount price. This is one way you can lose sponsors and money.

9. Not Offering an Exclusive Package

Businesses that are in the sponsorship game for prestige or to fulfill corporate social responsibility goals may be attracted by the idea of an exclusive sponsorship. It won’t appeal to all businesses, but it can be a good option for larger businesses that want the reputation boost. It’s a mistake to ignore this form of sponsorship altogether, especially if you happen to find a business willing to take this on but don’t have the right proposal ready.

10. Not Offering Multi-Year Packages

You may be approaching sponsors with the mindset that you only need them to say yes once. This may be true, but ignoring the possibility of multi-year contracts leaves a ton of money on the table. Sponsors in your bull’s eye range make the best prospects for multi-year contracts, as they’re already contributing to your organization.

You can make multi-year sponsorship packages stand out by offering a discount for each year of sponsorship or making the business an exclusive sponsor after a certain number of years.

How to Make Event Sponsorship a Win-Win

Sponsorships only happen when both your organization and the sponsoring company get something out of the deal. It’s not always cut-and-dry what makes a win-win situation in sponsorships, so here are three tips on how to make event sponsorship a success for both parties.

1. Ask Them What They Want and Offer It

You can’t know what your potential sponsors are looking for in this type of partnership without finding out what they expect from the arrangement. Ask how you can maximize the type of exposure they want. If they want to engage potential customers and get them more interested in one of their products, you may suggest incorporating a product demonstration table or setting up a giveaway.

Bronze, silver and gold package tiers — or something similar — are a good way to get sponsors to point you to what they want, and offering customizations to those packages is often an effective way to seal the deal.

2. Is it ROI or Ego?

There are two main motivations for companies to sponsor a fundraising event — it makes them feel good about themselves, or they are expecting to get a return on investment for their business. Often, it’s a bit of both — but if you can pinpoint their motivation, you can tailor proposals that will appeal to the corporate sponsor.

3. Provide Clear Value

For businesses keen on getting good ROI, you need to provide clear examples of what you can offer the company at the event. To do this, you need metrics. With event management software like GiveSmart, you can use in-depth data collection to inform your potential sponsors about the things they care about, including:

  • Demographics of attendees
  • Conversion rates
  • Traffic to event websites
  • Communications click-through rates

If you can prove your event’s worth to sponsors with hard facts, you’ve already made a solid case for why the investment is a definite win-win.

The Win-Win-Win of Event Fundraising Software

When you avoid the most common mistakes in fundraising event sponsorship, you can make every event beneficial to all parties involved. Your organization will raise the funds it needs to pursue your mission and goals. Your sponsors will get exposure, generate brand awareness and rack up corporate social responsibility points. And, perhaps most importantly, your guests will get a window into your organization’s work that may turn them into long-term donors.

To achieve all three of these goals, you and your team have to put in an immense amount of work and energy. GiveSmart, the industry-leading software for fundraisers, is here to make that job easier and more streamlined. GiveSmart helps automate a range of essential tasks, including:

  • Guest registration and check-in
  • Guest communications via email and text
  • Payment processing and receipt generation
  • Seating assignments
  • Sponsor guest management
  • Guest data reporting

You and your team will save hours with these features, all while boosting engagement with tools like online and text-to-donate campaigns. Best of all, you’ll have robust data on your events that you can use to woo sponsors and step up your game for the next fundraiser.

GiveSmart prides itself on offering unmatched support for the software. Choose from three tiers of service packages to fit your budget and get the features you need. Our customer success and account managers are primed and ready to help you learn how to use GiveSmart to your fundraising advantage, complete with information on best practices from industry experts.

If you’re ready to revolutionize your fundraising event management, schedule a demo of GiveSmart. One of our fundraising experts will get in contact with you and set up a time to show you how GiveSmart can maximize your fundraising success.



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What our clients say

We needed a platform to make sales online and to track and display ads for our sponsors. GiveSmart was perfect. We ended up making close to $15,000 more than we had hoped for. Definite better ROI than we anticipated. The interface is easy to use and provides plenty of options to get help if needed.

Michelle M.

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

Using GS has created ease in auction bookkeeping, payments, and generating post-event thank you/tax letters. While we were online during COVID, our interactions with our GiveSmart via phone, email, and zoom were seamless. A representative always got back to us within the day. I would recommend GiveSmart to anyone doing a large online event.

Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County