Lock down the sponsors! Fill the tables! Pour their champagne! While these actions are a must, it’s also important to consider smaller and more strategic ways that your organization can secure corporate sponsors for your next big fundraising event. Think beyond, “who can we get $X from?” and instead think, “who should sponsor this year’s cocktail hour?” or “what company best aligns with our program and entertainment this year?”
Ask more poignant questions before stressing about where to find the big bucks. Get with your team, pool resources and address books, and plan ahead. It’s always a good time to look for sponsors and be specific about what you’d like from them and what you plan to provide in return.
Use Your Existing Network.
Your people are your best advocates: the board, volunteers, and staff are great places to start when it comes to securing reliable donors for your upcoming event. Personal notes always work best, so encourage your team to send direct notes to their friends, family, and coworkers. It’s a good idea to craft a template to get people started and remind them to follow up a few times if they don’t hear back. Get better results by asking someone directly compared to reaching out to a general email address or phone number.
Do Your Research.
Be strategic about who you reach out to. Do they have a history of supporting charity events? Do you have any personal connections to employees at the company? It’s also important to get an idea of how they budget and when their fiscal year is. Planning a year in advance is more likely to elicit success because your organization can get on the list of organizations they’ll give to the following year.
Research organizations like yours in different markets, and then identify which companies and organizations are sponsoring their events. This will often provide new insights into who is sponsoring and how they are recognizing those sponsors. This is a great way to put new sponsors on your radar.
It’s also important to know how these companies want to be recognized. Do they want more media exposure, or do they want a moment to speak at the event to talk about how their work aligns with the mission of your organization?
Customize Your Offerings.
Secure more sponsorships by giving corporations multiple sponsorship options. This allows your organization to bring in smaller sponsorships. The more a company gives, the more exposure they should get along the way and at the event itself.
You can also customize sponsorship offerings by packaging tables, auction items, or cocktail hours. For example, “tonight’s VIP happy hour is brought to us by Tito’s Vodka & Deloitte”. An organization similar to Make-A-Wish might specifically target airlines because more than 70% of the wishes they grant require air travel. Some organizations have entertainment and tech sponsors, which helps organizations better align their pitches with the work and mission of the companies they’re reaching out to.
Manage Corporate Sponsor Relations.
Relationships are the foundation of nonprofits’ success because of the communal nature that brings people together for a common cause. You can nurture relationships with sponsors by inviting them to volunteer, join you at community events, participate in quarterly meetings, and keep them in the loop with post-event follow-ups and financial reporting. Don’t forget to give their employees the opportunity to support your organization. A food drive, clothing drive, or donation campaign might go a long way in adding to your bottom line and even identify some new volunteers and donors.
You want sponsors to stay engaged and feel connected to your work so that they feel like they’re a part of the family instead of –– as a parent would say –– an ATM machine.