Imagine walking in the day of your fundraising event and knowing any revenue generated was icing on the cake. The idea is to pay for all of your upfront expenses, like hall rentals, food, and entertainment with contributions collected from your event sponsors well in advance. Start your initial outreach with an underwriting kit. Let recipients know that they are being counted on to help make this event possible.
But don’t leave these high-level targets asking, “what’s in it for me?”
An event sponsorship can start a great new relationship between your organization and a corporation or local business. It can also help take relationships with existing donors to the next level. But like all relationships, this needs to be a two-way street. You need to outline exactly how supporting this event will pay off for your sponsors.
Some ways our clients provide value to their event sponsors:
- Logo placement (on banners, sponsorship journal, event flyers, etc.)
- Frame a sponsorship as a targeted marketing opportunity
- Naming rights (for the event as a whole or for specific features)
- Media exposure through press releases, other coverage of event
- Networking and relationship building
Many organizations focus on the value to the sponsor on the “day of.” However, most don’t have a plan for extending that value to the pre and post-event phases. After all, you are asking someone for a very significant gift. It better be mutually beneficial for both parties.
When hosting a classic Gala, you might leave your trusty printed journal on each seat. These journals give you a place to sell ads and highlight the honorees and sponsors of your event. An ad placement towards the front of your journal may be one the reasons an organization decides to sponsor your event in the first place.
However, as we all know, most of those journals end the night in the venue’s trash. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for a day-of journal. But it is not the only way to provide value.
Think about it. With today’s technology, digital publishing prospers in the long-term. It provides opportunity outside your event to promote your sponsors AND your mission. Virtual journals may allow for hyperlinks and moving images. Videos can be updated and better tell the story of your event long after the night is over. If you can, make that first update before you send out you initial thank you email to attendees. This will give you the opportunity to refer everyone to the digital journal, where they can see photos from the day and find out how much money was raised.
Consider inviting sponsors to write up their own post-event thoughts for the digital edition. We want our event sponsors to know that supporting this event earns them a spot in a long-lasting digital publication that will essentially serve as the number one reference point about your event until you host the next one.
Supporting your print journal with a digital version also saves your organization time and money. If you know your journal will live online, you might print just enough to accommodate guests at the event. You can then focus on reaching wider audiences with the digital version. When your message is reaching your audience through multiple channels, those who feel connected to your organization or mission are more likely to engage.
When analyzing the value you can bring to a sponsorship level ask, think outside the box and beyond the event. Remember to provide the greatest value to your highest-level sponsors. For example, consider offering top-level sponsors a premium ad in your sponsorship journal. This ad would have prime real estate in your print and digital editions. The digital version can also include a hyperlink that leads back to your sponsor’s website. This greatly extends the effectiveness of the ad and will continue driving visitors directly to a sponsor’s website long after the event is over. Remember, you want to provide the greatest value to incentivize top sponsors.
Reaching out to Sponsors
Once you have established the various sponsorship levels and the value you will provide to them in return, it is time to reach out and start securing those sponsors. Your packet, digital or print, can commonly be referred to as an underwriting or sponsorship kit. The idea is to give potential event sponsors a quick preview of what the event will be like, provide some eye-catching stats, tease the value of being a sponsor, and then set up a follow up discussion with your organization.
You can include things like printed versions of emails surrounding last year’s event and a few pages of your digital sponsor journal to show how often sponsors are mentioned in your communications. Be sure to include demographic information of last year’s attendees. Also, illustrate the impact of what you organization was able to accomplish because of funds raised last time.
Your ask should speak more powerfully to individuals who relate to your organization and mission. This is true whether you are reaching out to sponsors or sending your regular fundraising appeals. Targeting sponsors who think in line with your organization you will result in greater receptivity to your sponsorship level asks. Securing like-minded sponsors who believe in your cause will attract other sponsors and attendees who can impact your mission and help you reach your goals.
Once sponsors begin to pledge their support for your event, you can mention them in your continued outreach to other potential event sponsors. Since you likely focused on your high-key prospects first, mentioning the names of these organizations can give your event tremendous credibility. It also shows the next wave of potential sponsors in your outreach plan that other entities see a sponsorship for your event as a good investment.
In the first part of this blog series, we walked through some of the basics on developing relevant communications surrounding your next big fundraising event. Now that we’ve helped get your event planning started on the right foot by bringing in event sponsors, we can get into detail about how to communicate about your big day in our next post. Check back here next Thursday for more!