Nonprofit Fundraising, Part 3: How to Get Sponsors for Your First Successful Event

This post is the third in a series pinpointing some best practices for you to follow as you prepare for your own successful nonprofit fundraising event.

In part one of this nonprofit fundraising event series, we talked about all the things you should be thinking about as you plan your event at six months out.

In part two we covered getting your save the date ready, your registration page up, and a plan for ongoing promotion.

Today, let’s take a closer look at reaching out to sponsors.

What is a sponsor?

A sponsor is anyone or any company that provides something free (money, services, or products) to help increase the value of your event. They are one of the foundational elements of your event because they add things that can draw people to your event.

Why are sponsors important to the success of your fundraising event?

In addition to the value they add to your event, sponsors also provide a marketing and promotion aspect for you as well. Make sure you take advantage of this. For example, if you are having a local restaurant provide food for your event they should also advertise at their place of business to their clients/patrons. This is helpful because people enjoy being part of causes that their favorite places stand behind or are involved in.

This is a business decision for them as well. Even though they are helping your cause they are also helping their own cause as well, which is completely fine. Fundraisers and sponsorship opportunities are great business partnerships. Most companies, especially larger local businesses have a budget to do this every year. So the earlier you start mining for free stuff like goodie bags and food donations the better. Get creative about who you reach out to as well. Remember anything that is going to add value to your event is worth it.

When should you be reaching out to potential sponsors?

At least 4 months out. The reason you must plan ahead is that decisions from sponsors usually have to go through many levels of approvals and you are also competing against other events in your area. The earlier you can start mining for sponsors the better off you are.

Who can you get to sponsor your event?

The short answer is anyone and everyone. Start with your company, local businesses, and ask your registrants if their companies want to get involved. Reach out to local restaurants for gift cards or food donations as well.

For example, when running a golf tourney I would contact my local golf store, pro shops, and golf courses to see if they want to be involved. Secondly make sure you ask friends, colleagues and then have them ask their networks and so on.  If you can get others to reach out to their social networks your chances to find your “6 degrees of Kevin Bacon” sponsor are better and increase your awareness of potential sponsors. This also makes your search a lot easier.

What are some creative ways you can get sponsors to say yes?

Getting your sponsors can be stressful, especially when things don’t happen as quickly as you like. So remember to have fun, be creative, and target places you personally enjoy being a part of. It also helps to pick places that your registrants will want to be a part of as well. This makes things less stressful and a more enjoyable process all around. Eventually you’ll get your sponsorship seeking “groove” going.

One key to getting the “yes” is to think of creative ways to reach out to potential donors. This helps you stand out from the other people requesting sponsorships. First contact is always important so don’t just send a generic email to all the “info@” email address you find on websites. Dive in deeper and take a personal approach to making this contact.

Visit a favorite local store that you support and ask if they donate or sponsor local events,  use Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to search or (mine) for other events in your area and pick and choose what you like and don’t like about what they are doing. Go with your gut. Trust what you like and improve on what you don’t like and create your own style.

Potential sponsors are everywhere

Years ago I was looking to get sponsors for a golf tourney and was struggling to find long drive sponsors for a couple of holes. As I drove down the street I passed several car dealerships and it reminded me of a fairway of sponsorships on each side of the road. I decided to contact each local dealer and by the end of the process I ended up with several dealers donating some money to the tourney. They also sponsor a closest to the pin and longest drive contest. And I also got some key chains and fun swag to put in goodie bags. The take away from this for me was that inspiration can strike at the most random moments, so trust your ideas and then follow up on them.

What’s the most important thing to remember when it comes to sponors?

Remember: You are not the only one reaching out to collect sponsorships. There are hundreds of other local nonprofits that will be having the same kind of events as you and reaching out to same sponsor pool. So make sure you reach out early and often. Don’t get disappointed if things do not happen as fast as you like. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to accomplish your sponsorship goals.

What should you do after reading this post?

Set up a timeline and make a list, off the top of your head, of places you would like to reach out to. Then start reaching out. Next, search your local area for similar events to see what others are doing. This will help generate ideas of how you want to approach the types of sponsors you want and give you ideas of how other events are run.

Do you have any tips for reaching out to sponsors? Share them in the comments below.

Read other posts in this series

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