How To Attract Corporate Sponsors posted 03/16/16

By Jeanne Kaufmann

Few things cause more moans, groans, and a serious uptick in coffee runs in a non-profit office than events.  Gala, Trivia Night, what have you, the event itself can be a blast, but the weeks (sometimes even months) leading up to it can be a strain on any organization.

One of the best things any non-profit can do when an event is on the horizon is secure a corporate sponsorship.  A corporate sponsor for an event can help guarantee attendance, open doors that may have otherwise been closed and certainly assist financially.  However, when it comes to obtaining a corporate sponsorship, where does one even start? We spoke with Steve Bauer, a Senior Vice President and Partner at Fleishman Hillard (and Launch St. Louis Board Member), to get a bit of guidance when it comes to securing a corporate sponsor for an event:

Where to start?

When it comes to approaching a potential corporate sponsor for an event, you have to do your homework. The best corporate sponsors are the ones that share the same values and interests as your organization, but there are a few other key components that should come into play as you are choosing the right corporation to approach. For example:

  1. Are there any local companies that have a natural connection to your cause?
  2. What audience is the company trying to reach?
  3. Does the company have a “Foundation” or philanthropic division?
  4. What other corporate social responsibility initiatives have they done recently?
  5. How can we offer something of value to the company in exchange for their sponsorship?

Once you find the company whose philanthropic goals best fit with your organization as a whole and the cause the event is supporting, you are ready to start reaching out!

How to reach out?

The best thing a non-profit can do is find a link between their organization and the company they are soliciting for sponsorship.  A personal note from someone can make all the difference! So, approach your board and ask whether anyone has a connection to the corporations you are considering for sponsorship.  If they do, make sure they are willing to be involved during the solicitation, whether that means a personal written note on the initial letter, a phone call or even a visit.

If there is no personal connection between your organization and your potential corporate sponsor, there are a few other aspects of the organization you should be well versed on when planning your request:

  1. The company’s historical corporate giving or community events (often can be found on the company’s website).
  2. News coverage about the company.
  3. The company’s mission and values, especially as they align with your own organization.

Once you have this information and feel confident, it is time to contact the company with your ask. 

What to ask for?

In terms of an event sponsorship, there are many ways a corporation can help your organization.  Yes, financial assistance is always ideal, but there are many other ways a company’s involvement can take your event from good to great.

One of the best things you can do for your event is stay flexible when it comes to a corporate sponsorship. When approaching a potential sponsor, try and create a custom option based on their specific goals and needs. This will help create a win-win situation for both your organization and the corporation.

What to offer?

Speaking of win/win, it would be wonderful if a corporation would offer their support and sponsorship of your event with zero strings attached.  However, it is actually in the best interest of your organization to make sure that the relationship you create with your corporate sponsor is mutually beneficial one. That creates good will between your organization and the corporation, which can lead to a future, and possibly more significant, partnership.  So, below are a few of the “perks” that you can offer a corporation you are contacting for a potential sponsorship:

  1. Branding or naming rights (Event “presented by”… )
  2. Recognition and/or exposure (programs, signage, video, etc.)
  3. Publicity (media coverage, social media / advertising mentions)
  4. Tickets and/or VIP access to the event, guest / keynote speakers, etc.
  5. Goodie bag insertions (free trial product or discounts, tchotchkes, etc.)
  6. Inclusion on event shirts
  7. Employee engagement opportunities
  8. Tax deduction

These kinds of benefits are often at little to no cost to your organization, but ensure that the company sees a clear benefit to sponsoring your event.

You would hopefully have many sponsorships at different levels for your event, so before reaching out to any potential sponsors, create a few sponsorship packages; perhaps the highest amount of sponsorships includes all the benefits and then the subsequent levels ask for less investment and, of course, offer less in return.  Then you can determine which corporations you should approach with which level (be sure to limit the number of the highest level sponsorships, they should be special!), and start inquiring!

In the end, you know what is best for your organization and your event, but hopefully these tips will mean next time you see an event looming on your company calendar, you feel just a bit more prepared.  Good luck and happy planning!

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