The Art of Raising Sponsorship Dollars…as a Volunteer

The Art of Raising Sponsorship Dollars…as a Volunteer

Fundraising event season is here and I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t remember signing up for this!” We’ve all been there! You want to raise money for a cause you care about, you were certain that local companies would jump at the chance to support such a great cause, the summer seemed like a million years away and then, suddenly, the event is just a few months away and you’ve barely raised any money.

First things first: don’t panic! This post is written with the volunteer fundraiser looking for event sponsorship in mind.

Let’s look at five things you can do to make selling sponsorship for your events easier:

Know Your Audience

It’s all about the cause right? Of course it is! To you. To your potential sponsors, it’s all about the market. Do local business owners want to give back to the community? Of course they do! But when you ask them for sponsorship, you are asking for marketing dollars. Have a great cause? Excellent! Make it even better by understanding that sponsorship is a marketing spend and when you combine great cause with great marketing, you are really onto something.

Before you reach out to your prospects, determine exactly who is attending your event, what media you are getting (and who that media reaches) and who cares most about your cause. “The general public” doesn’t count! The more you can define your audience, the more money you can ask for. You want to know things like age, geography, education, type of work, income levels, hobbies of your attendees. Once you know this, you will know who to approach for sponsorship dollars.

Forget the Sponsorship Package

Wait…what? No sponsorship package? But doesn’t every event NEED a Gold, Silver, Bronze sponsorship package? In a word…no. If you need to produce a one-pager for a committee member who is afraid to fundraise without one, then use that one-pager to briefly describe your charity and then talk all about your audience, media and the ways you like to work with sponsors.

The best way to bring a sponsor on board is to find a warm contact through friends, volunteers, attendees and committee members and give them a call (or better yet, have coffee with them). Find out if they even have interest in your audience and if they do, ask them how they typically engage in sponsorship. Once you know this you can ask them what their budget is and create something just for them.

It is a well know fact that 99% of “Gold, Silver, Bronze” packages go right to the garbage. People buy from people and they want to trust those who are getting their money…even if you are a volunteer.

Logos, Logos Everywhere!

When people think of sponsorship, they first think “Gold, Silver, Bronze” and then they think that some company will pay them money to “slap logos all over things.” Did you know that they average value per view of a logo on a sign is less than ¼ of one cent? As in $.0025. Unless you have an event with 10,000 people attending, you aren’t going to make much money this way. Unless of course you put up 5,000 signs!

Did you know that you can charge between $2 and $25 per person for a speaking opportunity? Or how about giving out free product. Did you know that sponsors pay anywhere from $.09 to $.6 per product giveaway?

By far the LEAST valuable thing you can sell your sponsors is a logo placement! Most people approach sponsorship upside down, they charge thousands of dollars for logo placement and give speaking opportunities and product placement away for free.

Get together with your team and think about all of the things you have been giving away for free and instead of trying to sell someone a logo on a t-shirt, give your prospect a call and ask them what’s important to them.

It’s All About Activation

Activation is a fancy term for providing value to your sponsors. Instead of logo placement, what cool things can you offer your sponsors?

Have an event outside in the summer? How about a popsicle station? Or a water balloon fight sponsor? How about a s’mores kit given out to all of your attendees…by your sponsor? Tired of the same old photo booth ideas? Try a superhero-themed photo booth with prizes to the coolest costumes.

If you find logos on banners boring when you attend events, imagine how your sponsors feel when that’s all anyone asks them about. Next time you meet a sponsor ask them about the coolest sponsorship opportunity they’ve ever seen and ask them how you can work with them to make it happen at your event. The best part is, not only will your sponsors love it, but your guests will too.

Treat Your Sponsors Like Gold (No not, Gold, Silver, Bronze)

At the event, assign someone on your committee to do nothing but hang out with your sponsors and make sure they are having a good time. Give every member of your committee a sponsor to seek out, give free drink tickets too (or a free s’more kit!) and thank them for their support. Make sure you introduce your sponsors to the charity staff, guests of honour and anyone else of note.

Thanking them from the stage isn’t enough. Make sure every sponsor hears from every member of your committee at least once. Why? Because inevitably things go wrong and you forget a logo, or you mispronounce a sponsor’s name, or you put their logo on the shirt upside down. When you over-deliver in other ways and build real relationships, not only do you give yourself some wiggle room for mistakes, but your sponsors are more likely to come back.

As a volunteer, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by demanding sponsors and by demanding deadlines. Give yourself permission to have fun, connect with sponsors in meaningful ways and to take the pressure off, reach out to your sponsors no less than six months before the event to give yourself lots of time to get things just right.

Chris Baylis is a corporate sponsorship and cause marketing expert. Chris has managed the entire spectrum of the sponsorship process, raising millions of dollars for charities, associations and not for profits and is a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective |Twitter | LinkedIn | Google+


Chris Baylis is a corporate sponsorship and cause marketing expert. Chris has managed the entire spectrum of the sponsorship process, raising millions of dollars for charities, associations and not for profits and is a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

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