Event Sponsorships: The Secret to Record-Breaking Revenue
Event sponsorships are fantastic opportunities to form valuable partnerships, expand your audience, and generate additional revenue and/or offset event costs.
Organizations stand to benefit more than ever from smart sponsorship strategies, especially as the nonprofit event landscape continues to expand access to more donors and diverse audiences. With opportunities for in-person and virtual engagement, flexible event and campaign options allow you to more effectively target your audience, and they create all kinds of new ways to incorporate sponsors into your plans.
Whether you’re new to event sponsorships or want a refresher, here are all of the essential best practices to keep in mind.
Identifying Sponsorship Opportunities in Your Events
Before you begin pitching opportunities to potential partners, you’ll need to understand how sponsors can get involved in your events. If you already have an established sponsorship program, this step is still important since finding unique and new options for your partners gives you an edge.
There are two general types of sponsored support for nonprofit events: financial and in-kind. Financial support involves a straightforward donation made specifically to help cover event costs. In-kind donations of venues, equipment, food and more can also offset event costs. In some cases, like donated auction items, in-kind donations help you to directly generate revenue.
In exchange for support, sponsors want to be recognized in front of your nonprofit’s audience and have their brands incorporated into your event. To recognize and incorporate sponsors into your events, you might try:
- Shoutouts during the event to thank them for their support
- Inclusion across your event's promotional, printed and virtual materials
- Special activities and sponsored portions of the event, like a photobooth or raffle
- Grab bags and special sponsor offers for event attendees
- Incorporation into event decor, like themed centerpieces
- VIP packages for sponsor attendees
The opportunities you offer will depend on the nature and scope of your event, but take the time to get creative. Standard shoutouts and co-branded materials will always work, but offering something unique that drives extra audience engagement is an excellent way to catch a potential sponsors’ attention.
Sourcing and Securing Sponsors
There’s no one right way to source sponsors, but there are a few tried-and-true strategies.
- Review your current and past corporate partners. The existing relationship will make it easier to pitch new involvement in your next event.
- Reach out to local businesses. This is especially helpful if your organization has a solid footprint and reputation in the local community.
- Identify businesses with shared interests/audience overlaps. For instance, a pet food manufacturer could be a tailor-made partner for animal shelters and humane societies.
- Scour your network. Consider board members, staff, peers, family and friends for potential connections with prospective corporate partners.
Once you’ve established a list of potential sponsors, do your research beforehand so that you reach out to the right individual. Alternatively, ask for an introduction if you have a shared connection with the business.
From here, initiate the conversation and share an initial sponsorship letter or one-pager that explains who you are, what your event is, and why you’re seeking that sponsor’s support. When you follow up, ask plenty of questions to learn more about the business’s corporate social responsibility needs, goals and interests. Use this information to compile a customized sponsorship playbook that clearly lays out your proposal. Discuss the proposal, hammer out the details, and celebrate securing a new partner for your mission!
Creating a Sponsor Playbook and Proposal
Being as specific as possible in your sponsor proposals will boost the odds of a successful request, and it gives potential partners a clear idea of what to expect. What should a proposal playbook include? I recommend these elements:
- Cover page. Be sure to brand it with your nonprofit logo.
- Your nonprofit’s mission and story.
- Event description. This should include testimonials from past attendees and sponsors.
- Social proof. A section devoted to illustrating social proof can consist of lists of past and current partners, attendee responses to past events, attendance statistics, etc.
- Demographic/audience information.
- Sponsorship benefits summary.
- Specific sponsorship options/requests. For financial requests, provide packages or tiers of sponsorship options, plus a recommended option based on custom opportunities you identify for that particular sponsor. For in-kind requests, detail exactly what you’re looking for from that sponsor, but leave room for suggestions.
- Promotional benefits for each package/tier/custom option.
- Contact information. This allows potential sponsors contact your organization to discuss details and finalize the agreement
You can’t always count on businesses having the time or initial interest to devote to your requests. With a clear outreach plan, designated contact at your organization, and a playbook that lays out the details, you’ll not only make a great impression but also make the sponsor’s decision an easy one.
Nonprofits can use sponsorships to diversify their revenue streams while offsetting the costs of running campaigns and events. And with more types and formats of nonprofit events cropping up today, the sky is the limit for the unique partnerships you might form. Be creative and prepared, and you’ll expand your network of partners in no time.
Sarah Sebastian is the director of corporate communications at OneCause. She’s a marketer and brand geek at heart with eight years of experience in the nonprofit tech space. Outside of work, Sarah can be found reading, hiking, kayaking, volunteering for Florida Access Network, or getting lost in the woods while photographing birds.