Event Planning: Sponsorships 101

As Events Manager for a non-profit organization based in Des Moines serving the state of Iowa, Stacie Garmon produces events  for anywhere from 10 to 15,000+ people. She’s responsible for a 3-day children’s festival, auction gala, two golf tournaments and two children’s events, annually. Stacie previously shared her timeline checklist for fundraising event management with us. 

Event sponsors are meant to underwrite the event expenses. When recruiting sponsors, you are selling your organization’s mission and how important sponsorship dollars are to the event’s success.

Before I begin recruitment, I design detailed sponsorship opportunities or levels. Design the different sponsorship levels with the event expenses in mind. You want to create a range of levels that will cover the event expenses. I also create equations to determine what my goal is for each level to equal the total of my anticipated event expenses. (Yes, you get to use math!)

Sponsors want to know what is in it for them. How many times their logo/name will be distributed and to how many individuals/households/etc… If you are printing and distributing 10,000 fliers to local businesses, this is valuable information for a sponsor. Will they receive complimentary event tickets? If so, how many? Include advertising values in the proposal. If the event will have an advertisement published in the local newspaper, what is the value of that exposure for the sponsors that will have their name or logo in the ad? Make sure this is all outlined prior to your “ask”. The trick is creating a streamlined proposal with all the details that is not 10 pages in length. I have found that a chart system typically works best.

 Typically, the highest level sponsorship is considered the “presenting” sponsor and only one is available. This sponsor receives the most recognition as their name follows the event’s names (ex. The Birthday Bash presented by Cakes4U).

I begin by creating a list of prospects. Research their mission and organization’s goals. I personalize my request for consideration, matching my organization’s mission or services to theirs. For example: If the prospect’s mission is to serve Iowans in all 99 counties, I would provide a success story from my organization’s health program that provides health services to rural Iowans unable to access major city health services. If you find that a potential sponsor’s goals do not coincide with your organization’s mission you may need to consider if it is worth taking the time to submit the request for this particular project. If it is family event, focus on prospects that embrace family and would benefit from additional exposure to families.

In addition to researching prospect’s goals, I also look into other events they have sponsored and what their guidelines are for request submittals. Does the prospect want a written proposal in a letter format? Do they have an online form for completion? What are their deadlines? You want to learn just as much about the prospect as you want to teach them about your organization and event.

After you submit your request make sure to follow up with the prospect a week or two later. Start to gauge their interest and answer any questions they may have. Many times, prospects learning about your organization or the specific event will have questions and require more documentation. Oftentimes, your presenting, higher-dollar sponsor will require the most effort to secure. Maintain a database of prospect responses. Are they an immediate and firm “no”? Are they passing for this year but express interest for next year? (If so, make sure you ask when the best time of year is to submit the proposal.) Are they interested and simply need to determine what level they will select, or are they showing a strong interest in the presenting sponsorship? If the interest is there for the high dollar sponsors, you want to make sure to establish a follow-up schedule with those prospects, making sure they are aware of you marketing deadlines. Ask to schedule a meeting to cover all of the details in person. I attend these meetings armed not only with facts and figures (just in case) but also with drafted marketing materials with the prospects name or logo to bring it to life. (Print the materials with a “draft” watermark).

SponsorThankYou2.pngOnce sponsors are secured for the event, maintain communication with sponsorsto obtain their logos, support statements (why they are sponsoring the event), distribute any event tickets they receive, etc.

Post-event, continue to build relationships! Stay in touch with sponsors. I send sponsors a handwritten thank you card following the event letting them know how the event did, how the organization will benefit (i.e. the funds raised with all us to continue to serve 1,000 Iowans each year) and that this success would not have been possible without their generous support. Be grateful and thankful to everyone who provided event support.

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