However much planning has gone into your not-for-profit’s special event, it may all be for naught if you can’t find reliable sponsors to foot a large percentage of the expenses involved. To line up businesses and individuals to sponsor your big fundraiser, annual meeting or other event, and retain them once you have their allegiance, be sure to:
Aim for the right targets. Holding a magnifying glass to your organization’s mission statement is the best way to develop your list of potential sponsors. Think in terms of appropriateness and quality. For example, a publisher of English as a Second Language curricula might make an excellent sponsor for a literacy organization’s annual gala.
Assemble a powerful team. Ask board and committee members to use their connections in the community and solicit funds from your targets. Make sure this team is well prepared with complete information about the benefits each target company will receive.
Have facts at your fingertips. Arm your team with data on the event’s attendees. Use historical information to convince potential sponsors that the audience at your event is the same demographic they target for their products or services. Be factual in your approach — don’t exaggerate.
Present attractive options. Sponsors contribute money to help finance your event in exchange for exposure. It’s typical to include the sponsors’ names on event materials, such as signs, program books and auction guides, and to give verbal recognition at the event. In addition, you might offer the sponsoring company the opportunity to speak at the event.
Offer levels of sponsorship. Develop a package of sponsorship options. In general, those companies paying the most should receive the most visibility at your event. For example, the top sponsorship tier might include the display of a large banner with the company’s name while a lower-level sponsor might only be listed in the event program.
Finding sponsors is only the beginning. You must stay in touch with sponsors throughout the year. Try to get your new sponsor’s employees involved in other aspects of your operation — for instance, volunteer work or your monthly magazine. Also attempt to grow the sponsorship by thoughtfully asking for a larger contribution each year.