Non-Profit Event Sponsorship Tips

I was participating in a recent League of American Orchestras roundtable when the question was asked “How do you secure sponsorship for smaller, non-signature events?”. The biggest hurdle seemed to be businesses approaching these request “only as a marketing opportunity”.

As a marketing director who handles non-profit donation and sponsorship request, I offered up this advice for making your event attractive for sponsorship:

  • Be prepared and professional. This is after all a business transaction. Do not pitch to my emotions but my business sense.
  • Have an offer. Do NOT present “whatever you want to do”. This makes me nervous. Marketing people are used to a defined relationship. We pay for ads or commercials and get a defined amount of space or time. Your approach should be the same. You can have options such as package A or B, but these should be spelled out.
  • Marketing is based on customer demographics. Tell me who is coming to your event. Also, tell me who is on your committee, supporting your organization and on your board. Give me the average age, income level and what they do for a living. If your audience is my target market, I will sponsor the event. The more information you have, the more interested I will be.
  • Provide me with event information, logos and marketing materials. I probably will provide additional promotion of your event for free.
  • My company has rules about how our logo can and cannot be used. If you make it clear that you understand this and will play by these rules, you are much more likely to get a yes from me. Ask for our style guide and you will win bonus points.
  • Most sponsorships include event tickets, but don’t stop there. Add perks that don’t cost you anything like reserved seating or a chance to meet with other sponsors and large donors. As a business leader, these are the people I am interested in meeting.
  • If I say no to a sponsorship or cash donation, do not hesitate to ask for in-kind support. Also, ask for referrals to other marketing directors and business owners who might be interested.
  • Be flexible. I might choose one of your sponsorship packages BUT have some additions or subtractions. Be open to suggestions which might open a new avenue of marketing you had not considered. If these suggestions are not good for your organization or cost extra money you cannot afford to spend, it’s OK to say no. Just give me a good reason why.
  • Do NOT promise something you cannot or will not deliver on. I will call you out on it and be very upset at not getting what I expected. I will tell other marketing professionals about my experience.
  • Tell me when and where the public will see the event marketing with my company name and/or logo on it. This includes invitations, brochures, e-mails, your website and social media, event signage, tickets, promotional items, gifts or goodie bags, speaker mentions and presentations during the event or any other associated items. Tell me how long this information will stay on your website or printed materials after the event has past.
  • Plan a public Thank You for your sponsors after the event is done. Make sure I know this is part of your marketing plan.
  • Send a follow-up item to our offices with your logo on it as a Thank You. All of my clients and employees will see it on a regular basis. This can be as elaborate as a trophy or plaque to as simple as a hand written note on letterhead.
  • Do not take a no as never. Ask again in the future, unless I very directly tell you not to. Sometime it’s just about timing.
  • Add me to your marketing list (email blast, mail, newsletter, etc…) it will make next year’s pitch even easier. Do this if we sponsor your event or not.
  • Remind me a portion of the sponsorship is tax deductible. Send me a tax letter with my thank you gift. Do not make me ask for it.

In the end, if you have a professional pitch, well developed with demographics and marketing opportunities spelled out, I will be interested in sponsoring your event. If I think you are easy to work with, will protect my brand and do what I expect of you then I am very likely to sponsor your event. Good luck!

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