As a nonprofit event planner, one of the top concerns on your mind is probably ensuring your organization’s events stay on budget and see a high return on investment (ROI). One of the most effective ways to ensure a high ROI and offset costs during the planning process is to recruit event sponsors.
Nonprofit event sponsors are typically corporate donors who support events to receive positive publicity and access a new marketing audience. Event sponsors may also be individual donors looking to support a good cause.
In this guide, we’ll highlight these five strategies for recruiting more event sponsors and retaining them for the long term:
- Leverage your network.
- Clearly outline sponsorship packages.
- Seek audience and mission alignment.
- Highlight sponsorship benefits using data.
- Steward event sponsors.
Bringing in a few big-name sponsors can catapult your event to the next level and drive greater attendance. These tips will get your community excited about supporting your organization and will ultimately help you raise more funds.
1. Leverage your network.
It’s easier to connect with a new event sponsor when you already have a mutual friend or acquaintance in common. Reach out to current supporters to ask if they know any potential sponsors. Ask people like:
- Board members. Let board members know when your upcoming event is and ask them to put the word out within their personal networks to find potential sponsors. Many may work for an employer that would be open to sponsoring your event based on their employees’ involvement in your organization.
- Volunteers. Use your volunteer database to identify long-time or highly engaged volunteers who may have connections to corporations and may be willing to help recruit event sponsors.
- Long-term donors. Conduct research within your donor management system to identify business owners or local corporate leaders who could be potential sponsors.
Ask board members, volunteers, and donors to introduce your nonprofit and send you the contact information they have for the potential sponsor. This can help break the ice and make the introduction much more natural rather than having to cold-call potential sponsors.
2. Clearly outline sponsorship packages.
Event sponsors should know precisely what the sponsorship process entails so they can determine if it’s the right choice for their organization.
To provide them with enough information upfront, develop clearly defined sponsorship packages by taking the following steps:
- Make it clear what the sponsorship opportunity entails. For example, will sponsors contribute auction items or monetary donations? Will they have the chance to host a booth or table at your event? Will you feature their business names on your event’s landing or donation page? Will you feature their logo in event signage or in an event video? Create clear guidelines that outline what event sponsors will be expected to contribute and the publicity benefits they will receive in return.
- Offer different sponsorship levels for different budgets. Each business will have a slightly different budget when it comes to what they can spend on sponsorship opportunities. You might offer your top sponsor the opportunity to have their business’s name in the event’s title. For other supporting businesses with smaller budgets, you can feature sponsor logos on your event landing page, invite, or signage used at the event.
Assess your event’s budget and determine how many sponsors you’ll need to recruit at each level in order to maintain a high ROI. It can also be helpful to name your sponsorship levels to distinguish and market them. Tie each sponsorship level to your mission. For example, a social justice organization could offer levels like Leader, Trailblazer, and Change-Maker. This can help make it easier for sponsors to choose their preferred level of support.
3. Seek audience and mission alignment.
Partnering with corporate sponsors whose mission and audience align with your nonprofit offers mutual benefits. Your nonprofit’s event attendees can learn more about businesses that are relevant to their interests. Plus, keeping your event sponsorships on theme with your nonprofit’s mission helps reinforce brand awareness. At the same time, your corporate sponsors can connect with a new audience of potential customers interested in their services.
For example, let’s say your nonprofit runs an animal shelter. Ahead of your upcoming Doggie Dash 5K, you could contact local pet stores, pet daycares, or animal trainers to ask if they’d like to sponsor your event. Each business can set up a booth at your event to market their products or services.
Or, perhaps your nonprofit seeks to improve physical education programs at local schools. For your upcoming silent auction event, you could ask sporting goods businesses to donate auction items or local adventure companies to donate a rafting or climbing experience.
4. Highlight sponsorship benefits using data.
Collect data that shows the benefits corporate sponsors will receive from being a part of your event.
For example, you might gather data that showcases your event’s marketing reach. Maybe last year’s fundraising auction saw 300 participants, and with recent strides you’ve made regarding donor stewardship, you’re expecting at least 500 attendees this year. If you’re planning on marketing your event via email, you could share the size of your email marketing list and mention that you’ll be promoting the sponsor in all event communications.
You can also turn to industry resources to help make your case. Organizations like America’s Charities have plenty of statistics on the business benefits of supporting local nonprofits. For example, did you know that 72% of consumers would recommend a brand that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t, and 47% of global consumers buy from charitably-minded brands monthly?
These are the types of statistics that will catch the eye of potential corporate sponsors and get them excited about helping out with your event.
5. Steward event sponsors.
Once you’ve secured a few corporate sponsors, don’t forget to create a stewardship strategy to show your appreciation and maintain positive long-term relationships with them.
Bloomerang’s donor management guide recommends using multiple touchpoints to make your outreach feel fresh and unique. Here are a few ways to stay in touch with your event sponsors after your event concludes:
- Send a heartfelt thank you message recapping your event’s successes. Write a handwritten letter or call corporate sponsors to thank them for their involvement and tell them what their donations helped you achieve.
- Post about your event sponsor on social media. Publicly thank your event sponsors by posting photos of their booth at your event or including links to their websites for audience members to learn more about their offerings.
- Visit with sponsors at the event. Set aside time for your organization’s leaders to meet and thank sponsors at your event personally. Being able to put a face to a name can go far when working on building long-term relationships.
- Invite your event sponsor to exclusive opportunities. Invite corporate sponsors to get to know your organization by touring your facilities, meeting with your executive director, or registering for a corporate volunteer event. This can help foster stronger ties between your sponsors and your nonprofit, leading to long-lasting partnerships.
By staying connected to event sponsors, you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll be willing to support your next event. Plus, giving current sponsors a positive experience can encourage them to spread the word about your sponsorship opportunities, potentially increasing your sponsorship pool next time around.
Event sponsors help take away some of the stress of the event planning process by supporting your budget and paving the way for a higher ROI. The key to recruiting more sponsors is creating a positive, beneficial experience that sponsors will have a hard time passing up.