Timing is everything

Written by on January 28, 2015 at 8:59 am

It's that time of year again. While many of us make resolutions after the ball has dropped and the champagne glasses have been put away, January, for me, is all about the base. The sponsorship base, that is. Did you know that many businesses make their sponsorship decisions for the year during the first quarter? Now is the time to hit the ground running, not with your feet, but by getting your sponsorship request out in front of potential sponsors.

I know it's hard to ask for money, but corporate sponsorship is completely different from asking your Aunt Hazel for a donation. Corporate sponsorship is a business arrangement where you offer benefits that a potential sponsor will see as valuable. It is a tool that companies use to build their brand. You can help them do that by inviting them to support one or more of your fundraising events.

Here are a few simple steps to help you get started:

  1. Understand what you have to offer. What is the target audience of your event? A golf tournament audience will be different than an 80's themed fundraising dance. It is important to know who your audience is and how that audience will overlap with your sponsor's target audience. Businesses like statistical information, so when reaching out to potential sponsors, include as much demographic information about your planned event as possible: projected number of attendees, age, gender, etc.
  2. Understand what sponsors are looking for and offer benefits and value that meet their needs. Benefits for sponsors include:
    • Raising a company's profile by association with the Challenge Walk
    • Improve corporate image
    • Meet corporate responsibility by supporting a good cause
    • Hospitality opportunities by inviting clients to events
    • Improve employee morale and engagement by inviting employees to events
    • Increased exposure to desired target audience
    • Alternative marketing channels
    • Social media
    • Press
    • Event site signage
    • Category exclusivity
    • Presence at the event
    • Logo on all collateral material

    You get the idea. There are a number of benefits associated with supporting an event that will benefit the Greater New England Chapter of the National MS Society. The key is pitching the sponsorship opportunity appropriately.

  3. Research potential sponsors. It's not enough to get a list from the local Chamber of Commerce website. You should research the companies you are going to approach and solicit them individually. While a broad request letter can have some success, it is much more likely you will hook a major sponsor by tailoring your request to the company's needs. It has been helpful for my team members to approach businesses in three different ways:
    1. Companies that have an association with you, personally. Think about the people you do business with: your dentist, dry cleaner, the restaurant you go to every Friday night. They already know you and are more likely to support someone they see doing business at their establishments.
    2. Local businesses that could benefit from an association with your event. These are companies you may not do business with, but who could benefit from the exposure they'll receive by being affiliated with your event.
    3. National companies who sponsor similar events.
  4. Craft a proposal letter. The letter should include details about you. Why are you doing the Challenge Walk? What is the Challenge Walk? Include the purpose of the fundraising event and the benefits to the sponsor. Be specific about what you're looking for: sponsorship to cover event costs? Discounted goods or services? Straight cash donations? In your proposal letter, it is vital to include the cost per sponsorship. As the former VP of marketing for a community bank, I used to receive numerous sponsorship requests without a specific financial request. When I received a letter without a dollar amount, I'd usually approve a $100 donation. While a $100 donation is a nice gift, the charity seeking funding may have been looking for $1,000. Bottom line: if you don't tell the company how much you want, you won't get what you need. For a larger event, such as a golf tournament or a dinner cruise, it may be helpful to "tier" the sponsorship levels. For example, as the "Gold Sponsor" the company would receive X; for a "Silver Sponsor," the company would receive Y in benefits.
  5. Identify the person who can say yes. Send your request directly to the person who will approve it. It is absolutely worth it to take the time to call a company and ask who handles corporate donations. That task can fall to the marketing department, community relations, or even the company president.
  6. And finally, the business relationship with a sponsor doesn't end when you receive the check. You have to ensure that the sponsor receives the benefits you offered. Follow up with a thank you letter, detailing specifically how the event reached the goals you set.

Diagnosed with MS in 1994, Patty responded the way many do: she refused to discuss it. It took her ten years to realize that silence isn't the answer. She, her friends and family formed the Blister Buddies for their first Challenge Walk in 2004. Patty is now on the Challenge Walk Steering Committee and chairs the PR Subcommittee. In November 2008, she became a member of the Greater NE Chapter's Board of Trustees.

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Kathy Hannon Kathy says:

    Great job Patty, very helpful and informative!!