This is a real eventy post! And probably very relevant if you work for a charity or are holding a fundraiser. If you’re holding an event and you need some extra cash, or can’t afford a certain thing, or need some help, finding a sponsor is a good way to go. But it can be very hard, take a lot of time, and be tricky to negotiate. This post gives a very brief overview and some of my experiences.
Due to the amount of work I’ve done in the non-profit sector, I have dealt with a lot of sponsors. Banks, booze, bicycles (yes really) you name it I’ve asked for it. Sponsors have enabled me to raise so much more money for charity, and they really can be a lifesaver. The most amount of money I’ve ever received from an event sponsor was £250,000 and that wasn’t even the whole event budget. Big bucks.
First up – there is more than one kind of sponsorship- you can get cash or ‘in kind’. Someone either gives you money to spend however you need, or they give you physical stuff, or a service. Anything from flowers, to alcohol, to gifts, to equipment, or staff, technology or advice.
Asking for money is generally harder, as giving cash away is always strictly controlled by companies and they often allocate it away for the year and then you’re out of luck by the time you approach them. Or they’ll have set charities they give to on an annual basis, and they only accept proposals at specific times. Event sponsorship is particularly hard as it is a one off, with no guaranteed return.
Having the right ‘in’ is essential, to the right person, and getting your pitch just right. It needs to be tailored, specific and persuasive. You need to give them reasons to get involved – what is in it for them? What can you offer in return?
For example, if it is a local company you are asking for money then you are giving them the perfect opportunity to get their brand in front of potential customers, a captive and engaged audience.
Put their logo on the invite, programme, ticket - all printed materials.
Design a full page advert for the programme.
Have representatives circulating at the drinks reception to talk to people
Give a speech on the night, or be mentioned and thanked in all speeches on the night.
Put flyers or items in goodie bags.
Host a table and bring guests to show off in front of.
It’s a good opportunity for the right brand at the right event. The person who actually makes the ask can also have massive sway, so choose your way in carefully. Bear in mind that ego often plays a huge part.
In kind sponsorship has, in my experience, always been easier. That is in part due to the fact that the events I have worked on have been highly desirable, with a lot of media coverage and therefore a huge reach for a sponsor. Ever read in the Evening Standard magazine diary column ‘guests drank Sipsmith gin cocktails’? That was sometimes me, getting the gin for free and then getting the mention in the media by ensuring it was written into the press release. Sipsmith were always brilliant. Giving away stock is often easier than giving away money, and you can still offer the same sort of perks – logos on things, mentions on the night, goodie bags etc etc etc.
Sponsors can also be very demanding and annoying.
They know you need them and they want eeeeeverything in return. They aren’t always in it for the fuzzy feeling of helping out – they are in it for the tax breaks and to look good on the annual report. Remember to make a sponsorship agreement that sets clear parameters at the outset so that everyone delivers what has been agreed. Bear in mind there are some legalities to consider – like GDPR. If they ask you to hand over a list of names and addresses of all the guests so that they can email them – say no. Ever heard of opting in? Push back. But this is a very small percentage, and I’m lucky that I’ve only encountered a few like this. And at the end of the day they are still really helping you out, and that is something to be grateful for no matter how much you might dread their emails.
There are also a lot of unsung heroes in sponsorship, some brands just aren’t sexy and therefore don’t get the headlines or brand visibility. Like a huge hardware brand that were a major supporter of a theatre where I managed the events team. They were literally holding the stage and sets together with all the screws and nails they donated but no one ever really knew as it wasn’t glamorous and didn’t make a good PR story. Which was such a shame as they were so lovely. But then they were a dream sponsor - one who just wants to support you, and the thing they get in return is the satisfaction of knowing that they helped.
There are a few things in this post to bear in mind if you’re thinking of pitching for something. But I’m happy to chat more if you want a bit of advice – and I also offer 90 minute online power planning sessions for those who want some structured help. See this page for more information.