7 Tips for Engaging Corporate Sponsors
As you prep for your next season of fundraising events, you are probably looking at your list of potential sponsors to solicit.
As a former fundraiser now working in corporate social responsibility, I want to stop you before you pull out last year’s letter and simply change the date. I have seven tips that could help you attract corporate support and build stronger relationships with your corporate partners.
Understand how you can align your mission with their business and impact your cause together.
Corporations receive many asks each year. They have to prioritize those asks, meet internal business goals, and feel good about being a good corporate citizen. How can you support this with your event sponsorship? How does your audience align with their audience or employees? It’s easy to think about your need to raise funds – but the sponsor has needs in addition to their desire to be charitable. As part of your proposal, make sure the impact you will build together is front and center.
Plan a great event.
If the event is not well-organized and lacks energy, many corporations don’t want to be involved as this is a reflection of their standards. Tickets to your event is a typical sponsorship perk, and these tend to be shared with employees. If it’s hard to get employees to attend because the event has a poor reputation, then this sponsorship ask becomes an easy no. The organization (and the person in charge of this) does not want to lose credibility either internally or externally while trying to do good.
Personalize your ask and ask for a specific amount.
I receive many asks in the mail. So many that I don’t always get them opened and reviewed in a timely manner. One thing I have noticed is that they are usually generic and they lack a specific ask. In the sea of papers, if I understand exactly what you need, I am more likely to review that specific need to see if it fits our budget and strategy. If you are networking properly with your non-profit colleagues, at the very least you should be able to find the name of the person in charge and personally address your ask to the right person.
Be prepared with a written proposal with details such as sponsorship benefits and key dates.
Everyone has a boss. While you are trying to hit a fundraising goal, the person who handles sponsorship asks for their organization is also trying to hit a goal. Your sponsorship proposal should be easy to scan for the sponsorship benefits and any associated key dates. Each corporation tracks their giving differently, but it is being tracked and managed, and they need to complete the necessary internal paperwork. Make this easy for them.
Do what you promised.
If you can’t, communicate this. This one seems so simple. So simple that sometimes we lose sight of it. If you promised an ad or a mention from the podium, you have to follow-through. Make sure you are treating the logo appropriately! It’s easy to feel like you already have the funds for your goal but the sponsorships perks are an important part of this relationship. Your corporate partner is trusting you. If you make a mistake or something is missed, speak up and make it right.
Reach out for a conversation. Relationships matter.
Corporations are made of people. While some companies prefer that you fill out an application to request dollars, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a conversation about the application or to gain any insight into their giving goals for the year. Personally, as I sift through the requests, I am much more likely to ask questions or to present a different idea if I have a relationship with someone at the non-profit. Don’t forget about your relationship skills just because it’s a corporate ask, and you can engage your board to assist you with making connections and networking. Once you have an established relationship, don’t assume that you can make a casual email ask the following year – know the person on the other side and you can even ask them how they prefer to be approached. They will appreciate this.
In many corporations and small businesses, the person that handles sponsorship asks has many other duties that get prioritized over the sponsorship details. Once a decision is made to support your event, it’s easy to forget the rest of the “to-dos.” Be a good steward of the relationship and communicate your needs such as deadlines for program information or your need for names of guests – and not at the last minute. This happens so frequently and can quickly turn from feeling good about participating to feeling annoyed.
You may also wonder how you can reach out to those that you don’t know or to establish the first contact. I have found that sending an email with an introduction is helpful with a promise to call in a few days. (And then call!) I’ve also found it helpful to keep a spreadsheet that identifies when each corporate partner likes to receive asks. For example, I am already planning for 2019 and the decisions will be made early in the year. If you ask in August for a November event, the funds will already be gone.
Corporate partnerships are essential to your event’s success, and if you can show them how you can partner together, you will be one step closer to success. Good luck!
Amy Jones has been in the non-profit sector for most of her career focusing on cause-related marketing and fundraising.