Break Up with Sponsorships and Move Up with Relationships

Move Up with Relationships in your Fundraising

By Guest Blogger Maura Warner, Marketing Coordinator, Total Solutions

You’re planning an amazing event. You’ve got the vision and all the details seem to be coming together. Until the b-word makes an appearance… budget.

“We just need a sponsor!”

I’ve heard it. I’ve said it. And now I’ve felt it.

 I’m new to the for-profit world, but within my first week I witnessed the President of our company receive at least two dozen requests to sponsor various events. As the emails kept rolling in over the course of the week, I realized some obvious mistakes I made in the past when pitching sponsorships.

Don’t just think of a sponsorship as cash.

No, I’m not talking about in-kind sponsorships for goods and services. I’m saying to stop thinking about sponsors after the plans for your event have already been made. Events are expensive. It takes way more resources to impress attendees and create those perfect Instagram moments. Start planning right now, before your new idea to engage the community even pops into your head, that you will need a sponsor. Create your overall concept for the event and use your passion to pitch a partnership to generate an impact before you even find out your budget is coming up short. 

Put in the time to make relationships.

 It’s obvious to not just reach out when you realize you need resources, but that is easier said than done. That’s why forming relationships is probably the most important thing you can do working for a non-profit. It’s how you find new volunteers, learn about new funding opportunities, and create new programs to serve the community. And guess what, relationships are exactly how you will develop an outstanding event. Having a relationship already established with your potential sponsor makes that pitch way less awkward, and you can genuinely know in advance if your event will help the business reach any of their goals. While more and more companies are putting a focus back on giving, it’s still necessary to align donated funds and time with a bigger strategy.

Keep sponsors engaged after they have committed.

When you finally discover the perfect company to make your event a reality, keep them in the loop! Routine updates, resources for marketing, and simple opportunities to volunteer will really help engage sponsors. You put in the work to find the right fit for your event, don’t forget about them once their check has been cashed. A critical step in moving the business from sponsor to partner is the commitment you make after the event. Thank them for their generosity and seize the moment to continue the relationship into the future. 

It’s time to ditch the last-minute email with a nice proposal attached. Everyone else is already doing it. Start taking the time to develop relationships. Time is as precious of a resource at non-profits as money but putting in the work will create sustainable connections, setting you apart from the crowd.

Maura Warner is a marketing and communications professional with experience working for non-profits. She currently works at Total Solutions developing business-to-business marketing strategies as well as creating and managing marketing campaigns for clients.

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