On Tuesday we shared 10 components of an effective charity event sponsorship request letter, plus rolled out the Winspire Sponsorship Kit templates that simplify the process from start to finish.
So, let’s say you’ve written and signed your letters, printed out the forms and shipped out all your sponsorship proposals. Now what?
Initial requests are only half the story. Now is your chance to maximize the impact of those letters by following up well with prospective sponsors.
Securing corporate sponsorships is a big task, and event volunteers and committee members need to have an organized follow up strategy prepared as soon as letters are sent. To assist, read on for the fundamental do's and don'ts of pursuing charity event sponsorships. Learn how to best position your proposals for success—and even turn a "no" into an enthusiastic “yes"!
✔ DO: Follow up over the phone in a timely manner
Sending sponsorship proposal letters is kind of like submitting your resume for a job application. That piece of paper gets lost in a big stack of other papers unless you can do something to make yours stand out.
Companies get plenty of sponsorship requests year-round, so speaking to them directly is key to distinguishing your event from similar philanthropic opportunities.
The vast majority of businesses will not take the initiative to follow up with your letter, so you’ll need to contact prospects over the phone in a timely fashion. Try to do this about one week after you’ve sent it out (when the proposal is still fresh in their minds, but they’ve also had some time to look it over).
Once you’ve got the right contact on the phone, make sure they received your letter. Quickly outline the most important components of the proposal, the sponsorship opportunities and publicity rewards. Ask if they have any questions, then go ahead and make a clear ask: “Would you be interested in sponsoring this event?”
If they say yes…
✔ DO: Thank sponsors right away
Congratulations are in order: you’ve secured a sponsorship commitment! Now is the time to make sure sponsors immediately feel valued and prioritized. Send a thank-you letter right away that recaps the benefits of the sponsorship level they’ve chosen (see the Winspire Sponsorship Kit for an easily customizable thank you letter template). It's also smart to email a copy as well for their immediate reference.
Once you receive their payment via check or credit card, send another thank you, perhaps this time via a different medium like a handwritten card or commemorative letter.
✘ DON'T: Overlook any rewards
Go through the sponsorship agreement line by line to make sure you deliver on each of these promises. I recommend investing in high quality printers for anything displaying sponsor logos: event signage, auction catalogs, free giveaways, collateral, print ads and more. The more sophisticated these marketing pieces look, the more professional your event appears to new sponsors.
✔ DO: Treat sponsors with “white glove” service
Without dipping into the rewards of higher tiers, brainstorm ways you can overdeliver by giving sponsors the VIP treatment.
One easy way to do this is to designate a point person to handle all sponsor requests, questions and feedback. Sponsors may have questions about registering friends and employees for your event, buying raffle tickets or donating online; they may need to update their logos on your marketing material; they may have leads or connections for other sponsors worth pursuing...you get the idea.
It’s important your event’s biggest donors have a reliable, professional contact at your organization to assist with these issues. If a sponsor has a concern or question, make it a priority to address as soon as possible (within 24 hours) and connect them to a live person whenever possible.
Bottom line: Ask what it will take to make sure a sponsor feels their investment was well worth it.
If they're not sure...
✔ DO: Set up in-person meetings where strategic
If you’ve got a potential sponsor on the fence, or if they need more time, find out if you could take just 30 minutes (or less) of their time to meet in person. Face-to-face meetings are the most effective way to transform that “no” into a “yes.”
Take them out to lunch or coffee to discuss the history and vision of your organization, the goals of the event and how their company can step up to make a difference.
Genuine passion is infectious, and meeting in person is lets your enthusiasm shine through.
Potential sponsors may also just need more time to read over the proposal and pitch a sponsorship to their higher-ups. If that’s the case, go ahead and schedule another follow-up phone call: Would it be okay if I followed up with you again at this same time next week?
If they say no...
✔ DO: Suggest customizing a package
Perhaps none of your listed sponsorship rewards appealed to this business, but they are still interested in helping your cause and/or reaching your audience. It doesn’t hurt to ask if there’s a different way they can participate in your event. Find out if there are rewards they’ve received at other events you might be able to provide, or if they’d be interested in sponsoring a smaller expense.
However, if their offer is significantly smaller than what you proposed, it's probably not worth your time or fair to other sponsors to accept a sponsorship. They may be better off simply making a donation instead.
✘ DON'T: Expect a yes from everyone
That said, not every event is a fit for every sponsor. Whether the company has already pledged its entire philanthropic budget to a different cause; doesn’t have charitable funds; is looking for a much bigger event or isn’t interested in giving for whatever reason, there’s endless reasons they might not want to sponsor.
That’s okay. Potential sponsors may change their mind when they see your marketing materials in action around the community or hear about your event through word of mouth. You’ve planted a seed, and you never know what partnership might be sparked in the future just by asking.
✘ DON'T: Cease communication with non-sponsors
While companies may choose not sponsor your event for any number of reasons, that doesn’t mean people at the company would not be interested in attending themselves. Try inviting decliners to attend or volunteer during the event. If they expressed remorse at not being able to give this year, why not offer a couple complimentary tickets to your event? If they’re impressed by the gala and high-end auction items, for example, they’ll make a note to budget money next year for your event.
By developing an organized and presistent follow-up strategy, your nonprofit will not only secure more event sponsorships this year but cultivate enthusiastic, long-lasting relationships for years to come.