Getting yourself, a team, event or organization sponsored may seem like an impossible task. The sponsorship market is highly competitive and not everyone who needs or wants to be sponsored will. But don't stress, because we're about to show you how to approach this problem professionally. Here is how to get sponsored in 7 simple steps.
STEP 1: Determine what you need from your sponsors
Nothing is more frustrating to prospective sponsors than a sponsorship request that doesn't make it clear what is desired. Do you need cash, product support, a combination of the two or something else? It's also counterproductive for you or your organization to go out looking for sponsorship support if you aren't sure what you need. You may end up getting sponsorships that do not meet your needs, in which case, you've handed over your sponsorship capital in exchange for too little. Once you've done that, you'll be in a very difficult position. So, before you do anything, sit down and make a list of everything you need to get out of your sponsorship search. This will guide you later in the process.
STEP 2: Understand what you have to offer a potential sponsor
Take some time to document your organization or event's attributes, target audiences and marketing initiatives. Then determine the value that each of these items would have to a potential sponsor. Keep in mind that your target audience is one of the most valuable things that you have to offer your potential sponsor. If you don't already know your organization or event's demographic, begin doing your research immediately. Consider the following - assuming you have email addresses of past participants, email out a survey that includes specific questions to capture demographic information; review Google analytics data on your current website and finally if time is of the essence and neither of the above options are viable, do some online research for statistics about your target demographic.
STEP 3: Identify prospective sponsors
Next, transition into identifying as many prospective sponsors as possible. There are several ways to do this. The first, and probably most important, is to identify companies that you have some personal contact or association with. These may be businesses where you know the owners or employees; or businesses that have worked with or sponsored you or your organization in the past. This is your low-hanging fruit since you are more likely to get attention from a prospective sponsor if they already know who you are or have already supported you in the past. For some people or organizations, this list may be long. For others, it may be short or non-existent.
The next step toward identifying prospective sponsors is to identify companies or organizations that already sponsor people or organizations like yours. This can usually be accomplished by visiting the websites of these organizations and looking at their sponsors pages. Once this is done, you should also add to your list of prospective sponsors any local or regional companies that you know of who may be a good match for the benefits you are offering. These may include companies whose products appeal to your audience and whose businesses may clearly benefit from association with you or your organization.
After you have completed your list of prospective sponsors, you must go one step further and try to identify the individual in that organization who is responsible for sponsorship management. To do this, you will have to either locate this information on the company's website, or if it is not available there, you will have to contact the business via the telephone and ask them who is responsible for managing sponsorships and charitable giving. If they are unwilling to identify an individual, identify yourself or your organization and cordially ask them where you should send your sponsorship package. Record this data someplace safe so that you can use it later on when you are sending out your sponsorship proposal packages.
STEP 4: Develop a working relationship with potential sponsors
Once you've established a primary contact at your potential sponsor, reach out to this person ideally via phone but perhaps via email or social media. Begin to develop a solid working relationship with one of the primary goals being to uncover the following: what are the sponsor's marketing objectives, what is the value to the potential sponsor of doing business with your organization, how will your marketing objectives fulfill the sponsor's objectives and finally how will you measure sponsorship success? One of the most important things to remember about the sponsorship relationship is that it's about them and not you. Whenever you interact with your potential sponsorship contact, remember to ask them first about their goals and only once those are fully understood should you transition to explaining how your event or organization can help them accomplish those goals.
STEP 5: Produce a professional sponsorship proposal package
Getting sponsored means taking yourself or your organization into a very competitive and crowded marketplace. Your prospective sponsors will be bombarded with requests to sponsor a wide array of individuals and organizations, far more than they can actually support. In order to earn their support, you will have to stand out in this crowd. For that reason, it is critical that you produce a highly professional sponsorship package. Producing this document is tedious and time-consuming, but it is critical that you invest the right amount of time and energy in this phase of the game.
Your sponsorship package should consist of a sponsorship proposal letter, a sponsorship fact sheet and a detailed sponsorship proposal which includes sponsorship levels outlining the benefits that your prospective sponsors can expect in exchange for several levels of support of your event or organization. It is critical that you align your sponsorship levels with the needs you identified in Step 1 of this process, so that you can be sure that when you have filled all of your sponsorship levels, you will have met all of your needs. You should also complete the "ask" portion of the process by including a sponsorship pledge form for interested sponsors to complete and send back to you.
STEP 6: Send out your sponsorship proposal package and follow-up
At this stage, you are ready to get sponsored. For each prospective sponsor you have identified, at a minimum produce a personalized sponsorship proposal cover letter that highlights the specific reasons you believe your event or organization are a good fit for their sponsorship dollars. This letter can be mostly identical for each prospective sponsor, but you should add something special to each letter so that it's clear that you are speaking directly to the business in question and aren't sending out boilerplate text to everyone that is identical. Bundle this letter with your sponsorship fact sheet and sponsorship proposal and send it to the person you identified in Step 3. Options for sending your sponsorship proposal package include mailing a hard copy and/or creating a PDF of the document and emailing it.
Once you have sent out your sponsorship proposal package, wait about 5-7 business days, and if you haven't heard anything back, place a phone call to the individual that you sent the package to. The purpose of this phone call isn't to ask if they are going to sponsor you, instead, let them know that you sent them a sponsorship package and want to confirm that they received it. If they did not, then offer to send another one. If they did, offer to answer any questions they may have and let them know that you are available anytime to discuss the specifics of the package should they need more information. Finally, let them know that you would really be excited to partner with their organization and bid them a nice day. If you get their voicemail, it is appropriate to leave a message, but make sure to let them know you would like to talk with them when they have time.
At this stage, it pays to be available without seeming desperate or pushy. Remember that you're not going to convert every single prospect into a sponsor. There can be a variety of reason for this, including fiscal cycles that prohibit new sponsorship commitments at this time, current commitments to other individuals or organizations that have locked up all available sponsorship dollars, or a feeling that you aren't a good match. It's better to remain on good terms with the organizations that do not choose to work with you because they may change their minds and come around later. So don't take it personally if you are rejected. Just try again next year.
Step 7: Convert interested parties into sponsors
This is the fun part and the whole reason you started this process to begin with. If you've done a good job up to this point, you should start to have some successes in the form of completed sponsorship pledge forms that were included in your sponsorship proposal. Each time you get one of these back, place a call to your new sponsor and thank them for their support. If payment (check or credit card) wasn't included with the completed sponsorship pledge form, ask them if it's okay to send them an invoice for the amount they've agreed to donate and confirm the contact information to send this invoice. On the other hand if their donation is of products or services, ask them how they would like to handle fulfillment of that pledge. If you or your organization requires a contract, have that ready for your new sponsor to review. And don't be surprised if your new sponsor comes with their own legal documents for you to complete and sign. If they do, be sure you read them carefully so that you are aware of what you are agreeing to. It would be wise to consult with legal counsel to make sure these types of agreements are reasonable before signing anything.
Congratulations! You've done it! You got sponsored!