HOW DO I OBTAIN, RETAIN & SECURE A SPONSOR FOR THE CONFERENCE?
When planning an event, there are many sponsorship opportunities for organizations and individuals to contribute to. Each speaking slot in the program, every meal, coffee breaks, galas, and each event at the conference or within the agenda can be contributed to being hosted/sponsored by a partner or investor. sponsorship or partner. Here are some strategies professional fundraisers, event planners and non-profit organizations utilize to secure a sponsor to increase the budget, attendees and marketing for the conference or event. The following methods bring new ways of planning and collaborating at the event to turn your event into positive cash flow for future events.
STEP 1 – RESEARCH TO MAKE A LIST OF POTENTIAL SPONSORS
Research the attendees and find out who has attended previous events. Research the background of your event to find out if the organization had partnered with any organizations and a former sponsor of the conference. Collecting data to find any individuals or organizations that would be a good match to sponsor the event will give you an idea on who to contact. Narrow your list and do more research on each potential sponsor to get to know them, their careers or business more intimately so that you can gain personal knowledge regarding if they have sponsored previous events with other organizations if they have had some good years and are cash flow positive and find the similar organizational or personal traits that will resonate with them between your organization and them. If an organization sponsored your event in the past and is not willing to sponsor future events, research their competitors since you have already found a “match” in previous years. Competitors will often jump on opportunities to take over spaces where their competition has been, so it can be useful to research this information for your strategy.
STEP 2 – CONTACTING AND CONNECTING WITH EXISTING SPONSORS
Do an in-depth dive into the sponsors who have contributed to the event in the past 4 years. Understand how long they have been contributing to the event the purpose of their involvement. Find the key areas that resonate with them to establish trust so that they know that you understand them and their reasons for sponsoring in the past. Make a list and place a telephone call to existing sponsors to request a meeting with them to seek their advice on your event. Tell them that you want 15-30 minutes of their time to help you complete a market study (a funding feasibility study in professional fundraising jargon). Usually, people are flattered when they are asked for advice, and since they have already sponsored your event, they will usually want to give you some time in their schedule. Requesting a virtual or in person meeting is the best practice, as it is easier to be authentic and to be able to communicate with them in the meeting.
At the meeting be an active listener and ask strategic questions. Be authentic and come from a genuine place. Open up by asking strategic questions that will confirm your research on each of them or give you more insight on a topic that is unknown to you about them or their business. Once you have established a strong foundation of knowledge, start to discuss their previous involvement in the event itself and what they enjoyed or did not like so much at past conference or events. Ask for any suggestions on how to raise more funding or ask if there are any ideas, they may have to contribute in a different way then previous years. Ask them about previous speakers and if they know any great speakers to hire that they think would be interesting and a good fit for the audience.
Ask them about their year, their business, and the challenges they may have faced. It is always good to understand more about how they may react to you requests. Ask them advice about holding the event and their experience at the event or similar events in the past. Run the list of potential sponsors by them and ask if they feel like having one of the potential candidates involved is a good match for them if they are to sponsor this event. They may even know or work with some of the people on the list and can give you some insider information on them to help you prepare for upcoming conversations. Share the unique relationship you have built with them and show appreciation for their insights and participation in previous events. Request to learn if they know of any other potential sponsors that they know of in their network that may want to be involved in the event.
STEP 3 – FINDING NEW SPONSORS
Now that you have a list of potential sponsors and some data to work with, you can now start working the list to contact new sponsors. Reaching out can be difficult, however it is important for you to learn the CEO or one of the executive leaders so that you can be speaking to the right person. It may take a couple of attempts but keep calling to find the ways until you have reached the right office.
Once you have reached the right office or their personal assistant, use the person you are trying to connect with first name to make it sound like you know them well to get through to the CEO. It is important to have your research ready and written down before each call as once you get through, you only get the one chance to make an impression. Leverage points of your research, relationships they may have and shared interests to establish rapport with them and request a meeting to discuss a unique opportunity or request to learn if they are interested in having a quick meeting to talk about a shared interest. It is important to make a meeting with them and requesting 10-15 minutes of their time will make it seem like it is a very small commitment on their end.
STEP 4 – PREPARING FOR THE “BIG ASK”
At the meeting if you are speaking to an existing sponsor, thank her/him for her/his continued support. If you are talking to a new sponsor, tell them about your organization, the purpose of the event and the challenges the organization has faced most recently as an organization and in holding the event. Briefly explain the purpose of your event, who it will serve and the people it will be impacting. Share the names of other sponsors involved in previous years and this year, so that they can understand where their name will be sitting with if they choose to sponsor.
Much like with existing sponsors, you want to get to know your sponsors and how they feel about conferences, events, and speakers presentations. You will also want to learn if they have a personal connection or shared interest to your organization or cause. Tell them that you would like to give people, companies, foundations, and organizations an opportunity to be positively associated with your event through sponsorship opportunities. Lastly, explain to them your budget shortfall to make the event come together.
STEP 5 – THE CONVERSATION ASK
The most important thing about the whole process is to ASK! Tell them the importance of each event within the program and describe what takes place, the people involved, the speakers booked in the past and the networking opportunities for the professions of the participants in each session. Showing them a video of a previous event will also give them more insight into the energy involved at the event.
Once you have informed them about the event, explain the different sponsorship opportunities on how different sponsors contribute to the event and how it worked in the past. Create a package or one sheet that explains the different packages and the benefits they get from sponsoring at different levels.
- $10,000 for an Awards Ceremony,
- $5,000 for a Keynote Address,
- $2,500 for a Workshop/Breakout Session,
- $1,000 for a Coffee Break, etc.
You are now ready to get to the main point of the conversation. Request them for their considered advice on: “Who do we approach to obtain the needed sponsorships or out of this list (list of potential sponsors you have), who do you recommend us approaching?”
THEN LISTEN: Let them enumerate a list of potential sponsors. They might itemize some of their competitors, suppliers, and other related commercial/industry contacts that they have or give you some new ideas on individuals or organizations that may have a shared cause or direct relation to the outcomes the event achieves.
THEN ASK: “Would you will be willing to call these people on our behalf to enable us to visit with them to explain the benefits of their sponsorship of your event”. If they have time, they may make some calls right there, or they may ask their assistant to prepare you a list or a list for themselves.
THEN ASK: Is your company prepared to help by sponsoring the event? Or if they are a current sponsor – Are you prepared to increase the amount of your current sponsorship and involvement in the event?
THEN LISTEN: Let them say yes or no and explain why or why not. Have key information prepared on what they will receive by participating in this years event through sponsorship and ask if they have any special requests they can think about before making their decision that will add value to their investment. Let them know that you do not expect an answer today and you hope to give them some time to make a decision. Request to learn if you can follow up a couple of weeks with them for a quick telephone call.
STEP 6 – “THANK YOU”
Thank them for their time, advice, and their consideration. Let them know you appreciate their assistance, the insights they shared and that their input will have a direct impact on the approach to planning and delivering the event.
STEP 7 – FOLLOW UP!
Following up is often something people don’t do. Even if you received a “no thank you” or a negative response, since you have already made the connection, following up with the person you connected with to learn if they have given any extra thought to your conversation with them and if there are any changes in their decision is always appreciated by those that need to be appreciated. If the person with whom you have met has made an introductory telephone call to prospective sponsors or even had a conversation with them on the golf course, this will help immensely as they may have forgotten to reach out and connect you with their network.
They may also have had some new ideas to share about the event itself, the approach of the organization and how to bring a large impact. Better yet, they may have decided to increase their sponsorship amount or secure their place in participating in your event. Following up is very important, as it shows them, they are valued, and they will be valued by you moving forward.