Getting to YES: What Sponsors Want
When most people hear the term ‘sponsorship’ they immediately think of big sporting clubs and the branded corporate logos emblazoned on players’ jerseys and home grounds. However sponsorship can be just as important in the domain of grassroots fundraising as it is for the bigger end of town.
Seeking sponsorship from the broader community is a great way for schools and groups to raise funds and build long-term relationships in the community. The key segments that you should focus on are local businesses, small and medium enterprises, companies, and even local government and non-profit organisations.
By knowing what it is businesses want, and what you can offer them in return for their sponsorship support, you have a much better chance of getting to yes.
The first thing to keep in mind is that sponsors are more than supporters; you’re striking up a business relationship where you both want something from it.
The second thing to consider is whether you want sponsorship for your group or for a project. This will help focus your sponsorship leads. For example, are you looking for support for your annual fete, or a commitment to your Little Athletics club that’s seasonal, or the local scouting group whose activities are year-round?
The third thing to consider is whether you are looking for financial or in-kind sponsorship. Now, with these three things in mind, here are some useful guidelines for developing a strong sponsorship pitch and package.
In terms of financial sponsorship, you will need to consider the following:
- Sponsors like prestige. Do you have a high-profile patron or celebrity supporter that the sponsor could be seen with? A notable local may be appeal to a smaller sponsor.
- Sponsors want to sell their product. How many members are in your group? And fans? Look at demographics – like age groups, and location. A sponsor will want a ‘fit’. The smaller and more localised your group’s influence, the more localised you need to be in seeking sponsors.
- Can you offer networking opportunities?
- Do you feature in the media often? What publicity opportunities can you create that will promote the sponsor too?
- Other than advertising signage, how else can you reward your sponsor (think free tickets to your games or functions).
- Is your group trouble-free in terms of public scandal potential? That’s one thing sponsors do not want!
Then, with regards to in-kind sponsorships, it is useful to consider this as an option, or even a fallback option, as some businesses may be able to provide a service or product instead of money (e.g.: a plumber provides pro-bono work for the local sports club or an accountant offers to complete the group’s BAS). Don’t take these offers lightly. They are sponsorships; saving you expenses for services your group requires to run.
When building your sponsorship proposal package, be realistic about what you can offer: signage; profile in your newsletter or on your website; encouragement to ‘support those who support us’.
A well-crafted sponsorship proposal should deliver an effective and affordable marketing solution for your sponsor, irrespective of whether they are a small business, mid sized company or larger enterprise.
Some sponsors may see their financial support as a straight donation, however others will expect some level of return from their investment, so think carefully and creatively about what you can offer to connect them with your local community.
Here are a few ideas:
Newsletter advertising – this is a popular choice with advertisers because their marketing message in your newsletter lands directly in front of your community.
Website and email – having the ability to place sponsors’ links or ads on your website, Facebook or email gives advertisers increase visibility on the internet.
Brochure distribution – distributing sponsors’ brochures at your event is a great way to reach a captive crowd with little to no effort on their part.
Call-outs at events – this is an easy option as it gives the sponsor their 15mins of fame. Every business owner likes to hear his or her company name over the PA.
Certificates of appreciation – these are easy to produce plus they give business owners a tangible way of showing their customers they support the community.
Joint media release – this is a great proactive marketing tool that businesses love.
And here are three final tips that you should always remember!
Accept a ‘no’ gracefully. The business owner is only saying no to your offer, not to you. There can be any number of reasons why they may not be able, or willing, to support you right now. Thank them for their time and move on.
Wherever possible, take their contact details, even if they say no. Keeping them on a database where they will receive newsletters on upcoming community events, and successes will keep you top of mind for next time.
Always follow up afterwards. If you promise to call them or email them at a certain date or time, do so. Delivering on what you promise builds trust. It’s also important to recognise that they are busy people, so when you’re done, thank them for their time. A little courtesy goes a long way and is remembered.