In this webinar, fundraising master trainer Chad Barger, CFRE will help you maximize sponsorship revenue at your next fundraising event.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Chad, I’m just going to give it another 20 seconds and then we’ll get going. Okay.

Chad: Perfect.

Steven: All right, Chad, my watch just struck 1:00 here in the Eastern Time Zone. Is it okay if I go ahead and kick this party off?

Chad: Let’s get it rolling, Steven.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, if you’re on the East Coast Good morning, I should say if you’re on the West Coast. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Event Sponsors: How to Find Them & Create a Win-Win.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the chief engagement officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

And I’m going to kind of move quickly because I am in a crowded airport and I don’t want to take too much time away from Chad. Or let you in on all the weird noises I’ve got going on here. So all I will say is that we are definitely recording this session. And we’ll definitely get that recording and slides to you later on this afternoon. And please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. We want to save some time for Q&A. So don’t be shy about that. We’d love to see all your questions and comments come in throughout the hour.

And I’m just so excited to welcome Chad Barger, buddy of mine, awesome guy here on the Bloomerang webinar today. If you guys don’t know Chad, you got to know him. He’s my go-to for a lot of different topics, but especially event sponsorships. I’ve been looking forward to this webinar for a long time. Chad’s the man. He is super, super involved with AFP. He’s a master trainer. He’s even an adjunct university college instructor. Lots of speaking and webinars. I’m actually going to see him at a conference tomorrow. And really a excited to have Chad tell us all about event sponsors, especially as we go into event season, you know, here in the kind of last quarter of the year.

So, Chad, I don’t want to take any more time away from you that I already have so the floor is yours, my friends. Tell us all about those event sponsorship partnerships.

Chad: Sounds great. Thank you, Steven, thrilled to be presenting for Bloomerang, my favorite CRM and, you know, a great fit for so many people. So, I know you have lots of clients and users on here, but you know, great product and thanks for doing the great work to keep things moving forward.

Yeah, so event sponsors, that’s what we’re here for today. You know, I go on the fundraising training circuit and see so many events sessions, you know, what’s the new big thing? What’s unique? What’s fun? How do we get more people there?

But oftentimes, we kind of glaze over this fact that we need sponsors and I really push for sponsors because I’m a big believer that that’s how we create the revenue from our events. You know, butts in seats go so far, but it’s the sponsors that can really take it to the next level. So that’s what we’re going to address today, event sponsors, how to find them and create a win-win.

So, to start the presentation, I want to talk about pie. You know, pie is a great thing, what better slide. But not normal pie we’re talking about philanthropic pie, and specifically, what percentage of the philanthropic pie is business support at your organization? What percentage? Where’s it hit? Is it 5, 10, 30, 50, 80? Where does that land?

And the reason I want to dig into this, many of you have probably already seen this. This is Giving USA data. Where do all the dollars come from that are raised? So this is 2018 charitable giving in the U.S. so we raised $427 billion last year. And this is where it comes from.

So if you look at that, you can see the yellow portion which highlights giving from all individuals that’s 77.6%. Seventy-seven point six percent of all giving comes from individuals. And when we look at corporations or businesses which is primarily the group we’re talking about today, see where it’s at? Just 4.7%. So yeah, this is kind of like the downer slide of the presentation. But it’s just my warning. It’s my warning that, yes, we’re going to talk about business support today. And sponsorships are one of the best ways that can do that for your organization.

But I don’t want this to become the sole focus of your fundraising operation. You need a vibrant, relationship-based individual giving program. You need to spend the bulk of your time there, really deepening those relationships. A lot of times, sponsors can turn into those individual donors or individual donors can turn into sponsors. So there’s a lot of crossover but please, please, please don’t put your all your eggs in this basket.

So that’s my caution. Now, we can get into it. I’m not going to spend much time on me. Steven did a great introduction there. But I’m a career fundraiser. It’s all I know. I spend a lot of time working with higher ed and the arts. Now, I serve small shop organizations with fundraising strategy, training and coaching. It’s the type of groups I’d love to serve and really like being out there in the community. I’m a bookworm. I love reading fundraising research studies at 7 in the morning. It’s my jam. And I love to share that with you.

When I was a nonprofit executive director for 10 years, I had this giant stack of things that would just grow on the end of my desk. And I had the best of intentions of you know, I know I need to read “The Chronicle.” I know I need to read “AFP Magazine” and all these things and it just never happened because there were too many little fires to put out all day long. And eventually I just shoved that stack off the end of the desk into my trashcan and started over.

So, now that I finally have the time to read that stuff, I love to pull out the gems, and share those with all of you. So that’s what we’re going to see today. Some of those items, and everything I teach today, it’s not just random things I read, it’s all tested because I’m a lab rat. I like to take those things and test them with groups I volunteer with, willing clients, community organizations, because a lot of the things that are published are things that work in really big shops. You know, the college’s, higher ed, hospitals, they have the time, the budget, to actually test different things.

Small shops, frequently, you know, barely have the time to do best practices and often can’t innovate. So what’s reported isn’t going to work when it’s taken down to a small shop in communities. So I test that and make sure and I’m not going to tell you to do something unless I’ve truly seen it work in that type of situation because I practice what I preach. That’s my favorite slide. I always had Barry along for the ride there with the fun lyric. But that’s where we’re at. All this is tested and true.

But for this presentation more importantly, I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve done huge events. This was my favorite one I ever did. It was a non-traditional arts gala, where every year we went into a different facility, took it over for the night and had a great gala with live arts performances. And it was kind of a unique one in that it went somewhere every year a little different. And they didn’t know where they were going until a few days ahead of time just really transformed it for the night.

So things like a building that was about to be imploded. That was that one or putting a giant clear top tent underneath the Pennsylvania State Capitol building in the middle of winter. That was fun 20 degrees that night, but we barely stayed warm. Or even taking over the Harrisburg International Airport and that’s a gorgeous photo and one of my favorite. So, enough of that.

But just to let you know, I’ve seen this and I’ve seen what works. So what are we doing today? We’re going to talk about, you know, what, do you have the self? Get clear on that first, then who are we going to sell it to? So identify those potential sponsors, and then really focus a good bit of time on beginning that partnership conversation, structuring a win-win long-term relationship. And what do we need to do to make sure this isn’t just a one-time quick gift, but we’re starting a long-term relationship that’s going to lead to growing, sustaining, support over the years. And then hopefully have a little bit of time for Q&A at the end.

So the question I always get right away is slides and resources where are they at? They are on my website. Any resource I mention today, you can just go to this webpage I know Steven will be sending out the recording and the slides as well. So you should have plenty of access to everything you need. And I’ll pop this box up a couple times today. So you can get that site down.

So let’s get going. What do you have to sell? Well, I want you to think a little bit differently about what you have to sell. Usually think I have a golf tournament, I have whole sponsorships to sell. I have the lunch sponsorship to sell. I have the, you know, presenting sponsorship to sell. We often think in terms of packages and items. And what I want you really to think about selling is access and not just access for one event, one night, those kind of things, but year round access. That’s what your sponsors want.

More and more when I met at conference frequently, they’ll be a panel of corporate CSR folks who are talking about you know, what we all do that they can’t stand. So you know, we come in and we have our set packages. And we don’t even tell them about the thing. And we want them to select their package right away. We never ask what they want. There’s a whole list of things.

But one of the things I see popping up more and more, is they’re saying, “You know, I don’t want to spend $5,000 to own one night and be the top sponsor. I want to spend $5,000 and be recognized as one of your partners and year round supporters.” Yes, I want to be featured at an event and have our name on that. But how can we work together on an ongoing basis? So more of a corporate partner program than a one-time sponsorship program. And I’m going to give you a tool towards the end of this webinar that will help with that. But shifting your mindset around selling your organization and access rather than one night or one sponsorship it’s really key to this process.

What are you selling? You are selling audience access, access to your audience. This can be to the organizations you serve, the clients you serve. For some of you that doesn’t make sense, for some of you that does. You know, if you’re an orchestra, your audience is who they want access to, frequently high net worth individuals who might be after that kind of access. But we all have access even if we are serving, you know, low income individuals or at risk groups and those kind of things. We still have access through the other people that are attending our events. If we’re having an event that has 300 people, companies will pay for access to that group to be recognized in front of that group.

But in order to grant access, you have to be able to explain who is there, who are you giving them access to? So the term frequently used here with an avatar, who’s your audience, avatar? Not really what do they look like but how do they behave? What are they interested in? What are their demographics? Are these, you know, folks in their ’60s? Do you lean lower with your age set? Are they college educated? Where do they live? What types of professions do they have?

So the better job you can do in explaining your audience, the more marketable what you’re trying to sell is going to be out there. So both demographic ID information, and also, you know, numbers, know your numbers. They’re going to want to, they want to know how many. So how many event attendees are going to be coming? And when we start looking at that year round corporate partner programs, other numbers come in play. You know, if we’re going to feature them in our email blasts or social media, or on our website, that only matters if we have traffic. So know that how many email subscribers do you have? How many social followers do you have on each channel? How many monthly visitors to your website?

These are the types of numbers that will come up, especially if it’s a company where CSR is handled by the marketing department. Community relations is also handled by marketing, they’re going to be very in tune with these numbers and they want to know about reach where you’re going. So just don’t be blindsided. You don’t have to have all the demographics and know, you know, by week and day and time and all that but just had these general numbers in sight.

The other one that’s not on here that I’m starting to see more and more is open rate, especially if you’re talking about some kind of email sponsorship. Or they get included in that as part of their sponsorship. E-mail only matters if people open it. So a lot of times they want to know your open rates. So many of my clients and folks I talked to have never even really looked at that. Do you know your open rate? A lot of times, that’s pretty low, especially if we’re not writing donor centric emails, if we’re not telling stories and those kind of things. So know your numbers.

Then you can kind of package thing up, you know, we still recommend creating some form of sponsorship packages to begin the conversation with. Maybe it’s not necessarily your whole sponsorship and those kinds of things and more of a corporate year round piece. But having a package is a great way to get the conversation started. But you need to be flexible. Don’t be so set on those. A lot of times folks will say, “You know, I’m interested in supporting this event, but none of these really align with our business goals. Would you be open to doing something like this?” And they’ll have their own ideas about how they might like to be featured.

So don’t be set in your ways. It’s kind of an evolving market where we’re going from the traditional model to more of this partnership model, and the key is right there with that last point, find those win-wins. Find those win-wins. See what they are interested in. Don’t go in assuming they’re going to pick one of your packages and be completely fine with it. But they’re going to have their own goals and you need to align where your goals and theirs match. So that’s what you have to sell. And we’re going to get back to that a little later with some tools.

But now let’s focus a bit on who you’re going to sell that to. And I’m using the word sell today far more than I normally would with philanthropy, and giving and that’s intentional. I don’t do it a ton, but I need you to think a little more in the sales type situation because with sponsorships, we actually are selling a product. Yes, there’s still the philanthropic interest and goodwill that is essential and all the work we do. But it takes a little more of a second seat here with sponsorship, and it’s kind of a hat you need to change. I’m putting on my sponsorship hat where I need to be a little more salesy. A little more in tune with the sponsors’ needs, desires, and not just counting on that goodwill factor that I can do so much. But we are going to keep doing that today.

But where do you find these people? You know, where do you find potential sponsors? Well, we have a couple sources. I say three main sources. The first, folks you already know, folks that you may not personally know, but your organization knows, and you have a record with. So start in your database. Start in your database hopefully you have a great tool, like Bloomerang, which is, as I said, in the beginning, my favorite.

But, you know, what are you going to pull out of there? Well, first of all, hopefully, you have your donors kind of categorized by what type of organization. So just run a list of all your business supporters, whether they’re a current sponsor, or perhaps a straight, unrestricted donor. Start with those great place to begin the conversation, but don’t exclude that, also include current individual donors, especially if we are tracking where they work.

So have this information you know, who might be a business owner or a senior level employee. Somebody that’s the vice president of the bank might not be able to earmark the support for you, but can certainly get you that meeting with their key person. So, look at those types of relationships. Just run a list of all employers, all business donors.

And a key one, where do your board members work? Where do your board members work? These are key potential supporters. Many companies will allocate a portion of their charitable and sponsorship budget to support employees that are on boards. Oftentimes very easy dollars to go after there.

What’s another source? This one is way, overlooked way too often, people don’t even consider this. They’re so focused on who’s already giving, that they forget this piece and it changes from year-to-year. But I’m talking about your current vendors.

Who are you spending money with? Especially if you’re, you know, an organization that has some big contracts. I know many organizations like community action commissions, some health care type organizations that while we may not raise giant amounts of dollars, a lot of dollars flow through our organization from implementing these contracts and purchasing things. So we’re doing large amounts of business with local customers, local companies, these are key people to talk to.

So I say talk to your accountant, talk to your bookkeeper. See if you can just get a list of payables. So who have we paid money to in the last 12 months, sort it from largest to smallest and just kind of go down the list. You know, if we’ve done 10,000 or more in business with somebody over the last year, you know, great place to begin a conversation and sometimes we can even go a lot lower than that. You know, your printer, your office supply company all in there, who are we doing business with, especially locally owned businesses?

Finally, some brainstorming. So just getting folks in a room and talking about, you know, who would be good. The key players in your community, who are companies we see out there sponsoring other events? Yes, that means they probably already have some of those funds tapped, but perhaps they’d be interested in your event as well. Who’s the company that also serves your beneficiaries, your clients, your patients? They might be interested there just to get in front of them.

And finally, what we talked about a little bit ago, companies that want access to your avatar. So who is it that you can grant access to? And thinking through, “Okay, who might want to have their name in front of that group, featured in front of that group, has their product in front of that group.” We just have to take a step back and think a little creatively and oftentimes, there’s some good matches there. We get so wrapped up in the “Oh, let’s just renew everybody from last year, or who do you know?” that we get to think a little broader. And this sometimes creates great new engagement in the community.

Also who’s new in your community? Any new businesses recently open? Oftentimes they’re looking for that initial splash. And really want to show you know, we want to be a part of this community, not just coming in and taking money out of the community. Oftentimes, especially true with national companies that just opened a new franchise or new chain they really want to be shown as community minded, not just another store on the street.

So our goal and on this whole process, I’d like to get about 25 to 100 potential sponsor names during this brainstorming and investigation phase. If I have 25 to 100, then chances are much better that I’m going to get kind of those 10 to 20 that I probably need for the event, and my corporate partner program. So taking this list of names, we don’t have to have access to these names. This can be kind of a dream list.

And once we have this list, getting in front of our key folks, so they can kind of brainstorm and find those connections is the next step I like to take. So simply putting this list of 25 to 100 potential sponsors and asking “Who do you know at this organization? Or do you know someone that works here? Is your neighbor involved? Who’s in your network that has a connection with this company that we might be able to pursue that route?” So getting that list in front of your event committee, for sure.

Also great time to engage your full board, we don’t need them on the event planning committee. We don’t need and yet another name chiming in on the napkin color. I’ve never figured out why event committees get so wrapped up on those color choices, but they do love it. Get in front of the board.

And also we forget about our staff, you know, our staff, they might not all be fundraisers, but they are all out in the community and network. So even getting this in front of program staff, you know, anybody have a neighbor or a family member or someone that works at one of these companies. We don’t need them to do the ask. We don’t need their neighbor, or family member do the ask. We just need somebody to kind of send it through the pipeline so that we can get that meeting and reach that decision maker. That’s what we’re after there.

I also want to do another little bit of a warning on two types of sponsorships that are fairly common. That can sometimes send us down the wrong road. Those being media sponsorship and in-kind sponsorships. Many nonprofits really jump on these and they think they’ve made their event a success just by lining these up and they don’t always have the right intentions here.

So with media sponsorship yeah, it’s great, you got a local TV station, you know, your business journal, radio station, whatever it is on board to be the media sponsor. And they’re going to trade you some free advertising in exchange for the band and one of your benefits at one of your package levels. So that sounds great, but you know, what are you trading?

And are you giving up a package that you could actually sell for cash? You know, if it’s not going to be sold anyway, that’s fine. But if it’s something that’s limited and you’re trading that away, okay, you might be losing revenue there.

The other side of that is, who’s this messaging going to? Is it your target audience for the event? If you’re already selling out or coming close, then you probably don’t really need this. And people will fight me with the awareness and branding model and I do see some value there. But just make sure you’re not giving something up for publicity that you don’t really need and make sure your partner’s the right partner and really getting to the access and your potential audience.

The in-kind sponsors are another area of caution. You know, if someone’s giving you something in kind, do we really need it? Now, would we have purchased this anyway? If you’re giving them benefits at the event, I want it to be something that was in the event budget. You know, is it food? Is it equipment rental? Something we were going to need anyway, not just something we’re adding on, because it would be nice. You know, that’s great they can do that on their own. But if we’re giving a limited sponsorship, in turn, make sure it’s budget relieving. That’s my key with in-kind, it needs to be budget relieving something we buy or purchase anyway.

Okay, so we know what we’re going to sell. We know who we’re looking at approaching. Now, we’re ready to begin that partnership conversation. And I’m switching from that sales term to partnership. Yes, we’re still technically selling something but we want this to be more of a long-term partnership.

All right, so when and who? When do we start this process? How soon before our event are we going to start the sponsorship conversation? Well, this is the number one problem most organizations have a sponsorship and they just start this way too late. You know, a lot of groups are starting with two to three months, you know, ahead of the event, and most organizations, most companies need a lot more time. They need a lot more time. That budget process, it takes forever. Many of these companies now have sponsorship review committees, the corporate partnership review committees, where, you know, you need to put in the application and it goes to committee, and then they talk about it, and then it might be tabled. And this can even be a two to three months process there just for them to review the proposal. So we need to start early.

I say six months. Six months since when you really need to get this process kind of kicked into high gear for your events. And if you’re talking about those big sponsorships, the presenting sponsorship, more like nine months. Ideally with those, you want to have an established relationship where you can basically say, “You know, we’d love to have this conversation with you. When do you kind of go through your budgeting process? When would be the best time of year for us to come in and have this conversation so you can be best prepared for the next year?” And most marketing and CSR folks in my life, in my experience, rather love that, you know, oh, you’re actually talking about my needs. When would it make my life easier if you came in?” And they’ll gladly share that and kind of have that annual update visit.

Who are you talking to? It varies primarily based on business size. Very small businesses, you’re after the business owner or the general manager. Midsize, you know, kind of your local regional banks, a lot of time it’s living in the marketing world. Large companies are going to have their own CSR group that’s really going to handle just that community relations, really looking at the community reputation out there.

So who do you know who to talk? Just ask, ask your connection there when you talk to somebody, they’ll send you down the right path. The beauty with business support is there somebody whose job is to be supportive of community events. Somebody’s job is to field these responses, so you can just ask who that is, and you’ll most often get connected with that person that can begin that conversation. It’s why so many nonprofits spend so much time here, you know, there’s kind of a set process. You’re actually making someone’s job easier by offering them opportunities that align with business goals that they can support.

Okay, so we know when and who, how do you starts that process? With sponsorships, I love to start with an email because most the people we’re trying to talk to are sitting in front of a computer all day long. We oftentimes need to do more than just an email, but an email, it’s a great starting point.

What does that email say? I have a script that I use. It’s a template, I kind of cut and paste, change a couple things. And you can download my template and make it yours on the resources page. But you can see it on the screen there. The key is just an informational piece. And I really try to allay some fears. And that’s what I have highlighted in colors. You know, their fears are I’m going to take a ton of time, so I say that can be brief, that I’m going to come in with a big ask, and I say I’m going to get some feedback.

Be sure you actually do ask for some feedback on something. Having a current sponsor review your new sponsorship packages, it’s a great way to get some feedback. Goes to the old fundraising adage, if you ask for money, you get advice. If you ask for advice, you get money. It makes them part of it, it pulls them in.

And then finally in the green that’s just a sanity tool for me. Because if somebody decides they do want to meet with me, we instantly go into that email ping pong, back and forth on a date and time. So I try to get that setup right away by suggesting two potential dates or times right from the beginning.

So that email template is optimized. And I found that get a response about 60% of the time. Not always a yes, sometimes, you know, our sponsorship budget is up for the year, come back to us in January, but I get some type of response. For the ones that I didn’t, that’s when I picked up this thing. Hopefully, everybody knows what that is. But yeah, pick up the phone. But I’m not necessarily calling about seeking sponsorships with support. I’m calling about that email about that initial inquiry. So that’s kind of my crutch. Especially for those of you that aren’t real comfortable with these types of calls, just call it a follow-up on an email. It’s a much easier call to make than a cold sponsorship call.

Okay, we get that meeting, we’re in there, what do we need to do? We need to listen, we need to spend a lot of time listening. I have another webinar that I frequently do that kind of walks you the whole way through this visit process. If that’s something that’s a challenge for you, and I’ll give you some information on that at the end. But the key with any time, any face time with donors or potential donors is listening. Now, we need to spend less time talking than they do. So we can learn about their interests, what’s important to them.

A lot of this can be done through small talk. You’re finding common points of interest. You know, people give to people. People give to people that they know, like and trust. So we don’t have to cut to the chase instantly and start talking about the organization or the sponsorship packages. Let’s build some common ground with the person and really get that rapport.

At some point, you do need to talk about the organization. So there’s frequently a lull in the conversation and we simply say, “You know, so as you know, I wanted to speak about ABC charity today. What do you know about us?” Again, I’m kind of asking a question, an open-ended question that gets them talking that’s our goal there.

And your key here is that I really recommend telling a story. Tell a story you know, don’t just tell stats, don’t just talk about your service lines, but tell what your organization does through a story. Anytime I can sneak in a photo of my kids, I’m going to do that. But it is story time, you know.

And many organizations and development people make the mistake of thinking your mission is your story. Your mission statement is not your story. Your mission statement says what you do typically in bland jargony terms. Memorizing that doesn’t really do you any good. Mission statements are for grant applications and websites and those kind of things not for telling donors. So you need a story that really shows what you do.

What’s that story about? It’s a compelling story about one person, place or thing. You’re kind of taking them to the situation. You know, let me tell you a story about Johnny. Johnny came into our facility the other week, and he had a big problem. Just very conversational, taking them right through it. Rich detail, you want to put them in that place. And it brings up a solvable problem, you know, it shows how you can fix that. And how there are additional problems that with their support, we can work together to fix. It’s the same kind of thing we do in a fundraising appeal. You just need to be more conversational and be able to tell your organization’s story that way. So we tell the story, give a little bit of background on the information, not through stats.

And then find out about them. Ask questions like, how does your company like to support the community? What types of causes do you support? What do you look for in the types of nonprofit organizations that you support? What are your goals in supporting the community?

These are questions that many folks never hear. You always hear a one sided conversation saying, you know, “We do this, we do this. What do you want to do? Which sponsorship package do you want?” Asking these questions really sets you apart, and goes a long way towards forming that long-term, win-win relationship.

We’re looking for alignment. Does what they are looking for align with what we can offer? Do we have the same goals? If we don’t, it’s fine. End the conversation. Say, “You know, I hear what you’re looking for and I’m just not sure that we’re the right fit for you.” Although, you know, I am in a professional association with some other organizations and one in particular really stands out to me as someone that might be a great match for you. That will go a long way with that person, the fact that you simply wanted to help them with their goals.

I’ve seen that happen a couple of times where organizations have said that to someone to make supportive of any way just because they were so appreciative. Wasn’t a major sponsorship but they just really appreciated that. And they gave to you know, the character and the goals of the person even though there wasn’t necessarily that alignment. That’s not our goal but that’s certainly a side benefit that can happen.

Do our goals and their goals align? If they do, you know, simply saying, “Can I follow up with some information on an upcoming opportunity that may be of interest to you?” We don’t need to instantly go into full out sales mode. And I certainly don’t want you to get this thing out and start flipping through it page-by-page, which package do you want different things. It can be a great leave behind, it can be a great follow-up tool. But they know the packages, they know the standard deal. We’re just looking to create alignment and win-wins.

So that’s our meeting. We’re simply getting to know them, looking for alignment, finding out about their goals and seeing if there’s a potential for long-term support. If there is, you know, let’s try first year, we get them in a package, hopefully a part of our corporate partner program, they do something. And we get them involved and engaged for the first time.

So how do we go from that to what I had in the title here, these win-win long-term relationships? How do we structure those and get there? Well, once we have sponsors, the easiest way to get to that is through love, specifically donor love. We need to show them love, we need to show them that they’re not just $1 sign that we care, that we’re still concerned about their goals in supporting the community, not just our goals. It wasn’t just lip service when we were trying to get the dollars in the door because we had a goal to meet.

So how do we do that? There’s a lot of simple steps we can take to convey this to donors to show they’re appreciated and that we really are going to live up to everything we said we were going to do. One of my favorite things at an event, especially a gala or something where you know a meal is served. There’s kind of that lull between when folks are finishing up dinner and dessert hasn’t come out yet or the program hasn’t started.

I love to assign board members each to different sponsors table. Have them get up, go over and simply say, you know, “Hi, everybody. My name is Chad. I’m on the board of the organization. I simply wanted to say thank you so much for sponsorship tonight. It means a lot. We couldn’t do the great work we do in the community without you. Thanks so much. We really appreciate it.” Yeah, just a little bit chit chat, just a little bit of sincere thanks from someone. And it’s so much more effective from a board member. Because at the end of the day, that board member is not paid to say thank you like staff are. Yes, we’re passionate, we’re sincere, we’re there for the right reason, but board can be so much more effective with stewardship.

What else can we do? Well, you know, that post-event email that’s going to come out, let’s do it quickly. Let’s get something out the next weekday. We don’t have to have final results. But simply a thanks for attending. You know, through your sponsorship and support, we raised roughly $85,000 last evening, in support of the kids. We’re going to immediately get those funds out there to support programming for at-risk youth in our very own community.

And then some kind of link to the program link to learn more a video. Maybe there’s a quick little smartphone video of the kids waving saying thank you. You know, some kind of feel good message that really connects them to the difference they’re making in the community.

What else? A thank you, a handwritten thank you note, right after the event. You can do these ahead of time, have them all set up ready to go. So few people do this. So I had multiple times in my career where someone receives a handwritten thank you note for me. They actually called me to say, “You know, this means a lot. I know these take time. I really appreciate it.”

I’ve had some situations to where I show up a year later, for kind of a follow-up visit. And there’s my thank you note tacked on their bulletin board directly behind where they sit, you know, it had the organization’s logo on it. So for every day for a year, they came in, saw that, and we’re reminded, “Oh, there’s ABC organization. I like them, they do good work. They appreciate me. I’m not just $1 sign to them.” That’s what we’re after.

I know some of you are groaning with the thank you notes, shall they take time, but they don’t have to be these big giant things. So this is my formula for three minutes, three sentence thank you note. And then just what you saw, what happened, the impact of that on your organization and what you appreciate about them. I almost always use the word appreciate in a thank you note. It doesn’t have to be long. We can rattle off three sentences pretty quickly. But they have a big impact.

One of my other favorite donor sponsorship tools, recognition tools, donor love tools, are these kind of these photo scrapbooks. You know, you get them online, many different sources, Snapfish, you know, all the photo sites have them. They can be relatively inexpensive. You can get small ones for $20, $30 sometimes when they’re on sale. Sometimes you can get buy one get one free, they’re out there. But what I do with this is I take some photos from the event. And I also include a couple photos of just them like their table. On the front, I’ll put their logo and the event logo and you know, ABC Charity, thanks 1, 2, 3 law firm for their support of you know, and the event. Get this out.

So it’s just a collection of photos, most of them are stock. So sometimes I would do this for maybe the top three or four sponsors on an event. So all but two or three pages are exactly the same and we just swap it out for some photos of them at the event. So it’s a great little tool to hand present as a thank you as a way to remember the event. And what happens with this is they will put it in their lobby, on the coffee table. And as folks come in, you know, again, for the next year or years, people kind of see this, they see that they support the community, and they learn about your organization. So it’s kind of a good win-win.

I just saw that the other week, there’s one of these books in my community that I gave out seven years ago. And it is still on the coffee table of that law firm, great impact, you know, they really appreciated it, and they’re still showcasing it after all this time.

What else can you do? Invite them to a free engagement activity, know some kind of tour. I know your tour doesn’t look like this it’s just really hard to find a photo of a tour. But you all know what’s going on there it’s a tour.

What other kind of engagement activities? I love to do business networking events. So they like to get together with other folks in a low key non-high pressure environment. And nonprofits are really well suited to do that, you know, just come out for business networking event, 5 to 7 on a weeknight, a cheese tray, maybe a couple bottles of wine if you can serve it. Or if you can’t, maybe like bagels in the morning or muffins, coffee, just these quick little business networking events.

Even if they don’t come, the mere fact that you invited them shows that you care. Shows that you want that deeper relationship, shows that you care about their business goals. You want them to connect with your other sponsors, and find those win-wins that you talked about when you first met with them, this is how you do it.

And finally, if you can show them some immersive experience, actually involve them in your mission, that’s where we kind of start to shift from, “I’m just sponsoring because I’m getting these benefits in return. And I want access to your audience,” to “I’m also sponsoring because I really care about your mission. I like what you do in the community. I value it.” So show them what that is. You know, something like, you know, an environmental group that’s doing bird rehabilitation. Invite them to the release, whatever it is. Come let them see your program, some kind of way and really engage with your organization.

What else can you do? There’s something very few places do. So they sponsor the event, we’d have all the communication ahead of time. And then the event happens, and we do it in communication right after. And then they don’t hear anything. It’s just kind of crickets. We don’t really do much of anything until it’s time to renew them for the next year.

Well, kind of split that gap, and send them a simple impact letter that says what actually happened with the funds they donated, or sponsored. What did you actually do with the proceeds from the event? You know, “Do you know it’s been three months since the gala. Thank you again for serving as our presenting sponsor. We were thrilled to have ABC company on board with us another year. We just wanted to let you know that since that time, we put those funds to good use and been able to serve an additional 432 kids in our community. None of that would have happened without your support and the support of other companies through the gala. Thanks again.”

It’s simple. What it does is it closes the loop. It reminds them that they’re supportive of your organization. And it says what you actually did. The gift acknowledgement letter doesn’t do that. The gift acknowledgement letter says what you’re going to do. “Thank you for your donation. We’re going to put it to good use doing this, this, this and this.” This closes the loop it says you actually did it. Once they’ve received this, it closes that loop. And they’re now ready to have that conversation about future years.

What else can you do? Send them some business whether you believe it or not, you are a super connector. This term gets thrown around, but I find that many nonprofit executives are super connectors. We know a lot of people in the community. We know people from all different walks of life, all different sectors. Many of our sponsors hang out with same people all the time. Lawyers hang out with lawyers, bankers hang out with bankers, insurance folks hang out with insurance folks, they need to sell to other groups. So you can connect them.

Once I get close to somebody sponsors otherwise, I’ll frequently say, you know, “Hey, just go check out my LinkedIn. If you see anybody there that you might like to be introduced to, just let me know. If I can do it and it’s appropriate, I’m glad to do that for you.” That simple, I still give myself a way out in case it would be awkward. But they just appreciate that so much. Many of them, you know, don’t even take me up on it. But the mere fact that I offer that, they truly appreciate it, and it shows that they are not dollar sign. I value our relationship.

What else? Well, it’s going to eventually come to that sponsorship, solicitation renewal time. So rather than a one-off visit with renewing sponsors, I like to do an annual update visit. So I’m not going to come in between before each of our three events and ask which package you want. Rather, I want to meet with you once a year. And we really examine our full support opportunities. So how are we going to structure things so that it’s not just a one-time gift? I’m not going to take three hours of your year, one time. What can we do to the structure that?

Many folks really like this. You know, marketing people, business owners, they’re all really busy. We’re really busy. This is another good one win-win. Let’s sit down once and talk about the year. But you need to be prepared with all of those opportunities. So if you’re sitting down in January, and your final event of the year is in November, you need to have that sponsorship package already set for the year and ready to put in front of them.

A total that I’m seeing more and more nonprofits used successfully is a sponsorship or corporate part menu. And I have an example for you that dig in here. It’s going to be a little small, but hopefully you can see, but basically, we’re presenting all the opportunities for the year. So the golf tournament, the annual dinner, what those packages are, and they can kind of select what they want at each level. It has some backup material behind it dictating what’s in each of those packages.

But as you see them, there’s also a chance for them to select some charitable support, you know, on top of these packages we’ll give you an extra $250. Or many times I see that you know the packages come out to $2,600. And they’re going to write in an extra $400 to get to three. That’s especially true, which you can’t see it since the box is blocking there.

But if you set up your partner recognition levels below based on the full year, then oftentimes they’ll write an additional dollars to reach the next level to reach the next level in that corporate partner program. So the corporate partner program will also have some recognition pieces. And those are like being featured on social media, e-blasts, opportunities throughout the year not tied to an event. Where you can really talk about your corporate partners, and give them additional access to your audience.

That’s what they want. They want year round recognition, a year round partnership, not a one night, big, quick burst of activity. So what can you do to structure your program that way? And how can you make it so you sit down once a year and have that strategic conversation with your sponsors and potential supporters?

And then the fortune is in the follow-up. So many people kind of do a big burst of activity, go out and meet with sponsors, send their committee out. And then they kind of leave it at that. They just hope for the forms to come in. Well, and all fundraising, the fortunes in the follow-up, we have to keep reaching out. These people are busy. We are busy. It’s simple reminders, you know, send out an email, pick up the phone, mix up where the medium and the time of day.

Do not call them every Friday at 3 p.m. Because that’s when your to-do list tells you to follow-up on outstanding sponsors. You know, mix it up. Don’t be annoying about it. You’re trying to help them, and you’re also trying to help your organization. But make sure you’re doing it. You need something to chew you and tell you to follow-up on each of these. Being organized is really the key to success with sponsorship and all fundraising.

So we are just about through our content here. So I’m going to give you a chance to think about any questions. And I know I’ve seen some coming in here so we’ll get to those. A little bit of follow-ups and further learning. If you had a biggest takeaway today, feel free to tweet me @fundraiserchad, love to hear what you found the most valuable about this and what you’re going to put into action in your fundraising shop.

If you’d like to learn more, I send out weekly quick tips. As I mentioned, I sift through that giant stack that is on all over your desk. So if you’d like to just have that pared down with some essential items, I sent out quick tips, articles, videos, blog posts, you know, a couple times a week in a real easy digestible format. So that’s my Fundraiser Chad List. I also have a private Facebook, group that I moderate, called the Fundraising Fish Fry. And this is comprised of over 300, fundraisers and fundraising volunteers now that just don’t really have anybody to talk to about fundraising in their shop.

So it’s a chance to just kind of say, “Hey, has anyone tried this? Does anyone have this resource? Does anyone know a vendor that does this?” And have a place to get those questions answered. My job is just to occasionally spark conversation and keep all the salespeople out. So we have none of that in there.

And then as I mentioned before, I do a free monthly webinar, in addition to partner webinars like this great one today. And my webinar for October is, “How to Get Donor Visits and Knock Them Out of the Park.” So if you’re nervous about that sponsor visit part or want a little more detail on how you might actually get those words out of your mouth, if you need to ask for some specific support level, I encourage you to check that out. And that’ll be on October 24, at 12 Eastern.

So with that being said, I am going to open up the floor for questions and go from there. So moderate over here to the box and see what we have. Okay.

Let’s begin here. Okay, so start at the top of work down, and we’ll see how far we get. And feel free to private message me on Twitter, other places if we don’t have time to get to your question today. So scroll down here, see if I didn’t miss anything.

Okay, Melissa said, “I one time worked with a third-party sponsorship firm that brought in a national company. Are these such companies out there?”

Yes, they exist I think they’re becoming a bit less common. The key there is relationships. You know, if you work with a third party, they bring in a sponsorship. That’s great. But that’s a quick, probably one-time win. You didn’t actually form that relationship. So if you get them that way, you really, you need to work extra hard, because you didn’t have a relationship on the front end. So a point of caution, it can work, but I view it more as a quick fix than necessarily, you know, a long-term solution.

Valerie, I’m sorry, on the radio comment there. Radio can be wonderful partners. We just need to have the right audience that aligns with our mission and make sure there’s that match, and that win-win there.

So, Jackie asked, “Do I take materials with me to the sponsorship meeting? Or do I show a PowerPoint?”

So I definitely take materials with me something simple. The sponsorship brochure can work. Many times I’ve had kind of a simple folder. I might have an organizational one pager, and the sponsorship brochure, not a ton of stuff. These folks get tons of stuff. Just like we have that stack of reading material, they have a stack of sponsor packets, which they don’t look at. So keep it simple, just what they’re going to need to make the decision. As I said, I don’t flip spend a lot of time flipping through that with them. They can do that on their own. It’s a good follow-up activity.

No, and I don’t tell them show a PowerPoint. My goal is to make a connection with them. So I’m going to have a story that I’ve probably rehearsed that I’ve probably told, you know, 20 times already that month. It’s a fresh story. So I changing my story out from time to time and never want to tell someone the same story. But that’s what’s compelling. You know, people give the people a story, they can see, they can put themselves or their kids or their neighbors in that story and really hear why we do the work we do.

What was the name of the . . . Liz asks, “What was the name of the sponsorship tracking software website mentioned in the beginning?”

I’m not sure exactly what we’re referencing, but I always did, you know, use my database to attract sponsorships as well. As other devices, you simply note that it’s a sponsorship and you know, can then you can exclude those from other areas. So the same type of tracking.

Erica asks, “We are starting a new event and don’t know who will be there yet. Any advice to talk about our avatar in a broad way?”

I would say you can kind of look at your current donor base and associate it that way. Oftentimes, our event attendees mirror our donor base. You know, if it’s totally new, you can look at similar events in the community who typically attends to those. But yeah, it’s going to be a weaker case in the first year till you really see who that is. But just be prepared to, you know, be honest about that and have that conversation on who you think would be there.

All right, Miranda, “You mentioned in the initial meeting, you don’t need to make a direct ask right there but to ask if you can reach out later. Can you speak more to what the next reach out looks like? Do you make the ask with the amount of person, over email, etc.?”

It really depends on the situation. So yes, I don’t typically put a big number out on the first meeting, unless they’ve asked for that, or they start that conversation. If they start talking dollars, I’ll gladly go down that route. But I don’t want to do that and make it a high pressure meeting. So yeah, I’ll leave them with the information.

The next reach out would probably be the way that we connected in the first place. So if we scheduled the meeting via email, I’ll do that. If it was phone, we’ll do phone. And then I’m simply asking, “Have you had a chance to review the material? Do you think this is something that may be of interest to your company this year? If so, have you considered a support level? I was wondering if you would consider, you know, sponsoring at the $2,500 level this year.” It just all depends on their tone, their level of engagement and the way they kind of guide the conversation. So hard to give a cut and dry there. It’s a big intuition piece, but definitely following up and having a more serious conversation.

Sometimes there’s a second meeting, but more frequently, these are busy people, and they’re happy to close the deal on email or phone.

Bruce asked, “Is it useful to do research on companies to find out what they support their CSR goals, etc., instead of asking companies about this at a meeting?”

If you have access to that information, sure, and many of them will share that on kind of the community page of their website. Most of them don’t have everything there. And if you have some kind of internal linkage, you know, you have a board member, they’re already a supporter. Oftentimes they go above and beyond what they just say they support on their website. So if it’s a prime prospect, I’d probably meet with them anyway. If it’s completely cold and they say they support three areas in the community that don’t align with your mission, I’d probably move on.

But it’s kind of the old situation that a fundraiser is most effective not sitting behind a desk. So don’t spend all your time on research on the computer, get out there and talk to them. Even if they won’t support, you don’t align with their goals, and they’re not going to support you, they are connected with other folks. They might send you in the right direction. It might be a relationship that, you know, can somehow work out for the organization later, but just get out there don’t spend too much time on research.

All right, we’re coming just about to the end of our time here, probably can squeeze in a couple more.

Jennifer asked, “What are your thoughts on year-long partnership? Example, if you sponsor more than one event, you get extra benefit, mentions, more seats, more brand recognition.”

Yeah. And that’s kind of what the corporate partnership program does. It takes it from that one night to more and then you can structure those recognition levels. So that, you know, at the highest level, you know, basically somebody that’s being presenting sponsor at one of the events and then is also doing a few other things, they’re getting that high level year-round recognition. Whereas somebody that’s maybe doing a table and a whole sponsorship, they’re going to get year round, but not as much. Again, we’re rewarding them for that year-round partnership there.

Steven posted the link to the Fundraising Fish Fry, which he’s a member of as well. So you see that in chat box, if you’re interested in joining that private Facebook group.

Recommendations for how to recognize sponsors that want a customized package. Currently working on this and looking for ideas on non-traditional sponsor recognition for someone who wants to fund a program instead of an event.

Yeah, I think some of the tools mentioned can really benefit there as well. You know, things like the photo book, video a great tool. If somebody’s sponsoring a program and not an event, they probably have a more much more philanthropic focus. So, you know, just showing the program in action.

We carry around these great stewardship tools with us all the time and really don’t use them. They’re called smartphones. They have cameras and video cameras on them. So being at a program just holding up your phone. Turning on video mode, recording a 15 second thank you to the donor with the program taking place in the background, incredibly powerful. So just kind of think out of the box and think a little more stewardship for that case.

Well, I know there are some more questions there. So feel free to direct message me. Either, Twitter, all the socials, I’m on there. I’m happy to help out, the contact page. If I didn’t get to your question and you have a sponsorship question, feel free to reach out. I’m happy to get that.

So Steven, I’ll turn it back to you as long as the TSA is not nagging you currently.

Steven: No, I haven’t been kicked out of my empty gate here. So this is a really awesome way to spend a layover in an airport. I will always remember this webinar and this layover. What an awesome presentation. I was just sitting here just nodding my head because you nailed every single thing that has ever irked me about being a sponsor myself.

So take it from me, folks, that he covered everything that sponsors want, at least from my personal experience. So thank you, thank you, Chad. This is awesome. Please reach out to him. Obviously, a wealth of information. Join that Facebook group, awesome discussions in there. And definitely get on more of Chad’s webinars. He does his own as well. Looks like the next one’s in a couple of weeks so you don’t want to miss that.

Chad, thank you, man. This is awesome. And thanks to all of you for hanging out with us for about an hour or so today, always good to see a full room and appreciate your attendance. We will get you all those goodies for sure. Just look for an email from me later on today with the slides and the recording. I’ll get that out, I promise.

And we’ve got a great webinar coming up next week. Our buddy Sherry Quam Taylor is going to join us next Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern. She’s got a really interesting presentation. If you struggle getting over that $1 million mark, if you’re an organization that hasn’t eclipsed the $1 million in annual fundraising, join us. That is a presentation just for you. It’s going to be a really good one. Sherry’s awesome, super smart. And I think you’ll enjoy that presentation. So hopefully you’ll join us again next week. If you can’t make it, we got lots of other webinars on our webinars schedule, even through the end of the year. We just love to see you a feature presentation.

So, Chad, I will see you tomorrow, my friend. And all of you, hopefully, we’ll see you again next week. So we’ll call it a day there. Have a good rest of your Wednesday. Have a safe weekend and we will talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.