After countless phone calls, emails, and written correspondences requesting sponsorship, at least one company agreed to give you the time of day to hear out your proposal. If you fail to make a strong impression after this, then all the work it took you to get to this point will be all for nil. Applying for sponsorship is just the first step; after that comes nurturing and cultivating the relationship so you have a sponsor that you can work with long-term and for subsequent projects.
1.Begin Talks Early and Often
You initiated contact and are the one making a request, so you need to be the go-getter and the proactive one. Be the one to arrange for meetings and do it in person if possible. If you can’t meet face-to-face, then use Skype. Texts, emails, and phone conversations may be used, but the interaction should be mostly live and face-to-face to foster a strong relationship early. 81% of business professionals believe that in-person meetings are critical for long-term relationship building, so don’t let the conveniences of technology be an excuse for forgoing a person-to-person meeting.
Use these meetings to discuss what each party’s respective roles are. You should also have a few hard copies of your proposal that lays out the following:
- Event schedule
- The estimated cost
- Expected turnout
- How and where the sponsoring company will be promoted
2. Make It Personal
Don’t be overly intrusive and ask all sorts of personal questions from the get-go. However, once all the formalities and business aspects are out of the way, try to shift to a more social conversation. There will likely be one person who will be your main point of contact, so take the time to get to know this person beyond his or her profession.
Here’s how you do it: after getting all the business stuff over with, ask the person a few questions for the sake of starting a non-business discussion, such as:
- How long have you been with the company?
- Where did you work before?
- Do you like your job?
From there, the conversation may shift to more personal aspects, such as hobbies or family life. You might even share a photo of your kids on your mobile or request to friend this person on your non-business social media account.
The reason this is important is because this person is likely the one or among the ones making the final decision whether to sponsor your event. He also likely meets with a dozen other people like you regularly, so it helps to establish a strong rapport that makes you stand out just a bit more than the rest.
3. Give More Than You Take
Sponsorships are one of those “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” type of deal. Be willing to do most of the scratching, though. That is, whatever the sponsor is asking for in return, give that and then some.
For example, if the sponsor is asking for a booth to promote their own products, offer something a little extra on top of that. This may include lending one or two of your own staff members to man the sponsor’s exhibit. Other extras you can throw in for good measure include:
- Letting the sponsor promote its products on stage during a conference before the main speaker comes up.
- Adding the sponsor’s logo on all digital signage and kiosk systems.
- Having your staffers wear attire with the sponsor’s brand.
4. Continue to Provide Value After the Event
If all goes well, the sponsor may be a company you work with long-term. To show that you’re interested in an on-going relationship, continue to provide freebies here and there for the sponsor. Just as businesses acquire long-term customers with discounts, loyalty programs, and other incentives, you should do something similar for your sponsor.
A day or two after the event, you may do the following:
- Use your email newsletters to refer your customers to the sponsoring company.
- Provide a discount of your own products for customers who purchase an item or sign up for a service from the sponsor’s company.
- Write a post on your company blog that paints the sponsor in a favorable light.
5. Make It Charitable
Many corporations are also involved in charity work. If the sponsoring company contributes to a nonprofit organization, offer to become an active member of the charity. Just as the sponsor is funding your event, you will, in turn, do something for the organization. This may be a simple monetary donation, donating supplies, or giving your time.
Better yet, incorporate the charity group into your event. Do for the group what you would do for your sponsor, such as giving it a booth or promoting the organization on your flyers. Working with your sponsor to promote a selfless cause is an excellent way to strengthen the bond.
Research the sponsor to see if they are active in any charity group. If not, then propose one, preferably a cause that is similar to your niche. If your company and the sponsor are in the fitness industry, for example, then you might propose an organization dedicated to ending childhood obesity.
Build the Relationship From the Ground Up
Nurturing a relationship with your sponsor is an ongoing process; the payoffs, however, are huge. Once you establish a strong rapport, you have a company that will have your back for subsequent events. A healthy sponsor relationship is also a win-win situation where both sides get out of it what they put in.
Looking for more information on building relationships with event sponsors?
Start early and be open minded. Specifically identify both your goals for the event, and the incentives and benefits for a potential sponsor. Lean on data points about the event audience to make a compelling case to a potential sponsor whose target audience aligns well with your attendees. Focus on the sponsor, not the event, in your pitch.
The top 10 sponsors for local nonprofit events around the United States are Wells Fargo, Marriott, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Whole Foods, State Farm, Pepsi, US Bank, Bank of America, Budweiser, and Clif Bar.