Fundraising Event Ideas: Sponsorship Followup

Welcome to part two of my series all about sponsorship and events. By now you have realized that this series is not about how to close sponsorship leading up to an event, for that you will want to head to my series focused on cause marketing essentials. For an even quicker overview, have a look at my infographic on the sponsorship journey.

Before you click on one of the links above, a warning: it is very easy to fall into the trap thinking that sponsorship is all about sales and closing the deal. This is important, no question, but what will make or break your success as a fundraiser, and your organization’s long term success, is what you do after you make the sponsorship sale and after the fundraising event, and that’s what this series is about.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
~ Chinese Proverb

If this year’s pipeline was built on how you treated your sponsors last year then next year’s pipeline is built on how you treat your sponsors today. Do your future self a favour and start now!

Fundraising Event Essentials

A quick recap of what we learned in the first post in this series:

  • Create an activation strategy from your sponsorship package
  • Take photos of every single sponsorship package benefit at the fundraising event
  • Make a list of all of your sponsors for your board, CEO and leadership team
  • Debrief at the fundraising event to talk about what went well and what didn’t

And most importantly, on your way out the door from your big fundraising event set a 14 day timer to get your fulfillment reports done, debrief with staff and volunteers and to have your follow up sponsorship meetings.

The Sponsorship Follow-up Meeting

If you have never done a post- fundraising event meeting with sponsors in the past, you will be surprised at how happy your sponsors are to do this. They just gave you money, flew their team to your event and gave away cool (and expensive) products to your guests yet they are still willing to get their team together to give you free advice on how to get them to come back next year. This should give you an indication as to how valuable these meetings are to your sponsors.

These meetings are even more valuable to you though. In them you will learn what your sponsors loved and hated about your event, what you could do differently, how they can help you do things better, what they would pay more for and what you need to change to get them to come back next year (and why they might not have come back had you not had this meeting).

How to Create a Sponsorship Package for the Next Fundraising Event

As sponsorship and fundraising event specialists we spend a tremendous amount of time focused on prospect research and the sales process yet we often ignore this simple 30-45 minute meeting. Aside from the value a follow up sponsorship meeting has in securing funding for next year, it’s also just good manners! Your sponsors gave you money and resources and saying thank you post-fundraising event is valuable regardless of whether or not there is a chance for more money down the line.

I typically use these meetings to give a quick update on the event (attendance, records set for funding, media, positive feedback from attendees etc.) and then I send it over to them to answer any and all of the following questions:

  • What did you think of the sponsorship fulfillment report?
  • What did you/your team think of the fundraising event?
  • How did this fundraising event compare to other events that you support?
  • What could we have done differently at the event an in our sponsorship package?
  • What should we change or add for next year?

That’s it! Pretty simple, yet it accomplishes so much. Something else worth noting is that your sponsors go to events all the time, constantly in fact. They see what others are doing, what works and what doesn’t and they are also the experts on what they like and their sponsorship goals. Think of your sponsors as your partners and remember that they have so much more to offer than just a cheque.

Fundraising Event Case Study

One year I planned a large fundraising event and we brought a brand new sponsor on board- a big one. Their only goal was to gather business cards from attendees and they were giving away big-ticket prizes in exchange for those business cards. They flew a sales rep across the country to gather the cards and we put them right at registration so that people had no choice but to pass by their table.

The result? Less than a dozen cards. Not good.

I met with my contact there, who was not at the event but was the decision maker on their sponsorship dollars. He began to tell me that their staff person reported only 50 people attended the event and that they actually place a hard value of $X per card that they receive and so to justify their sponsorship they would need X business cards and…that they would not be coming back. In other words, we didn’t deliver what we said we would because we didn’t have the audience we said we would. However, that year we had record attendance so something wasn’t adding up.

Fundraising Event Followup Saved the Sponsorship Package

Enter the fulfillment report: my fulfillment report captured pictures of literally hundreds of event participants crowded around their table while their sales person was on their iPhone ignoring them! The reason for their poor performance was not that our event failed but for other reasons completely.

What was the result you ask? They came back the next year! Instead of sending a sales person, we saved them the flight and salary and included their raffle box as part of registration and in doing so achieved a near 100% buy in rate. In fact, the box they sent us was overflowing with people who wanted to be part of their raffle. And because we also knew how much they valued each business card, we knew exactly how much to ask for in next year’s sponsorship package.

If we hadn’t had a follow up meeting, I would be telling my boss that I had no idea why we lost our key sponsor. Instead, we met our sponsors, found out what they valued and so planted next year’s tree.