Fundraising Event Ideas: Sponsorship

I was inspired to write this series focused on fundraising event sponsorship after working on an incredibly successful gala last week. It was my organization’s fourteenth annual event and saw double-digit sponsorship revenue growth for the second year in a row.

Cause marketing comes in all shapes and sizes outside of events but there is plenty of sponsorship activity related to fundraising events as well. In part one of this series we will talk about how to set yourself up for success with your sponsors at your gala, walk/run, annual conference, professional education event or fill-in-the-blank “a-thon” fundraising event.

Sponsor Attrition

First things first, let’s tackle attrition. This refers to the inevitable loss of at least some sponsors year over year. I have yet to see a fundraising event that had 100% sponsor retention every year. Attrition is natural and to be expected. That said, attrition is not good! Your fundraising event success is based, in part, on last year’s success. Therefore the best thing you can do to continue to grow your sponsor revenue is to make sure your every sponsor is happy.

Even if you wanted to keep your revenue static, that is no revenue growth at all year over year, you would still need to find new corporate sponsors to make up for those lost to attrition. If you work on an annual fundraising event, sponsorship sales or business development then you always have a new business goal. Keep this in mind while you are planning for future revenue growth, start by understanding your current attrition rate before deciding you want to see 25% growth next year!

Profitable Fundraising Events

How do you make your current sponsor happy? You have a strategy to activate their sponsorship package! What this means is that you go into your event knowing exactly what you need to do in order to make your sponsors feel like they got tremendous value for their investment. Because you used the tactics outlined in my posts Five Questions for Every sponsor and Sponsorship Package Essentials you know without question what is important to your sponsors and so you know what you have to do on event day.

In the weeks leading up to your event be sure to add to your “to do list” the creation of an activation strategy based on your sponsorship package for the day of your event. This is one very important aspect of your overall fulfillment and activation plan.

Make Your Fundraising Event Sponsor Happy

A good plan should include the following:

Tip 1: Using your sponsorship package as a guide, verify that you have delivered everything you said you would to your sponsor and take a photo of each benefit at your fundraising event as you go through the checklist.

Tip 2: Make sure all sponsor names are spelled phonetically for your MCs and presenters and check in with them to make sure they know who they are introducing and how to say their names.

Tip 3: Give all of your leadership and board members a list of every sponsor, their tables and individual names and do a pre- fundraising event huddle to determine who will talk to which sponsor.

Tip 4: Every table with a sponsor should have a senior staff person or trusted volunteer seated with them where possible.

Tip 5: Give your event photographer a checklist of sponsor benefits, exhibitors and key tables. This will give you two copies of photos for every sponsorship benefit delivered for your fulfillment report and will capture some good candid photos.

Tip 6: Give your social media person a checklist of sponsor benefits, exhibitors and key tables so that they can get the right people tagged in photos and outgoing messages.

Tip 7: Do a post event debrief with staff and volunteers at the fundraising event to talk about comments you heard from each sponsor. I know everyone is tired but strike while the iron is hot and get the information you need before people go home and potentially forget a key piece of information.

How to Get Sponsors for an Event? Never lose them!

The minute your event wraps up is when the work really begins (sorry!). Once the event ends, you have a clock counting down for 14 days. This is how long you have to create your fulfillment reports, thank each sponsor and set up meetings with every single sponsor and exhibitor for feedback.

My post- fundraising event timeline normally looks something like this:

  • Take the next day or two off, and I mean OFF! Give your staff a day or two to recover at home and give yourself permission to relax (feel free to send this to your boss if you think it will help).
  • First day back in the office, debrief with key staff, unpack and count your money from raffles, auctions etc. and send every sponsor a personalized e-mail to say thank you and to let them know you will be reaching out for feedback soon.
  • Second day back, make your fulfillment reports! By the end of the week you should be booking meetings with sponsors and delivering fulfillment reports.
  • Two weeks post event I have met with all of my sponsors or have a date in the calendar for us to meet.

  • Once all of this is done, I have a pretty good idea as to who is coming back and who isn’t and what work I have to do for those on the fence.

Next year’s fundraising event depends on what you do this year.

If you do all of the above, then you stand a good shot of a solid retention rate and you will come out of your feedback meetings with a good sense as to where next year’s gaps will be and what you have to change in order to keep your sponsors.

Part two will focus on how to get a feedback meeting after your fundraising event, what to ask and how to use that information to bring your sponsor back for your next fundraising event.