Your organization will soon celebrate another anniversary, and this year, you’d like to do something nice. To both share in your successes and generate funding that will get you through to the next year, you want to host a gala. This big party will require big money, so you might look into sponsorship. How do you get gala sponsorship?
Follow these steps to secure the right kind of sponsor for your gala:
- Plan all aspects of your gala
- Do your research into the kind of sponsor you want
- Make an assets list and complete a valuation
- Create your sponsorship package
- Draft your sponsorship proposal
- Reach out to your target sponsor and set up a meeting
In this complete guide, I’ll lay out all the above steps in clear detail so you can chase after your first gala sponsorship. You’ll then be able to put on the big, star-studded event for your audience that you’ve always dreamed of!
These 6 Steps Are Essential for Securing Gala Sponsorship
Plan the Aspects of Your Gala
A gala is an upscale, dressy gathering and may be the most formal of any event your organization or business has hosted thus far. It’s okay to be a bit pickier about where you want to host your gala, as a hotel conference room or expo venue probably won’t fit the bill. You need a nice building that will create the kind of posh atmosphere any good gala has.
During this planning stage, a lot of lofty ideas may rise to the surface. Let these ideas float and even entertain some of them. As you begin solidifying your sponsorship proposal, some of your more costly plans will naturally get left by the wayside. If that doesn’t happen, then I’m sure a few sponsors shooting you down because you want to host your gala in a castle or a mansion ought to help you rethink a little.
Besides just where your gala will be, when will it be? How many attendees do you want to invite? How many will realistically attend? Knowing this can help inform your decision about where the gala should be hosted. For instance, if you know that 500 people will be likely to come, then you need a sizeable building where everyone can stretch out comfortably.
What will the evening entail? Will you have speeches? A live DJ? Food stations or a pro chef serving food to the tables? Will there be a cash bar or an open bar? What kind of activities will occur? Answering these questions will also help you begin thinking of activation ideas that can go on your assets list. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself though.
Going through and planning what your gala will be like is to your benefit. Now you know what kind of event you have on tap for your audience so you can promote it efficiently. It will also help you figure out which type of sponsorship would best suit your event.
By the way, I’m not saying anything has to be written in stone at this point. If you decide last-minute that you’re doing food stations instead of having a pro chef cook, that’s fine. These things will happen. Having a plan though makes it easy to rearrange elements of the gala so the night still flows smoothly.
Determine the Best Type of Sponsor for Your Gala
Once you figure out everything that your dream gala should have, including activities, venue, food, drink, and entertainment, I want you to crunch some numbers. How much money would it cost for this gala of yours to go on as planned? Can any of that money come from your donors, partners, or even from your own pockets?
If so, then great. If not, then you’ll rely heavier on a sponsor.
Having at least a loose idea of how much funding you’d need for your gala will point you in the direction of which sponsors to pursue. You would hate to go through all these stages with a sponsor only to find out during your second or third meeting that hey, the sponsor can only offer you $5,000 and you need $15,000. Not only is that a tremendous waste of your time, but the sponsor’s as well.
If you need a sponsor with deep pockets, don’t beat around the bush and pursue smaller companies. Chase after what you want from the get-go.
In my post about event sponsorship, I talked about several types of sponsors. For instance, if you need funding for your gala, you’d want to work with a financial sponsor.
Perhaps you’re doing a smaller-scale gala and can handle most of the funding yourself, but you want a sponsor who can get the word out about the event so you get those big attendance numbers. If so, that’s a media or promotional sponsor.
As the name implies, a media or promotional sponsor has ties to the media that your organization likely does not. This sponsor can put you through to TV and radio networks, newspapers, and even trade magazines to hype up your event.
The best sponsors are a combination of both a financial sponsor and a media/promotional partner. They have the pockets deep enough to fund your gala and the name recognition that if they accept a sponsor like you, people are going to find out about it and become curious.
Make Your Assets List and Do a Valuation
Assuming this is your first time pursuing sponsorship, I want to be clear that a sponsor relationship is not a one-way street. Sure, the sponsor is not expecting you to give them money, nor clout, but you have to offer them something.
I just wrote a post about why sponsorship companies do what they do. A sponsor opts to give their time and money away for an assortment of reasons. These can include increasing their own sales, benefitting from the media exposure they drum up, differentiating themselves from their competitors, and increasing lead generation. Sponsor companies may also strive to embrace a new role, such as becoming a community partner, which in turn, helps boost their brand awareness.
By researching the sponsorship company, you may be able to glean why they offer sponsor opportunities. I’d recommend reading their about page on their website, combing through their social profiles, and Googling the sponsor to see what news stories they’ve been featured in over the last several months and years.
If you can find past instances of sponsors, that’s hitting the jackpot. Most companies that are proud of their sponsorships won’t make this information a secret, so you shouldn’t have to do too much digging.
Once you know why your sponsor gives so freely, you gain invaluable hints that can help you make your assets list or inventory development.
You see, since sponsorship is a mutually beneficial relationship, you’re selling something to the sponsor. In this case, it’d be a property, such as your gala. Your property creation will become the backbone of your assets list, or a list of potentially valuable things you could offer the sponsor.
If you already thought of activation ideas per the earlier steps, then great! Put them all on your assets list. If not, it’s time to come up with some activation ideas now.
What else goes on your asset list? Don’t be super discerning. Like when you were brainstorming gala ideas, put everything that seems valuable on your assets list. These can include physical assets, such as logo placement opportunities at the gala venue, to digital assets.
After you’ve exhausted every asset you think can be of interest to your sponsor, it’s time to valuate them. In other words, you’re determining how valuable an asset is. Asset value will change based on the climate of your sponsor’s needs, interests, and goals.
I always recommend asking a sponsor about an asset’s potential value if you’re really stumped. The research you did earlier should also help you figure it out. For example, if your sponsor company is interested in lead generation and you have a pretty sizeable audience, then your audience is a top asset with a high value.
For every asset you create, you need to valuate it. Yes, this is going to take some time, but the work is worth it. It’s also totally natural if, through the valuation process, you begin crossing off assets left and right.
After all, at the end of the day, you don’t want to offer your sponsor 100 assets of questionable value. You’d rather give them a handful of really powerful, valuable assets that will encourage them to work with you on your gala.
Create Your Sponsorship Package
Alright, so you have your valuations done. Now it’s time to do something with them.
What amateur organizations seeking sponsorship will do is take their best assets, put them in a gold package, and make the sponsor pay the most for them. Then, if you want the second-best collection of assets, these go in the silver package. The bronze package nets you the least money, but you’re also offering a few bottom-of-the-barrel assets.
Just to reiterate, I’m pretty staunchly against the gold, silver, and bronze sponsorship packages. Read my anecdote in that blog post to see why. At that time, I had a great sponsor who dumped me in the financial crisis of 2008 to hold money for another sponsor because they wanted the gold-tier benefits.
Now wait, you’re probably saying, wouldn’t that make gold, silver, and bronze sponsorship levels a good thing? No. This sponsor of mine didn’t really want to pay for the gold package, they only wanted the benefits.
If you’re looking for a financial sponsor for your gala, I know how tempting it can be to tie up the gold benefits and hold them hostage so you get the financial backing for your event. I really do get it. And maybe this outdated sponsorship package would work to earn you money, but you know what it won’t earn you?
A long-term professional relationship with a sponsor.
Your sponsor company isn’t staffed with stupid people. They know when they’re being taken for a ride, such as when you force them to spend the most money to get what they want. They might do this begrudgingly just this once, but not again.
Instead, if you’re looking to find a possible long-term sponsor who can help you with future galas or other events, then you want to ditch the gold, silver, and bronze packaging format immediately.
Instead, customize your sponsorship packaging. You could do a different type of tier-based system or whatever works, but get the sponsor company’s input on packaging. When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter how you name your sponsorship package. What’s more important is ensuring that your sponsor is spending money on something they want and you’re getting the necessary funding for your gala.
Draft Your Sponsorship Proposal
Your sponsorship package will go into your sponsorship proposal, a six-page (or so) document that cinches the deal with your sponsor. Here’s an overview of what goes in all six pages:
- Page one: Leave the first page mostly blank, with only the name of your organization, the name of your gala (such as a theme), and your organization’s logo.
- Page two: Who’s your audience? Talk about them on this second page. Not you or your organization, but your audience only.
- Page three:
- First paragraph: Now it’s time to talk about you. Who are you, why did your organization form, how long have you been around, and what have you done? Answer those questions succinctly in a single paragraph.
- Second paragraph: What do you hope to achieve with this gala? When and where is it? Use this second paragraph on the third page to discuss your gala in an engaging way.
- Page four: Here’s where you begin talking about your sponsorship packages. Just don’t use the term “sponsorship opportunities” anywhere. You don’t want to be vague, but you also don’t want to say “here’s my sponsorship package” either. I recommend using the term “menu” instead.
- Page five: List out the assets in your sponsorship package, watching your wording when you do.
- Page six: Share your phone number, email address, and any other way the sponsor can conveniently get in touch with you. Include a call to action on this page as well that will encourage the sponsor company to want to reach out.
Set up a Meeting with Your Target Sponsor
You know a ton about your sponsor company but they know nothing about you. It’s time to change that and make contact.
If you or anyone within your organization knows someone at the sponsorship company, this is ideal. Even if a fellow staff member knows someone who knows someone, that’s fine too. Any way to put your foot in the door and say you have someone in common with the sponsor company is to your advantage.
Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. If you can’t figure out a personal thread into the sponsor company, then you’ll have to cold email them. Cold emailing is a little easier to do than cold calling, but you can still make mistakes. For instance, sending your sponsorship proposal in a cold email is about the worst thing you can do. All your work and time would have been for nothing because the sponsor definitely won’t bite.
I have a series of templates here that I highly recommend you check out when cold emailing a sponsor company. There’s even one for events such as your gala that you can replicate. Tweak the template so it fits and then send away.
If it’s nothing but crickets in the days to come, then you definitely want to follow up. Your gala is on the calendar sooner than later, after all, so if a sponsor isn’t interested, you’d like to know now.
Should the sponsor want to proceed, you two will have a meeting. I recently wrote a great post on how to talk to sponsors. That article is rife with tips for nailing your first sponsorship meeting, including the small but consequential parts like small talk, so you definitely want to give it a read.
I will say, my best piece of advice is to never, ever bring your sponsorship proposal to the first meeting. Take only some notebook paper and a pencil/pen with you. You want to think of this first meeting as a chance for you and the sponsor to familiarize yourselves with one another. Only after a second and sometimes even a third meeting will your sponsorship proposal enter the equation.
By then, this sponsor knows a lot about you. They’ve determined that they’re at least interested in proceeding, and once they see your proposal, they’ll know for certain.
If your organization or business is soon planning a gala, detailing as many parts of the event is the first step to seeking sponsorship. Then, you need to know whether you need a media partner or a financial sponsor. From there, it’s all about valuing your assets, making a killer sponsorship package, writing a winning proposal, and meeting with the sponsor.
You’re now ready to make your gala dreams a reality through sponsorship. Best of luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Chris Baylis is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Sponsorship Collective.
After spending several years in the field as a sponsorship professional and consultant, Chris now spends his time working with clients to help them understand their audiences, build activations that sponsors want, apply market values to their assets and build strategies that drive sales.
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