Ten Tips for Securing More Sponsorship by Maureen Carlson, EVP, Good Scout Group

This week at the Run Walk Ride Council’s annual conference, I had the honor of presenting a pre-session on garnering more sponsorship with Flo Bryan of the American Cancer Society and Bonnie Gordon of Walgreens. Titled “Improve Your Thon’s Sponsorship Performance” the session turned out to be very interactive pulling wisdom from all those in attendance. Which is good because even old dogs (at least this old dog) are interested in learning a few new tricks. If you were not able to attend and you missed it, here is a summary of some of the pearls of wisdom shared.

1. Make sponsorship a priority. Seems simple, but to many organizations who put on a run/walk/ride in the peer-to-peer fundraising space, sponsorship is an afterthought. It lags behind things like event web page design, collateral, friends asking friend templates, event operations, etc. Devote a full FTE (if possible) and require them to create a strategic plan to acquire, optimize and retain corporate sponsors against specific goals. Remember if sponsorship is an afterthought to you, it will never be more than an afterthought to the companies you pitch.

2. “What’s in it for me and please don’t make me guess”. Repeated over and over again, the very simple idea that when approaching a company for sponsorship it really should be all about the company. It is important to remember that sponsorship money is marketing money. How does your event provide valuable ROI or experiential marketing opportunities beyond T-shirts and banners. Make sure you communicate the value beyond tiers.

3. Do your homework. Do you know what the giving platform is for the company you are approaching? Do you know what their current advertising messages in the marketplace are? Do you know if they are launching a new product? Do you know what other events they support? You better…don’t walk into a room to secure the company’s money or support and not really know anything about them.

4. Other people’s money (OPM) is really important. Anytime your ideas around how to activate the company’s sponsorship can pull from “other people’s money” to create exposure for the company and it’s products…it is a homerun for the sponsor.

5. The right committee with the right marching orders are like gold. The truth. Most sponsorship (or at least the ability to get in the corporate door) should come from your volunteer event committee. But if your committee is more interested in helping you design the T-shirt then getting those T-shirts underwritten, it’s time to have a heart to heart. Another truth. It may not be their fault. If your organization has never defined their roles and responsibilities or set a level of expectation, it’s time to reeducate, redesign and just maybe reconstruct the committee.

6. One size does not fit all. Don’t get so caught up in your black and white tiers that your forget to listen to the companies you are pitching and be ready to step outside those tiers and customize a value package that meets their goals. Listen. Be flexible. Be creative. Customize. And then listen some more.