Nurturing nonprofit connections
Heather Garrison can’t say enough good things about her nonprofit event sponsors. Now on the way into its third year, the initiative, Garding Against Cancer—founded by Greg and Michelle Gard—has raised over $4 million to support cancer research and patient care in the state of Wisconsin. It shows donors its appreciation with nonprofit giveaways and sponsor recognition.
“I feel incredibly grateful because as part of the UW Foundation, we already had a built-in audience,” said Garrison, director of the initiative. “We have a variety of sponsors, from those impacted by cancer to basketball fans to alumni and those wanting to make an impact in the state of Wisconsin.”
Whether you’re starting with a built-in audience or building your sponsorship roster from the ground up, nonprofit event sponsors help every event achieve more by providing funds or in-kind gifts for your fundraiser. The key to getting sponsors is finding ways to connect with them. Here’s how.
Start four months in advance
When reaching out to potential sponsors, earlier is better. Start the sponsorship search at least four months in advance. Why?
- It gives companies time to get any necessary approvals.
- It gives you time to search for sponsors who are not already supporting another cause.
- It gives you time to collect sponsor logos and other critical information.
Prepare the details
Be ready to answer any sponsor questions. Create two documents—one covering event details and the other showing the impact sponsorship can have on your cause. Information they’ll want to know includes:
- Sponsorship levels
- Publicity and connections gained through sponsorship
- Event size
- The audience who will be attending the event
Once you have the information above, it also helps to have a simple sponsorship agreement that outlines sponsorship terms.
Reach out to everyone
If you don’t have ideas on where to start, getting in touch with sponsors can be as easy as 1-2-3:
TIP 1: Start with previous sponsors
Reach out to businesses that have sponsored you in the past. Get the sponsorship ball rolling with a well-crafted email followed by a personal phone call to people you actually know.
TIP 2: Reach out to your network
Ask board members, donors, volunteers and employees to help connect you with new potential sponsors. Ask them to help make an introduction.
Jen Carpenter, chief operating officer of Junior Achievement of North Central Michigan in Midland, Michigan, has found that reaching out to new contacts is crucial to her organization. Junior Achievement offers work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs to K-12 students. Carpenter often makes connections through new volunteers.
“We get new volunteers all the time and they all work for somebody. A referral from someone that already believes in our organization’s mission is priceless,” said Carpenter.
TIP 3: Cold call companies
When cold-calling sponsors you believe would be a good fit, be ready with the information you gathered—and set up an appointment to talk in person, or send them information via email if requested. And if you leave a voice mail, call them again if you don’t hear back. When it comes to sponsorships, someone not reaching out to you might just mean they’re busy. Only a “no” is a no.
Take care of your sponsors
As your sponsors fall into place, keep them in the loop about the upcoming event. Have a staff member serve as a dedicated point of contact. That person will collect official logos and manage communications.
Remember to share your sponsors’ names on your website and social media. This helps get the word out and makes other possible sponsors aware that they, too, can support your upcoming event.
Most importantly: say thank you
As your event comes to a close, thank every sponsor—large and small. Junior Achievement of North Central Michigan thanks participants and creates excitement for its golf events with nonprofit promotional products. “I’m very adamant that every single year, the gift we give our sponsors is not just something they’ll enjoy and use, but that it also includes a logo that everyone else can see after the event,” Carpenter said.
The group even uses some of the gifts as a sponsorship opportunity. Titleist® DT TruSoft Golf Balls are imprinted with their sponsor’s name and “Supports Junior Achievement.”
Garding Against Cancer also has found ways to thank and recognize sponsors with nonprofit giveaways. At one fundraiser, sponsors whose donation was over a certain monetary level received a Crossland® Soft Shell Jacket, which was placed at their table as an added form of recognition.
As a bonus, sponsors donated many of the nonprofit promotional products, allowing the money collected during the fundraiser to go to those in need. “Sponsors who receive a promotional item will also get a note stating who donated the item, which allows them to see that more of their money is going to people and places where it can do the most good,” Garrison said.
“We couldn’t do it without you.”
Nonprofit event sponsorships are truly a win-win. By showing companies they can support a great organization while getting their brand seen through a cool nonprofit giveaway, you can encourage them to help your cause.
See how Garding Against Cancer used promotional products as a thank-you gift for donors.
Note: 4imprint is a sponsor of Garding Against Cancer
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