If you’re a large venue, you likely already have sponsorship in place for your yearly conferences and events. But what if you’re a smaller venue or club? Can you secure sponsorship? Of course you can! Let’s dive in.
How to Find and Secure Sponsors
First, it’s crucial to keep in mind that finding and securing great sponsorship is not a numbers game where you send out the maximum number of inquiries, hoping one or two bite. It’s a long game to build relationships with various companies — after all, a good sponsorship relationship benefits both parties, not just the venue seeking a sponsor. Take your time to work your way through the process to reach your goal.
- Start earlier than you think you need to. Remember that larger companies do their financial planning a year prior (at least). They have a certain amount of allotted funds for things like sponsorship, and if you wait too late, those funds will be given to other venues and events. Plan your sponsorship as far ahead in advance as you are able to.
- Decide what companies you want to approach. The company should, obviously, have an interest in your topic as well as getting the attention of your attendees. Say you’re a medium-sized garden club planning next year’s annual Spring Garden Fling. Possible sponsors could include your local independent garden center,
- Find out who makes the decisions within that company. Attend another event that the company is sponsoring and talk with some representatives (“Can you suggest the name of the person involved with the product or project side in your company?”), follow them on social media and interact before sending an inquiry (for a meeting, not a request for funding yet – see next step), and talk with other people in the industry to see if they have a connection to the company. You’re looking for the people who make decisions about these types of things, so cold- calling the company and asking the person answering the phone won’t likely yield the desired effect.
- Set up an initial meeting. Once you identify the person who makes decisions, email or message them on LinkedIn to ask for a meeting. Do not lead with asking for sponsorship. Say something along the lines of, “I’d love to meet with you to see if your company priorities have common ground with some of our future plans.” Then let them know a specific time you can talk on the phone or meet in person.
- Avoid sending 25 businesses a form email. Sending a form email without any warm up will likely remain unopened or unanswered. Relationship, relationship, relationship. “I was delighted to meet your colleague, Jim, at the XYZ event, and he suggested I contact you to see about some ideas I have about how your company and our venue can work together. Would you be available to talk on the phone on Wednesday afternoon?”
- Always express an interest in their goals and priorities.
- Come prepared with numbers and details. How many people do you expect at your event? What are their interests (organic gardening, small space gardening, design, etc.)? What specifically do you need (a product for your goodie bag, a monetary donation to cover operating costs, media coverage)? Do you have different levels of financial sponsorship? How might your venue highlight their company to your attendees? Have all of that at your fingertips.
- Follow up with an email. This is like a job interview. Thank them for their time, reiterate how you and your venue would love to partner with them to support their goals and priorities for your event, and ask them if they have any follow-up questions.
Have you successfully secured sponsorship for your venue or club’s event? Do you have a tip to share with us? We would love to hear!