The two main strategies for approaching potential corporate sponsors are:
- Asking for straight donations to offset the cost of your event. Also known as the gold, silver, and bronze method.
- Asking for sponsorship of specific things at your event: the dinner, the valet, the auctioneer, etc. Also known as piecemeal or category sponsorship.
These two approaches are both similar and very different.
Gold, silver, and bronze levels work well if you have a limited development department. Approaching different companies to sponsor different aspects of your event takes time, a lot of time. If you are working with a very small staff, it may make more sense to take this broader approach to sponsorship. It also works well if you don’t have strong relationships with the individuals you are approaching, or if it is your first time approaching a specific company.
Category sponsorship allows for more creativity and more marketing opportunities for the sponsor(s) at the event. For example, a company sponsoring the bar at the event could have napkins, coasters, straws, etc. made up with their logo and colors on them. Another company sponsoring your valet station could have their name worn by the valet drivers and emblazoned on the valet station. Category sponsorship is more relationship based, so it works well if you have good relationships with the individuals you are approaching. You have to really know a person to make these sorts of specific asks.
If I am sponsored at an event, I often wear the name of the company on my back when doing the auction.
The category approach to corporate sponsorship is growing in popularity. People are always looking for the most unique and creative methods for soliciting corporate sponsorship and right now this is it.
Social Media and Corporate Sponsorship
A major trend in corporate sponsorship is offering social media posts to companies as part of the sponsorship package. Not everyone is doing this yet, so it’s advantageous to get your nonprofit onboard with it now. Social media agreements typically entail making a certain number of social media posts across agreed upon platforms promoting the corporation sponsoring the event.
This practice is one reason I encourage all nonprofits to grow their social media presence; the further your social media reach, the more attractive you are to sponsors. Simply put, your social media reach gives you something to offer corporations in return for their sponsorship.
Remember, your nonprofit has to do more than convince potential sponsors why they should care about your mission, you must make it an attractive business proposal. This means showing them the potential value the partnership will contribute to their company in terms of brand exposure and potential new customers for their business. A strong social media following is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
Now that you have some familiarity with the two basic approaches to corporate sponsorship, next time we’ll take a look at the potential downsides.