Lessons From A Sponsorship Seeker

I’m a sponsorship seeker, just like you.

I believe that learning is a life-long journey and in my work as a sponsorship broker on behalf of For-Purpose organisations and events, I am continuously learning new things, trends, fads, things that work and things that don’t.

And of course, ways not to repeat my mistakes.

Today, I would like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned over the years that might help you fast-track your success with sponsors.

Here are some of my lessons as a sponsorship seeker.

Proposals – generic, tailored or not at all?

No matter how emphatic sponsorship experts are about the need to completely tailor a sponsorship proposal for a company, the reality is that when you pick up the phone to build a relationship with a potential sponsor they always ask you to send them a proposal!

Sponsors have become used to asking for a proposal, and by and large, non-profit sponsorship seekers have diligently sent them out to avoid not getting the sponsorship.  But you know what?  It’s time to stop doing things because ‘this is the way we’ve always done them’.

It’s perfectly OK to say to a prospect ‘Actually, I don’t have a proposal to send you.  That’s not the way we like to kick off our relationships.  We prefer to spend a little time getting to know each other to see whether there might be a ‘fit’ beyond the initial research I’ve done.  Might we make a time for a coffee or teleconference to explore possibilities?’  You could also offer to send them a brief and to the point email with some of the key bullet points that lead you to believe they were a good prospect in the beginning.

Leave the conversation open to continue discussions to ask them what they want to achieve through a partnership.

Two important sponsorship cold calling tips.

When it comes to cold calling and picking up the phone to build a relationship with a potential sponsor (ie a stranger) in the hope they will give you money… well… it often feels as nerve-wracking as it sounds!

There are two important lessons I’ve learned that can help make the whole situation feel more balanced and pleasant!

1.  Start a conversation, don’t give a presentation. (This will involve having some good questions to ask, that you have done some due diligence and researched this brand and who they are trying to market to.)

2.  When you allow yourself to be yourself, suddenly being brave isn’t so difficult. (When you’ve done some research and are directing the conversation to be about them, it takes the fear out of it. You are not asking for money right now. You are using your awesome communications skills to discover whether there is a ‘fit’ between your organisations. That’s step #1.)

Surveys.  If you’re not doing it, start now!

Companies pay big bucks to create or access industry exclusive data.

Some key questions on an online survey platform + your supporters = a big opportunity to sponsors to find out how their products and services are viewed by customers they aren’t yet doing business with yet!

It’s simple, cheap and such a great value-add for sponsors.

And by the way, when was the last time your non-profit undertook a survey of your supporters, members or donors?  You could do that at the same time and get some great demographic info!

Create a script when you start out with your cold calls – it helps!

When calling potential sponsors, if you’re MORE worried about someone actually picking up the phone, than if they don’t, you know you need a script (and maybe a strong coffee!) to help keep you on track!

Getting your proposal to the right person. 

When sending a sponsorship proposal out, unless they specifically ask for a hard copy, always email it to your contact.

I haven’t found a Marketing Manager yet who was willing to pop my proposal back into an envelope and send it along to the right person if it went astray!

It’s much easier to forward it by email though!

Take note!

Always, ALWAYS learn from your mistakes.  And take notes.

Take detailed notes whenever you are speaking with potential sponsors. You never know what little gems you pick up about timing, what they are looking for and personal details or preferences that might help you to build a deeper connection.

I’m calling to confirm…

When you make a time for a teleconference or a face-to-face meeting with a potential sponsor ALWAYS confirm the time and date on the phone, send an email meeting request AND follow up again 24-48 hours before you are supposed to speak or meet.

Invariably diaries and schedules change and there is nothing worse than calling at the time you have pre-arranged to have your call go to voicemail, or find out they’re in another meeting and can’t see you.

No support from your CEO or Board?
Then you’re not ready for sponsorship.

If you don’t have the support of your CEO and Board of Directors when creating and implementing a sponsorship strategy, you might as well not even embark on that journey.  Internal buy-in and support to engage corporate partners is the FIRST hurdle that may need to be jumped before you even begin speaking with potential sponsors.

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