How to Get Corporate Sponsors for Your Event

Women shaking hands at a charitable event race.
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    Steve Debenport/E+ / Getty Images

Corporations decide to sponsor for a variety of reasons. Make sure that your particular event and your specific cause will meet one of these needs:

  • It's good marketing.
  • It's good for their bottom line.
  • One of their employees has gotten involved with your nonprofit.
  • They're competitive with other corporations.

Positioning and Marketing Your Nonprofit

Before you talk with your potential sponsor, ask yourself how are you positioning and marketing your nonprofit brand? What is positioning? What is marketing? If you've never studied either, here's a primer.

Positioning

How do you compare to other nonprofits? How is your focus different?

  • Think about the position of your event: How does your event compare to other nonprofit events in town? What do you offer that is unique and different? It's an excellent opportunity to start thinking about how you can be different from other events. Articulate your difference, and you'll be able to articulate your value more clearly.
  • Think about the position of your nonprofit: Are you an LGBTQ nonprofit? Is there an LGBTQ employee group at this particular corporation? Have you reached out to this group? When you start to think about your cause and how this company has shown they care about issues around your cause, you can begin to find people who can advocate for you inside the business.

    Marketing

    How are you marketing your event? How many people will you reach out to online and off

    There are tons of online and offline ways to reach out around your event, and they don't all have to cost a lot. Here are just a few ways to market your event offline.

    • Event signage
    • Street banner
    • Naming opportunity for event award
    • Postcards
    • Invitations
    • Newspaper, TV and radio ad
    • Consider these online marketing channels too: banner on your website; mention on your blog or e-newsletter; social media advertising.

    Once you figure out how you're going to market your event, you need to get approximate numbers of:

    • Ad impressions on TV, radio, newspaper, internet (TV, radio, and newspapers should have "rate sheets" for their ads that can tell you how many people potentially saw or heard your ad)
    • Unique visitors to different websites. You can also use Tweetreach to calculate the number of individuals who saw tweets about your event.
    • Pre-events and demographics of the audience at exclusive pre-events. If a corporation is attempting to reach out to a particular segment of people, having those people at your pre-events will be useful in convincing businesses to sponsor.
    • People seeing, hearing, talking and interacting at the event itself.

    Ask Questions of Your Potential Sponsors

    Corporate brand managers want sponsorships to change two main things: consumer perceptions and consumer behavior. Your job is to show them how your sponsorship will accomplish this.

    When you begin reaching out to corporations, corporate brand managers may have some assumptions about you. You're a nonprofit staff person. You may not even have the word "communications" or "marketing" in your title! What could you POSSIBLY know about marketing?

    You don't have to know everything. You just need to ask the right questions such as:

    1. Whom they sponsored before
    2. What their experience was with that
    3. What target audience they are trying to reach with new products or services
    4. If they could dream big, what kind of sponsorship experience would they give attendees
    5. How they will measure changes in consumer perceptions and behavior

    According to a report by Edelman, sponsoring does help companies change customers' perceptions and behavior. Edelman's survey of global brands showed as far back as 2012 that consumers have become savvier about which brands they consume.

    For example:

    • 72 percent of people surveyed would recommend a brand based on the brand's social conscience.
    • 71 percent would promote a brand based on its connection with a cause.
    • 73 percent would switch brands for a brand tied to a cause.

    More recently, the 2016 Earned Brand study by Edelman found that:

    • 62 percent of customers refuse to buy a product if the brand does not meet its obligations to the consumer, community, and society.
    • One of the critical elements of brand loyalty by customers has to do with the brand making a difference.

    All of these numbers are important. You don't have to prove that your event will do all of these things; the data backs you up. It's up to the company to measure if they have more sales or change consumer perceptions because of this sponsorship.

    The point to emphasize when selling an event to a sponsor is how your organization can help make the brand more valuable to people who care about social, environmental, and humanistic values.