In this article, we will discuss the art of securing sponsorships. The process of sponsorships can be compared to dating. Just like dating, securing sponsors is all about nurturing relationships over a lengthy period of time. Would you marry someone after the first date? Some Utahns might, but most don't! Asking for funds on the first meeting is highly ineffective. Instead, spending time getting to know each other and discovering ways that the relationship can be mutually beneficial is crucial.
The Dating Phase
It's important to get real with timelines. The outreach process should begin a year before you need a sponsor’s support. 12-10 months prior to your event or cause is the brainstorming period. When identifying organizations that may consider donating, it's important to ask a couple of questions. What does this organization value? What is their mission and vision? Discover ways you can align your cause with their organization’s goals and diversify the organizations that you are reaching out to. Begin connecting with potential sponsors on social media, send out LinkedIn requests, or find considerate ways to connect with sponsors in-person.
What About Speed Dating?
Remember the famous quote “Work smarter, not harder.” It can take 60 days for organizations to review requests. Their finance team will also need an additional few months to review the request and pay you. Reconsider the event if the nonprofit cannot fund it. On the other hand, if the nonprofit organization is well-known, they may have the opportunity to use their influence to reach out to previous supporters or other organizations that are eager to help. This means the fundraising team will need to put their foot on the pedal!
The Exclusive Phase
During this phase, send your case narrative, also called a pitch deck, to the prospect. Developing the case narrative takes an ample amount of time to write and design, so you will want to actually begin this in the dating (brainstorming) phase. A case narrative should give an overview of your organization’s mission, vision, needs, leadership, naming/recognition opportunities, and an invitation to be part of your cause. You may also include three letters of recommendation from stand-out names. You will want to have the case narrative professionally printed and also have a few files that you can email. Once you have your case narrative prepared, the idea is to meet with a potential donor in-person. This should take place 9-6 months prior to needing their support. During the visit, have engaging and casual conversation. Have a listening ear. Be curious about their organization’s goals and aspirations. Listen closely for ways that a partnership will be mutually beneficial- connecting on these little information tidbits will be your golden ticket. Remember, it is okay to ask what they would see as a mutually beneficial relationship? If you were to donate, how much would you consider? What would you want in return as far as recognition goes? Still at this point, you are not going to ask them to marry you. This is NOT a sales meeting. You want to spend most of your time listening and getting to know each other. However, at the end of the visit, you will leave the case narrative to create a lasting impression.
The Engagement Phase
Hopefully, by this point in the dating process, they are starstruck with you and your organization’s cause and values. You’ve wowed them enough and demonstrated the value of working together that they are smitten with your cause. Now is the time to ASK. This point is typically 5-3 months prior to your event or campaign. Coming back to the analogy about dating, you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you over the phone, would you? If she is important enough, you certainly wouldn’t. Carve out time in your schedule to take the donor out to dinner, an exclusive event, or simply to meet in-person at your physical location. The donor needs to feel valued, though the proposal shouldn’t come across as needy or desperate.
If the donor declines, see it as an opportunity to continue nurturing the relationship. You can respond by saying, “Thank you for your feedback. We respect your decision, however, I really hope that we can stay in touch” or “That is completely acceptable. Let’s find ways to collaborate in the future. Hey, by the way, I really appreciate that your organization recently...” You may also ask for clarity so if you approach again in the future you will be in a better position to make the ask. Read the book “Never Split the Difference” to learn how to become a master negotiator just by asking questions. When a donor agrees to become a sponsor, you move into a really delicate period. The last thing you want is for them to lose interest. Stay engaged with them before they write a check by sending thank you notes, recent news features, or testimonials to continue generating buzz.
The Marriage and Event Phase
You have made it so far! This is the time to seal the deal. Send them an invoice for funding. 1-3 months prior to your campaign. Follow up with a personalized thank you letter, and the recognition they deserve. Many donor benefits will provide access to exclusive events or after parties. Celebrate, make memories, spread the news. The better experience donors have, the more likely they will be repeat donors. Afterparties are a great time to express gratitude and the desire to work together again in the future.
In conclusion, it is essential to consider who you would like to partner with, what you can offer them, what you want them to do, when to begin cultivating the relationship, how often to check-in, where you’ll meet and engage, and why you want to work with them beyond money. Having a solid strategy will set your nonprofit up for success. Mighty Penguin is here to help. We are well-networked, experienced in securing sponsorships, and adept at creating compelling case narratives. Get in touch to begin your successful fundraising campaign.