How to Get Sponsors for Events with Better Marketing

how to get sponsors for events

Let’s face it, events are expensive. Event sponsorships are one way to offset the cost, keeping ticket prices down (or even free!) and funneling more event revenue directly to your nonprofit’s programs and operations. If you’re wondering how to get sponsors for events, it’s time to tap into your marketing skills to effectively identify and motivate potential business supporters.

Like fundraising, good marketing means knowing your audience and the things that they care about. In the case of event sponsorships, that means crafting messaging and materials that you can use to convince potential sponsors to take action.

Identify the Value

You can probably come up with a lot of reasons that sponsors are a good idea for your nonprofit’s event. There are plenty of potential upsides:

  • Reduce the amount of money you need to spend
  • Reach a wider audience through shared promotion
  • Build legitimacy of a new community event
  • Get free or reduced-cost products or services to use or auction off
  • Open the door to partnerships beyond the event

But what about the value and return on investment that an event sponsor is looking for? In order to make an effective sponsorship ask, you first have to put yourself in their shoes. It wouldn’t hurt to create a target audience persona for your ideal sponsor and really hone in on their challenges and motivations.

Thinking beyond any tax incentives to donating, consider if your potential targets would value any of the following reasons to sponsor your event:

  • Build or tap into community goodwill around your cause
  • Boost company exposure to potential clients or buyers
  • Promote the values of their corporate social responsibility program
  • Recognize or honor their own leadership or customers

With these types of values in mind, you’re in a better position to create sponsorship opportunities that motivate your targets. It’s also a good time to identify any circumstances where a sponsor would not be a good fit for your organization. What would put your reputation at risk? What might they ask for that you’re not willing to accommodate? There’s more than just the money to consider when selecting a partner.

Create an Event Sponsorship Packet

When you’re thinking about how to get sponsors for events, a sponsor packet or brochure is key. Creating a set of materials helps formalize your sponsorship offerings and keep things consistent no matter who is doing the asking, like staff, board members or volunteers. Get started on your packet with our content suggestions.

Introductory Note

Many nonprofits use a letter format for their event sponsor packet. This allows you to introduce your nonprofit, describe the event and make a pitch for why they would want to get involved before jumping into the levels and perks. Try to include:

  • A basic introduction to your nonprofit, its mission and key highlights
  • An overview of the event (date, location, theme and program)
  • A general description of your event’s audience and who you plan to reach
  • Mention of special event features that they might like to be associated with, like a featured guest or keynote speaker
  • Important deadlines for sponsors
  • Contact information

The Sponsorship Menu

Setting event sponsor levels is one of the most difficult parts of getting sponsorships for your event. People often get caught up in creating thematic names (Friend, Supporter, Champion) and worrying about getting enough people at a certain level. But the main risk when using sponsorship levels is limiting yourself and not baking in enough flexibility to personalize the ask for each sponsor that you approach.

Since each company is different, present your menu as a starting point in your conversation about how they’d like to support you through the event. If they say no to a large monetary ask, you’ll want to be ready with smaller menu options or a product donation for a raffle.

List of Sponsor Perks

Companies will want specific details about what their sponsorship buys, especially if there are perks based on different levels of commitment. Using the values that you identified earlier, consider event sponsorship benefits that make sense for you, the event and your budget:

  • Mention on the event website, possibly with their logo
  • Blog post featuring the sponsor and linking to their site
  • Mention in media coverage or paid ads
  • Using their logo in a step-and-repeat banner for event photos
  • Featured in email marketing about the event
  • A social media post or mention about their sponsorship
  • Inclusion in event materials like invitations and programs
  • Signage or prominent logo placement at the event
  • Logo use on event swag or t-shirts
  • Naming opportunities at the event, like a branded cocktail or lounge area
  • Mention during a presentation or welcoming address
  • Tickets to the event for business owners, employees or their clients
  • Special seating or table placement for them and/or their guests
  • Meet-and-greet with a featured guest, speaker, artist or other event honorees
  • Use of your nonprofit’s logo on their website
  • Permission for them to promote the sponsorship on their own marketing channels

Past Success

Have you hosted this event or one similar to in the past? You can make your ask more appealing by detailing your successes and showing that you’re a good potential partner. Some event sponsor packets offer this information in their introduction while others take a more visual or infographic approach. Consider:

  • Metrics about the success of past or similar events (audience size or people reached)
  • Testimonials from event attendees or those that the event supports
  • A list of sponsors from past years

Sponsorship Form

If you decide to offer set sponsorship levels and associated perks, you could include a standard form to collect a pledge or actual payment information. If you go a more custom route by offering personalized perks and sponsorship opportunities, you’ll need to create a form or agreement for each potential sponsor to consider and sign off on.

Event Sponsorship Examples

As you’ll see in these examples, it’s common to combine all the pieces mentioned above in a simple PDF that can easily be printed, emailed or shared on your website. Check out these real packets for nonprofit event sponsorships to find ideas that you can adapt to your event. We’ve also included the web pages where they are located so that you can see how each organization promotes sponsorship opportunities on their site.

United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles, Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties

On their event sponsor page, UCPLA offers a general sponsorship overview as well as a packet for specific special events. Combined, they offer a wealth of information about the organization, past sponsors, levels and perks.

Yolo County Children’s Alliance

In addition to sponsorship information on their website, Yolo County Children’s Alliance provides a sponsorship packet with levels, detailed benefits, a commitment form and a live auction/raffle wish list for product donations.

Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio

This event sponsor package from Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio bundles up the year’s events, giving companies the option to sponsor a series of golf tournaments at different levels as well as other community events. There are also sponsor testimonials and client stories woven into a highly visual design.

St. Baldrick’s Foundation

In addition to sharing their sponsorship packet on the website, St. Baldrick’s Foundation also offers event tips on their blog! The packet offers a succinct introduction and clear explanations of recognition and exposure benefits. It’s also designed to be used by supporters hosting events on the foundation’s behalf.

Making the Right Ask

Begin with the companies you know and are closest to your cause, including local businesses. These could be vendors that your nonprofit uses or even the places where your volunteers, board members or their families work. Do some research by looking at your Chamber of Commerce or regional business alliances. You could even look at other events in the area to see who is already sponsoring charity events.

Just like any marketing project, you won’t find a lot of success sending your event sponsorship proposal out in a mass email or simply posting it on your website and crossing your fingers. Treat a potential sponsor like you would a donor—working to build a relationship rather than making a cold call. In many cases, a friendly, in-person ask is the best way to make progress. From there, you can follow up by sending a link to your website and event sponsor materials.

Lastly, don’t leave it until zero hour! Depending on your sponsor perks, you’ll need enough time to include sponsors in any of your benefits related to marketing materials and promotion.

Reporting Back to Sponsors

If you’ve been reading the Wired Impact blog for awhile, you know that we’re big fans of measuring your marketing efforts. Sponsors are the same way! It’s important to be able to go back to a sponsor after an event to say thank you and let them know what their sponsorship meant, both to you and their company. Reporting back is even more crucial if you want to ask them to be a sponsor again in the future.

Be on the lookout for an upcoming post that will help you learn some of the easiest and most effective measurements you can track to share with your sponsors to demonstrate value. Once you get a sponsor, using your marketing data can help motivate them to give again. Stay tuned!

What questions do you have about how to get sponsors for events? Have you had success marketing event sponsorships to companies in your area? Please share your advice with other readers in the comments.