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Searching For Sponsors?

Securing sponsors is a big job for events small and large — from the nonprofit that’s trying to raise funds for its projects or the association that hopes, through sponsorships, to offer its members a more elevated and enjoyable conference. And many companies set aside healthy chunks of their budgets with sponsorships in mind. In the B2B event industry, for example, a third of businesses say they are dedicating 21% or more of their event budget to event sponsorship. So, planners can be assured there is support to be had.

Here are some things to keep in mind in the search for sponsors.

Prospect early to hit sponsorship gold

Don’t give your sponsor search short shrift. Start early — a year ahead is none too soon; wait too long and you could put your event in a financial pinch. As sponsorships are secured, you’ll have the funds to afford better-known speakers who will draw more attendees, and that will make an event more valuable in the eyes of sponsors according to Jordan Succar, the cofounder of Sponseasy. By securing sponsors early, you could also lock in amenities for attendees like sponsored happy hours after the convention day ends or valet parking for the annual gala. To make an initial approach to potential sponsors, develop easy-to-digest one-page summaries of audience data that gives them a clear picture of who attends your event. Include examples of how previous sponsors have benefited from being associated with your event.

Give ‘em what they want

Sponsorships are largely business decisions. Even when a company supports charitable causes, it’s still aiming for visibility, so it pays to understand a sponsor’s goals and be flexible in the opportunities offered them. In other words, align sponsorship benefits with a sponsor’s business objectives. So, unlike your grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, which should never be altered, be willing to adjust sponsorship packages. Perhaps the company’s CEO is less interested in a table for 10 at the annual banquet and more interested in leading a seminar on her area of expertise. Hand her the microphone, with the understanding that talks must be substantive and not sales pitches. Perhaps social media mentions are important to a potential sponsor. Be willing to substantially increase the number of mentions that sponsor will receive. Think about ways to extend sponsorship benefits beyond the actual conference. And always be open to new ideas and suggestions from potential sponsors.

Streamline sponsorship search and management

Software and apps can help streamline the sponsorship process. For example, at, a nonprofit can post a profile of its event so potential sponsors can connect with them and perhaps strike a sponsorship deal, all through the website. can speed up the search for possible sponsors by providing sponsorship data and connections to those who make sponsorship decisions. has software that allows planners to create professional-level sponsorship proposals online in minutes. evaluates sponsor possibilities and has an online system to match sponsors with events. Other helpful programs include, a cloud-based management and tracking system,, a sponsorship management system with valuable data and analytics features, and, a platform aimed at associations.

Be an innovator

Thank goodness sponsorships have gone beyond displays of sponsors’ logos printed on a banner or the back of t-shirts. For example, that phone charging bank outside the convention ballroom is an excellent sponsorship op. It will get lots of traffic (maybe if you’ve had one in past years you can even estimate how many people will use it), and sponsors love a busy place where their support will be noticed. Valet parking is an enticing sponsorship option: not only does it provides a much-appreciated service for event goers, but it also allows a sponsor to have their marketing pieces placed in every parked car. For an event that includes families, the right sponsor will be thrilled to underwrite a play area or entertainers like a magician or balloon artist. Other ideas? Offer companies the chance to sponsor bonus attendee events like morning yoga or sell naming rights for the conference’s Wi-Fi network. From nametags and wristbands to floral arrangements and event transportation, just about anything has sponsorship potential.

What about next year… and the next and the next?

Sponsorship support is strengthened when sponsors sign on for multi-year agreements. Such partnerships will simplify a planner’s job and improve the financial foundation of any event. Building relationships with sponsors is the key to getting long-term sponsors onboard, and it is an ongoing task. As Paula Menzes with SickKids Foundation in Toronto told BizBash, “Keeping a sponsor happy begins long before the event. It starts the day of your first discussion about engaging them in the event.”

One way to engage them is by asking for feedback and ideas about your event. Make it clear they are viewed as a partner and that their help is appreciated as you create an experience your audience will value and that will achieve the sponsor’s goals and yours. Showing appreciation to sponsors for their support and putting the spotlight on them — sometimes literally — can cement a partnership. There are many ways to show appreciation — from offering a sponsor something special and unexpected, like a one-on-one chat with a keynote speaker, to having all your staff chime in on a short “thank-you for your support” video.