Creative Ways to Drive Event Sponsorship: 4 Protips For Revenue Growth

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Welcome back to the four-part special edition blog series, ‘The Secret Behind a Profitable Fundraising Event: 4 Steps to Success.’

In part one we learned ‘How to Build a Blueprint for a Successful Fundraising Event: 5 Winning Strategies to Get Started.’ But now that you’ve (hopefully) built your event roadmap, let’s take another step forward toward getting profitable and grabbing the attention of sponsors who give you big money. 

Ready?

This blog will explore the creative ways to drive event sponsorship and set you up with four practical tips for revenue success.

Set, Go!

Have you ever heard of an Elevator Sponsor?

You read that right. 

And yep, it is legitimately a real thing. 

Before diving into the reason behind the question, let’s explore a scenario to see if it sounds familiar:

Your organization is well seasoned when it comes to your annual fundraising event and return sponsors are not an issue.

Your team knows the drill:

  • Reach out to the companies that have sponsored in the past
  • Check them off the list
  • Fait accompli.  

Whew, success. Move on to the next task. 

Along comes a new company interested in sponsoring your event. They inquire about how to become involved. This is good, right? Ut-oh, sponsorship slots are filled. (After all, you published limited sponsorship opportunities available per level). That’s okay, you’ll place them on a call list for next year’s event. 

Whew, success. Move on to the next task.

Tip #1: NEVER TURN AWAY SPONSOR DOLLARS

You may be thinking, ‘No way,’ that would never happen. But it does…more often than you would think. 

So, what do you do when you find yourself in a position where a sponsor seeks an opportunity that has already been filled? This little predicament seems to happen more times than not, and bottom line the answer to solving it lies in a little creativity.  

Here’s a real-life scenario to set the stage:

A special events team for a nonprofit was deep into the planning of their annual fundraiser. Midway through, a new sponsor came into the fold with the hopes of sponsoring the event’s photo booth. But alas, the photo booth sponsorship opportunity had already been sold. It did not make sense to the organization to have two photo booth sponsors at the same event. That would be silly. 

Well, that’s a problem. It is a problem, right?

Solution – “Thank you for your interest. The sponsorship is sold this year. But we’ll be happy to consider you for the photo booth sponsorship next year.” Problem solved.

Whoa. Rewind. Take two. Let’s try this again. 

Problem? No way, it’s an opportunity!

Tip #2: ASK QUESTIONS, A LOT OF THEM

This is the perfect time to ask this new potential sponsor open-ended questions such as:

  • What is important to them about sponsoring the event?
  • What is it that they love about the photo booth sponsorship that they would feel like they are missing out on if they chose a different sponsorship opportunity?
  • Why are they attracted to photo booth sponsorship opportunities at other events?
  • What are they trying to accomplish with their sponsorship?

Fortunately, simple questions like those above were asked in this real-life scenario. It not only helped guide a better solution for both parties, but it also made the inquiring company feel as if the nonprofit was truly engaged in the partnership and focused on delivering value, personalization, and return on investment – an important posture for sponsorship retention. 

Here’s what the nonprofit discovered in our real-life example:

  • The company liked the photo booth sponsorship because attendees could have a takeaway photo with their logo on it.  
  • Their competition is a frequent sponsor of event photo booths and they felt they should follow the same manner.
  • They were new in town and wanted lots of logo presence for brand awareness.

OK, got it. That was easy – logos in all the places and brand development. So, this event team seized the opportunity and asked themselves, “What if we delivered above and beyond what a simple photo booth sponsor could provide?”

Tip #3: BE FLEXIBLE AND CREATIVE

A Better Solution

At this particular event, guests had to take an elevator from registration to the main stage event. The answer was simple: brand the elevator with the company’s logo and stage a volunteer (wearing the company’s gear) as the elevator host. The volunteer was also equipped with a selfie stick, and as an “ice-breaker” got all the elevator guests together, on each ride up, for a fun group selfie that got the party started at “Hello.”  

But it did not end there:

  • Add a hashtag! (hint: that involves the sponsor’s name)
  • Hashtag photos to social media
  • Display larger-than-life photos

Technology such as tintup.com or OneCause mobile bidding leaderboard functionality will display real-time photos on any big screen.  

Once the elevator guests arrived in the event space, they were immediately greeted visually by their selfies on the big screen with their new friends. Surprise! Nothing short of amazing. 

This is a true story. 

So, how did it end? 

The new sponsor appreciated their elevator sponsorship.  Mission accomplished. The company loved seeing its brand everywhere around the ballroom from the moment that guests arrived throughout the event space. Their presence continued on social media, and their reach was broadened by guest shares. 

What a hoot!

But, did the sponsor return the following year – you bet! The company prefers the elevator sponsorship over the photo booth sponsorship because it delivered a much higher value.   

And, wait for it….the creative sponsorship idea achieved more sponsorship dollars over the photo booth opportunity.

It was a win-win. 

Now back to the original question: Do You Have An Elevator Sponsor? 

How to secure more event sponsorship is top of mind for most nonprofits. But ironically enough, there are often several cards left on the table and with that, unclaimed sponsorship opportunities. Though sponsorship packages are a great starting point, they should only be used as just that – a starting point.  They should guide the conversation and outline your standard offerings. 

Your sponsorship deck is just a tool – a tool to be used to guide your sponsor through your story and mission, the basic event details, and the standard packages you offer.  

The sponsorship deck allows your potential sponsor the opportunity to:

  • Review the details
  • Discuss with their teams
  • Level set goals
  • Ideate
  • Explore creative opportunities

It does not necessarily meet your needs and goals. 

Often sponsors find more value in a creative marketing opportunity at your event, one that is interactive and social; rather than their logo printed on signage and mentioned 100 times throughout the night; okay maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But you get the point.

Though you might find companies that are fine with the $5,000 traditional Gold Level Sponsorship Package, that gets their name on a table, their logo printed in your program, blabbity blah, your event could be filled with TONS of additional opportunities for engagement and creativity. 

If there’s one takeaway from this article, it’s this: there is nothing at your event that is not sponsorable. (Spell check says that isn’t a word, so now it is! But we did find it on Kaikki. hee-hee) 

Circling back to the elevator as an example. 

Had the planning team not gotten creative with how to translate a ‘sold out’ sponsorship package (hint: you’re never sold out of sponsorship opportunities), there would have been a huge, missed opportunity. 

Instead, the nonprofit: 

  • Creatively pivoted
  • Engaged and interacted with the sponsor in a meaningful way
  • Fully understood what the sponsor was trying to accomplish
  • Delivered above and beyond
  • Provided built-in event entertainment
  • Achieved additional event sponsorship revenue

The next time you think your event has run out of sponsorship opportunities, put down your sponsorship package and take a little ride in the elevator for some inspiration. 

Tip #4: BUILD A SPONSOR PLAYBOOK THAT COVERS THE BASICS

Your sponsorship deck is ultimately a sales tool for you to engage with your potential sponsors.  While flexibility and creativity are key, it is important to have a solid deck in place as you launch the relationship-building process.  

Here is a none-point, essentials, checklist to make sure that you are including all the necessary details to deliver a sponsorship deck that sells. 

  • Cover Page
  • Your Mission/Story
  • Event Overview
  • Testimonials from Attendees and current sponsors
  • Social Proof – list of current/past sponsors – social media posts (i.e. what attendees have posted/said about your event)
  • Attendee Profile – list out your demographics
  • Why sponsor?  Tell potential sponsors why your event will benefit them
  • Sponsor packages – list out all your standard opportunities
  • Contact Us Page


Questioning how many sponsorships you need to sell? Well . . . then it sounds like you missed the first article in ‘The Secret Behind a Profitable Fundraising Event: 4 Steps to Success.’ Take a pause and read all about  How to Build a Blueprint for a Successful Fundraising Event: 5 Winning Strategies to Get Started,’ then come back by and reread all the nuggets of goal in this article.

Guaranteed it will all make so much more sense.

Wrapping Up!

Goal setting…check!

Sponsorship sales…you’re gonna own that.

Now that your plane is ready for take-off, it’s time to ensure that the flight is full (aka your event is sold out) and your passengers are gonna be great customers (attendees->donors). 

Step three in this series will be all about marketing. And not just about getting the word about your event out there. It’s more about making sure you’ve got the right butts in the seats. 

See you there!

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