How to Find a Sponsor

If you are looking for some support for running a project, you have to know that commercial* sponsors seek SPECIFIC BENEFITS, and not just popularity!

What commercial sponsors (hereafter called just sponsors) are interested in are the opportunities to directly reach their target customers in a way which guarantees that the latter:
– Will consider the sponsor’s message;
– Will be provoked to later take a specific action – look for more information by phone or internet, visit a trade location and examine a product, directly buy or …

Here are some tried and tested recommendations to those who seek sponsorship support:

1. Don’t explain your ideas in a phone conversation or in a “hit-or-miss” way because:
– At this very moment the person you are addressing is most probably engaged with an urgent professional or personal matter and will miss important details of your presentation because he is thinking of something else;
– You could hardly find the perfect moment when the person you are addressing would have the time necessary to think upon your idea and make a final decision. You should give him all the information written down so that he could read it whenever he prefers;
– The support of your idea would often need the approval of someone on a higher position. In this case, you have to make sure that everyone in the approval chain reads the complete set of written presentation materials and not a-getting-shorter-and-distorted summary.

2. Prepare materials, which are easy to read and understand since you’ll have a very short time to impress your potential sponsors.
Everyone who has read your proposal should be able to quickly find the answers to the following questions:
– What is your project all about?
– What are the benefits for the sponsor if he provides support?
– What exactly do you want and how much (money, products, services etc.)?

3. Don’t send a “list of sponsorship sets” to everyone you could remember, because it is like a shot in the darkyou might have a hit but most probably you won’t get anything.
You’d better do some research on the potential sponsors which might be interested and send personalized proposals to the decision makers – CEOs (in smaller companies), Marketing Directors, Brand Managers, Product Managers, PR Managers and so on. If you don’t know the names and titles of these people, you’d better find them before you write them.

Nobody provides support easily, especially money in cash! That’s why you should prepare a list of potential sponsors, which is large enough to guarantee you the necessary budget after all refusals. Take in mind that big companies receive many support requests and if you want them to consider yours, you should really make an impression!

You could easily use Internet to check whether a company has already sponsored a project similar to yours. Try to find more information. If the sponsors were satisfied, the possibility that they will support you is stronger.

4. Don’t send the same requests to all companies because people are less inclined to consider standard proposals.
It’s more time consuming to adjust the request but if you find a way to impress each sponsor separately, you have really strong chances to succeed.

NB! Before you send the request, try to understand the goals of the companies or people you want to attract as sponsors. Find a way to present the benefits for each potential sponsor so that he could consider your proposal as a tool for reaching his own goals!

5. Don’t send your request just before the deadline!
Big companies (i.e. big sponsorship budgets) have planned their marketing expenses at least 3 months earlier and they have almost no possibility to find a way for an extra financing.

The bigger sponsorship sum you expect, the earlier you should start the negotiating process, so that companies, which agree to support you, could include the sum in their budgets.

The fiscal year of Bulgarian companies follows the calendar year but it’s not the same with international companies. You could find more information about the fiscal year in most major world economies here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiscal_year.

Usually the budgeting for the next fiscal year is done at the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th quarter of the previous year. The approved budgets are updated every quarter and half-year because this is the time of review of income plans and they are directly related to marketing and corporate social responsibility expenses.

The perfect time to ask for sponsorship is during the discussions of the next year’s budget.

6. Offer your help in maximizing the benefits for the sponsor, in this way you build up trustworthiness.
Always remember that visitors/participants in an event/initiative etc. are attracted by the project’s essence and not by the sponsors’ list. This means their perception system is adjusted to a totally different kind of information and you need a strong stimulus to make people pay decent attention to the sponsor’s message. Nobody knows your project better than you – give the sponsor some specific ideas…

7. Don’t wait for a feedback, take the initiative!
Be pro-active in keeping contact with the sponsors; make sure they haven’t quickly scanned your proposal but have really read it and understood what your offer is. Be insistent until you get a clear Yes/No answer.

I hope you feel already convinced why you shouldn’t send to a potential sponsor a text like this:

For the sum of XXXX EUR your company would gain wide publicity through the preliminary advertising campaign, your logo would be placed on all materials for the event and would be seen by many people; and during the event itself you would be allowed to have branded materials [a list of options], place at [location] an advertising panel sized X/Y m and use a promotional booth.

See also the special publication “How to Write a Sponsorship Request”, which is about the structure of the request itself.

Good luck!

* By “commercial sponsors” I mean those sponsors, which provide financing in order to gain a specific and valuable benefit. Non-commercial sponsors are those, which support healthcare, cultural, educational or other projects for no benefit.

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