How to Write a Sponsorship Request

In my previous post “How to Find a Sponsor” I published some tips on how to look for support to realize projects.

But the key role for getting the necessary support has the sponsorship request itself – a written document which you particularly prepare for each potential sponsor!

Having been at the position of Marketing Manager at a number of market leading companies, I have probably read hundreds of sponsorship requests, and I have myself sent to both Bulgarian and foreign partners many requests for (extra) support – financial, product, information etc. As a result of my success and failure analysis, I found a universal structure which always has good results, given the other party’s general interest and available resources.

According to me, a good support request (sponsorship request) should include:
1. Short presentation of you or your company.
2. Brief and clear description of your project’s basic idea.
3. Short project’s description which could be easily understood by each specific sponsor you are addressing.
4. Description of the audience.
5. Description of the communication channels you offer to the sponsor.
6. Description of what you want to receive.
7. Proposal for the sponsorship’s documentation framework.
8. Applicant’s contact details.

Here is what each of the above mentioned parts should include:

1. Short presentation of you or your company which
– makes the “acquaintance process” easier – the potential sponsor quickly obtains the basic information about who is asking for support;
– reassures the sponsors that (probably) you are a serious and reliable potential partner who wouldn’t cause reputation and/or financial troubles if they decide to work with you.

Explain in 3-4 sentences who you are, what is your business, how good you are in what you do etc. Include mainly such information which could be useful in terms of the project for which you seek support.

If you have a personal internet profile or corporate web site, here is the place to present it.

NB! If you address companies or people you don’t know, do not skip this introductory part!

2. Brief and clear description of your project’s basic idea.

Here are some examples:
– If you plan to organize an event for talented children, explain your attitude towards talent and why you are interested in this area.
For example: “We think that talented people represent a national treasure and we seek for opportunities to find and support them from an early age…”;

– If you plan to organize an event for presenting some management software solutions to business clients, explain your notion of software automated management.
For example: “We firmly believe that, in this globalized world, it’s impossible to build a stable and successful business without the adequate use of information management systems. They are indispensable for making informed business decisions, especially when large amounts of diversified data from different correlated activities should be quickly processed and analyzed”.

– If you are gathering funds for the establishment of an informational internet portal about the green beans, explain why this plant is so important.
For example: “We think that the green beans has been widely and undeservedly overshadowed by the haricot beans! The green beans possesses the same good qualities as the haricot ones but in addition, its green colour has a soothing effect on the nervous system and thus leads to a complex nutritional result.

NB! The aim of this paragraph is to make the potential sponsor identify with the particular cause, area of work etc. If he could find in your project his own perception of things, everything becomes easier later (this is the reason why I recommend personalized requests instead of standard sponsorship packages). In order to achieve this, you have to preliminary find out whether the sponsor organization had supported similar projects in the past or whether you could see some statements of similar ideas in its corporate materials. It’s much more probable that you manage to get support for an ecological project from an organization which has accepted “the green idea” as one of its corporate values, right?

3. Short project’s description which could be easily understood by each specific sponsor you are addressing.
NB! Make use of many pictures, visual simulations, diagrams, drawings and other graphic materials because they present the idea much more quickly and convincingly than a non-illustrated text (remember that “an illustration works better than 1000 words”).

Use, also, specific numbers and data as much as you could! This makes it easier for the potential sponsors to estimate their interest in your project. Here are some guiding questions you’d better answer in the most specific terms:
– “When do you plan to realize the project?”;
– “What will be the circulation number of your product (books, albums, paintings, movies … )/ how many events will you organize (concerts, seminars, training sessions … )/ what rooms will the building you plan to create have/ what areas do you plan to sow under particular plants etc?”;
– “At which and how many places will the project’s results be announced?”;
– “How much and what type of audience do you expect to gather – customers, readers, viewers, visitors, event participants etc?”;
– “Do you plan a preliminary advertising campaign?” If YES, then describe it with a few words (a little bit further down, you’ll have to do it in much greater details).

NB! Try to explain how you will obtain a stable long-term effect of your project (according to my experience, few sponsors provide support to incidental projects).

If you have already realized a similar project, include its description + illustration materials. In this way, you’ll present your idea much more convincingly using real data and graphic materials, and apart from this, the potential sponsors would know it’s not your first similar project and would be more relaxed that you know what you are doing.

4. Description of the audience.
Here is the proper place that I restate the sponsors’ basic wish – to find opportunities for direct communication which would guarantee that maximum number of (potential) clients would notice the message and (ideally) would undertake the desired actions. Depending on their goals, the sponsors might want to provoke their potential customers to: make a specific purchase; visit a trade area or find more information on a web site; provide personal data to be later used for active communication etc.

I am careful towards brand awareness raising initiatives which are aimed only at exposing the company logo or some advertising vision, WITHOUT making the potential customers do something in particular…

Since projects, which need support, could be totally different, unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to discuss all possible cases. There are, however, some common basic issues which you shouldn’t ignore.

The project’s audience includes not only the people who are directly involved in it, but also all the others who will learn about it by the media or by “word-of-mouth” comments.

4.1. Profile of the audience which will be “irradiated” during the campaign, before the project’s start and after its end.
This audience is defined to a great extent by the nature of the used communication channels. Describe what types of people will see/smell/hear/touch/taste the message before the project’s realization.

If you plan a media campaign for announcing the project, provide a media plan summary, which contains: medium, type, audience, circulation, frequency, type of publication, content of publication. Here are two examples:

  • A clored A4 size insert will be distributed together with 3 issues (Feb-Apr) of “Bulgarian Entrepreneurship” – a monthly magazine about management, marketing and economy, which is published in 5000 circulation and targets owners and CEOs of small and middle-sized companies.
  • An appeal for visiting the specialized web site for event registration will be placed in a coloured, animated graphic banner (web site position No 3, size  180×90 pix, 50% rotation) for 3 months (Feb-Apr) on “www.bgteen.info” – a web site with tips, fun stories and gossips for teenagers aged 11-18. The site has 2500 unique visits daily.

Such a description has several positive effects:
– It shows that you have specific ideas how to reach the audience you want to attract, and the sponsor could estimate your chances of success;
– It clearly illustrates the potential broad audience, i.e. the sponsors could see other interesting groups to which to address their messages;
– If they decide to support you, you might receive interesting recommendations for other media which the sponsors know well.

4.2. The most exact description of the profiles of the groups which will be “consumers” of your project’s results.
These are the people who have decided to take part in your project and are the direct “target” of the sponsors’ communication.
Don’t be tempted to say that you are doing something for ALL WHO … (love nature, like funk music, adore their home country etc.). Describe the target audience in the most accurate way:
– Gender
– Age
– Social status
– Demographic characteristics
– Education
– Income
– Special interest/knowledge in specific areas
– Health condition
– ??? (whatever else you consider important)

Example 1: Teenagers aged 12-16 form the 7 biggest cities in Bulgaria (Sofia, Stara Zagora, Plovdiv, Burgas, Varna, Russe, Pleven) who use mobile phones with Internet access.
Example 2: Employees from the whole country aged 30-45 with minimum annual net income of 60 000 BGN.
Example 3: Children who are raised at homes without parental care in Sofia district, aged 14-17, who go to school regularly (i.e. their level of literacy is similar to the same-aged children who are raised in a family environment).

NB! This description has also a useful “side effect” – you can reconsider whom exactly you are addressing.

4.3. Aftereffect (similar to the aftertaste when drinking wine)
If you expect your project to have some further life in the real or virtual world, state it. If you suppose that specific media would be interested, point out (with some level of uncertainty) that you expect them to produce reports, articles, interviews etc. and to broadcast/publish them XX months after the project’s realization.

4.4. Approximate estimate of the audience’s volume.
It’s usually impossible to provide an accurate forecast, but try to present some realistic quantitative estimate of the audience:

– About the informational campaign before the project (gather in advance some information about the viewers/listeners/readers of the media you intend to use).
For example: The special Facebook page and the virus internet marketing campaign will guarantee 200 000 clicks on the information for a month OR The ad insert with event invitation will reach the post boxes of 30 000 people in the XYZ districts of Sofia.

– About the project itself
For example: The gathered funds will ensure the adequate medical treatment of 50 people for a year OR The concert will gather between 10 and 12 thousand live listeners, and ABCD television will broadcast its record at a time slot with min 800 000 viewers (data provided by XYZ) OR The exhibition will be visited by 5 000 – 7 000 people during 2 months.

5. Description of the communication channels you offer to the sponsor.
As a general rule, sponsors don’t like to support causes together with some competitors, because the audience’s attention will be distracted between two or more similar proposals, and the sponsor with a less attractive one will always regret making an investment which actually helped his competitors more.

Of course, the above mentioned rule has its exceptions. Such are the niche marketing events concentrating efforts on a specific product or event. If someone is organizing a seminar on the chocolate’s role in marketing communication, then all chocolate producers are potential sponsors. Let them decide by themselves how to take part in order to outdo their competitors.

Decide on your conception of attracting sponsors. The extreme options include, on one hand – one exclusive sponsor, and on the other – the so called crowd funding (many people and organizations participate with small funding sums). There are various combinations between these two options – think creatively.

Sponsors particularly value several options:

A) To have the opportunity for direct live communication when a sponsor’s representative:
– makes (a short) greeting in front of guests/viewers/listeners;
– delivers a lecture in front of the project’s audience;
– takes part in a discussion panel;
– gives answers to questions in an internet forum;
– ??? (whatever else you might find appropriate).

B) To run a research among the audience of the project, that would help them improve their product and increase its sales;

C) To get the registered participants’ contact details in order to use them in their marketing campaigns;

D) To receive part of commercial projects’ revenues;

E) To get the commercial/intellectual rights of (some of) the products of commercial projects.

All the other options for communication with the project’s audience are supplementary:
– Placing the sponsor’s logo at various materials;
– Using visual advertising materials;
– Handing out print advertising materials;
– Short presentations in various press materials;
– Special presentations on web sites – from a separate page to a leading position in the list of sponsors;
– Product tastings;
– Branding of interactive games, competitions and other ways to popularize the project
– ??? (whatever else you find appropriate)

NB! Make sure that you have specified your willingness to discuss other sponsorship opportunities. Sting’s concert managers, for example, don’t do this – the sponsors either accept the fixed sponsorship packages or not. If you think you could compare to Sting in terms of popularity, ignore this advice. If you decide, however, that you have still to work to reach him, be flexible!

6. Description of what you want to receive.
Be as accurate as possible when stating what and how much you want! If you see alternative ways of support, describe them.
Example 1: A single support of 10 000 EUR cash.
Example 2: Allowing the use of XXX conference hall at XXX date from XX (hour) till XX (hour).
Example 3: Providing an inkjet photo printer, model XXX, and the consumables for printing of XXX number of photos.

NB! Be creative! The easiest way is to ask for money, BUT it is the most hard to receive, because money in cash is expensive and seldom in excess.

Sponsors have often signed corporate contracts for preferential prices for something you might need. Instead of giving money to you to buy XXX at higher prices, sponsors might buy it for you and it will cost them less.

Example 1: If you want to advertise your initiative in the press, instead of looking directly for money, you could ask a sponsor, which actively advertises in the same press, to give you the necessary advertising area (the sponsor will buy it at much lower prices).

Example 2: If you want to ensure food for a humanitarian cause, you might ask owners of food chain stores, restaurants or wholesale food distributors to provide support by giving you food, instead of money in cash (of course, it’s easier for food producers to provide some of their production instead of money).

7. Proposal for the sponsorship’s documentation framework.
If you think this is the place to discuss the formal side of your relations with the sponsor, specify what you offer (sponsorship contract, donation agreement, reciprocal exchange of invoices etc.) …

8. Don’t forget your contact details!
Include at least a phone number and e-mail address, but don’t wait passively for the answer, be the pro-active side.

***

Some tried-and-tested tips:

1. The more specific your request is, the stronger are the chances for a clear Yes/No answer.
Never use “as much as you can afford”, “as much as your situation allows” etc.

2. The shorter, the better.
Consider this request as a way to arouse the potential sponsor’s interest (like the CV when applying for a job) – if your idea is approved, it is certain that there will be more discussions and writing…

3. Use clear and simple language, avoid professional jargon.
The more easy-read your request is, the bigger the chances it will be read till the end.

4. PUT EFFORTS IN PREPARING IT!
Make sure the request is well-formatted, check your grammar and spelling, include enough illustrations which will make it easier for the reader to understand your idea quite right.

5. Test it!
Send the request to 2-3 potential sponsors (but not to the most important ones) and analyze whether you have managed to attract their attention, whether they have understood what and how much you want etc. If necessary, make corrections and only then send the request to the sponsors on you which you count most.

6. If the subject of your project should be regarded as intellectual property, make sure you consult a lawyer about protecting your intellectual property rights! Be careful what you sign and how the distribution of future benefits is organized during and after the project’s realization.

Good luck!

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