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Get ready to rock-n-roll in Nashville, TN, at the Raise fundraising conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum!

Sept 9 & 10

Get ready to rock-n-roll in Nashville, TN, at the Raise fundraising conference!

Sept 9 & 10

The Secrets to Cultivating a Relationship with your Event Sponsors

Reading Time: 4 minutes


It is no longer a secret that building partnerships are vital to the longevity of any organization or personal brand. That is why I teach…

Relationship first. Business second.

Imagine someone asking you for money to execute their event without knowing them or their vision.

Now, I know some of you are generous, but let’s face it, generosity is not the collective human strong suit.

The value of building a relationship first with your potential sponsors allows you to gain an advocate for your organization who will have a direct influence on a sponsors funding decision.

So, let’s get into the three secrets to building better sponsor relationships this year.

Secret #1: Identify brands that best align with your organization and target audience

Your efforts to do due diligence before connecting with a potential sponsor will never be in vain! Ensuring that you are aligning with the right partners on the front end will help guide your team through the sponsor outreach process. 

Another, helpful tip to this secret is to leverage your audience data to drive your research and outreach. This is important because you want to make sure the brands you bring to your audience will bring value to them and vice versa.

For example, if you serve low-income families that really like American-made cars, then there is no benefit to them or the sponsor if you seek out having BMW support your event. Why? Because this is not their target audience and your audience prefers American-made cars that are probably sold at an affordable price point.

The short-term effect of identifying aligned brands is that you identify with an organization that is more likely to support the event(s) you are pitching to them, while the long-term value is that you potentially can gain a longtime financial supporter for years to come.

Fast action: Make a dream sponsors list of 100 organizations locally, regionally, and nationally that are aligned with your organization’s mission, values, and target audience.

Secret #2: Cultivate relationships before you need them

Building relationships with your sponsors can be similar to the process of dating. Never kiss on the first date! When you think about the process of dating, there are four stages.

  • Getting to know someone: During this stage, you are asking questions and getting to know the details of how your potential sponsor likes to partner with others via a sponsorship. You should be asking questions like, “What types of brand benefits do you value?”, “How long is your approval process?”, “How do you like to engage with your target audience?”. These questions will give you insight about what to put in your pitch deck and how to navigate the conversations when pitching an event to your sponsor. 
  • Dating: During this stage, you are invited to submit your sponsorship proposal and you may even have an opportunity to pitch your specific event to the sponsor you are going after. Please be mindful of submitting unsolicited sponsorship packages as some companies do not accept submissions they have not requested. This stage also will consist of back-and-forth negotiations. It is also a way for you to build on your understanding of the sponsor’s needs. For instance, after reviewing your sponsorship package they may negotiate a swap in brand benefits or they may negotiate the price. Always go with what you’re most comfortable with, but be consistent across sponsors to ensure fairness. Also, do not feel like you have to agree in order to secure funding. 
  • Engagement: During this stage, they say ‘Yes’! Yes, we will support your event because it aligns with our organizational priorities. This is the moment you get to shine by showing your sponsors in action why their investment was planted into the right organization. At this stage, you are collecting logos, promotional items, quotes for press releases, and more. Note that you are collecting only the things you need in order to fulfill the sponsorship agreement. 
  • Marriage: During this stage, both you and your sponsor(s) are fully committed to locking arms together to serve the community your organization advocates for. In fact, they become eager to work with you year after year. This stage can potentially open doors of opportunities for your organization to explore even more innovative initiatives or events alongside the sponsor. You can only get to this point if you do not skip the other stages of building a relationship with your sponsor.

Patience leads to longevity.

Take your time building a strong relationship with your sponsors because it will create a bridge for a more profitable and sustainable partnership down the line. 

Fast action: Assess your current relationships and determine where you need to put in more effort, then make a plan to send them a quick email or hop on a 20 minute call.

Secret #3: Be a person of your word

Following through with event sponsors is an important aspect of event planning and relationship building. To ensure that the event sponsors are satisfied and receive the promised benefits, it is critical to establish clear expectations and deliverables for the beginning of the partnership. This may include creating a sponsorship agreement that outlines the scope of the sponsorship, including the sponsor’s logo and branding on event materials, the sponsor’s presence at the event, and any other agreed-upon benefits. (Access a list of things you can offer a sponsor).

Once the event is underway, it is important to actively engage with the sponsors and ensure that their expectations are being met. This may involve providing regular updates on the event’s progress, coordinating sponsor activities such as product displays or promotional giveaways, and ensuring that sponsor representatives have everything they need to effectively engage with attendees. It is best to track all sponsorships secured and their associated benefits so that your team knows how to fulfill the sponsorship agreement. 

After the event, it is important to follow up with sponsors to assess their satisfaction and gather feedback on how to improve future sponsorships. This may involve sending thank-you notes, providing detailed reports on sponsorship activities and outcomes, and soliciting input on areas for improvement. 

Overall, following through with event sponsors is a critical component of successful event planning and relationship building. By establishing clear expectations, actively engaging with sponsors throughout the event, and following up afterwards, event planners can build strong relationships with sponsors and ensure a successful event that benefits both the sponsors and the attendees.

Fast action: Rely on your board members and staff to support you in this effort. 

About The Author

Mariah Monique, MPH is the Founder and CEO of The Sponsorship Catalyst, where she and her team helps nonprofit organizations position themselves to secure event sponsors by packaging sellable event sponsorship opportunities.

Mariah is a Sponsorship Strategy Educator and Consultant, sponsorship seeker and a funder, so she has a tri-fold perspective to teaching nonprofit organizations on how to secure sponsors. Additionally, she has reviewed and evaluated hundreds of sponsorship packages and pitches, made decisions for sponsorship fund allocation, and built brand activations. She knows what sponsors want.

You can connect with The Sponsorship Catalyst on the following sites.

Instagram: @TheSponsorshipCatalyst

LinkedIn: The Sponsorship Catalyst

Youtube: The Sponsorship Catalyst

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