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For many nonprofit organizations, event sponsorships are necessary to acquire the funds to host a successful event. However, pandemics, disasters, economic declines, protests, or any number of unplanned forevents can throw your event sponsorship fundraising in for a loop! While you may not be able to plan for the unexpected, what you can do is be ready to tweak your plan for unusual times.

To ensure that you can still host a successful fundraising event despite unexpected circumstances, we’ll cover a few suggestions for handling event sponsorships even when you’re not at your “normal.” Let’s begin!

1. Perform thorough research

During unusual circumstances, purse strings tend to become tighter. That means that you need a solid plan in place for how you are going to meet your sponsorship goals. The first step to creating your plan is thoroughly researching potential sponsors and creating a list of suitable candidates. Consider major donors, businesses with established corporate social responsibility programs, and well-funded foundations.

When it comes to planning event funding during unusual times, your list of potential sponsors should be longer to account for more potential rejections. Don’t be afraid to enlist a group of volunteers and staff members to call your prospects and reach out to them when they can. Prepare these individuals by presenting them with scripts and training materials so that they feel confident about speaking about your event and what you need from your sponsors.

2. Clearly state your sponsor benefits

One of the biggest draws for event sponsors is the advertising potential. Sponsors sponsor you because they want their name affiliated with you, and with charity in general.

The problem is if an unusual event occurs, or the fear of an unusual event is around, a business sponsor will not be drawn into at-event benefits. For instance, what good is getting a table at your gala as a sponsor benefit if people are suddenly banned from a gathering? Other popular sponsor benefits are banners at the event or a logo on program materials handed out at the event. Sponsors are also named for events within the event, such as a silent auction.

Instead of focusing solely or primarily on sponsor benefits for the event itself, try selling advertising. This might mean you have to rev up your advertising and marketing game first. Likely that investment is worthwhile anyway!

Some pitch ideas for advertising include:

  1. “Your name will be included on 5 emails and 10 social media blasts before and after the event. We have 25,000 Facebook followers and 17,000 email members.”
  2. “Your sponsorship will be named in at least 2 radio interviews and 1 TV appearance. This is a market of over 3 million people.”
  3. “We will include your sponsorship name at the beginning of our YouTube video of the event, which reaches 5,000 subscribers.” 

3. Write a compelling sponsor appeal

Regardless of any unusual events, you need a fantastic corporate sponsor pitch. Here we have a free sample on how to write one.

You want to tweak your letter to frame your work in the context of the bizarre circumstances, to make it relevant to the reader. Here is some specific language advice:

  • “During these strange and difficult times, our program has never been more important.” 
  • “These stressful times have led us to reach out to a wider audience to fill gaps where our typical donors cannot help us this year.” 
  • “If you want to help the people most in need right now, think about investing in us! We have a solid infrastructure already in place to immediately provide aid to our community members most in need.”

These examples demonstrate how to address your unusual circumstances while still illustrating that your organization needs support. After introducing your appeal with this language, detail what exactly you’ll need from your sponsor and how such a partnership would be beneficial for them. For example, you can let them know that you’re looking for $20,000 to round out the budget for your next fundraising event. In return for the funds, you’ll include the sponsor’s branding on your marketing materials and thank them in your end-of-event speech.

4. Pitch to more small businesses

Small companies are some of the most generous folks in America. Score.org reported that 75% of small business owners donate up to 6% of their income to charity. They actually donate 250% more than big business.

When a crisis hits, they are some of the best people to go to for a new or emergency gift. With your team, brainstorm which businesses are still doing well or likely will do well again once the weirdness has passed.

Make sure, when you reach out, you pitch not only the sponsor benefits but the individualistic appeal. When you appeal to a large corporation, you are trying to match to their “social responsibility” or “cause marketing” strategy.

When you pitch sponsorship to small businesses, you are likely pitching directly to the owner themself. The appeal should be heartfelt and more like an individual donation letter or request. Research that list of businesses and try to understand the founders and executives as people. Then go visit them in person if you can! Or call the store or office and strike up a conversation.

Also read: Checklist: Attracting Corporate Sponsors for Your Event

These tips are intended for “unusual times”, but they are also best practices overall. Remember that fundraising in general is much more effective if you have a solid plan in place and a diverse set of prospects. And you should always be appealing in the context of what is going on around us! We may feel more connected to others in strange times, but in reality, we always are connected.

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