Sponsorship Secrets

business professional project teamwork their hands together group meeting work project success brainstorming idea community strategy smile
Sponsor Secrets

Let’s start at the beginning: what is a Sponsor Deck? For our nonprofit newbies, this is one of the most important pieces of collateral you’ll use to help infuse dollars into your fundraising event. This document has a lot of name variations I’ve heard over the years from Sponsor Deck, Sponsorship Packet, Engagement Opportunities, Corporate Partners, and many more, but the gist is all the same: this is how you get the moolah.  They are typically created for a single event, however we have seen (and created) them for multiple events as well.

A typical sponsorship lineup starts high and scales down by hundreds (or more often thousands) of dollars such as 20k, 10k, 5k, 2.5k, 1k, and so forth. There are several lines of thought regarding the naming of sponsorship levels but one consistent rule of thumb is that your highest sponsorship level is usually considered your Presenting Sponsor or Title Sponsor and may include naming rights on the event. For example, Magen’s Marvelous NonProfit Sandwich “brought to you by” Frenches Yellow Mustard. (Yes, I just ate a sandwich and I’m looking at the drop of yellow mustard still on my plate!)

With each monetary tier, there are a number of benefits included that usually outline the number of tables, tickets, or seats that come with each level and the various marketing or promotional benefits. This could include social media posts, save the date, email marketing, logo distinction in marketing materials, etc. 

In addition, the Sponsor Deck may also include an ask letter (a note from the Executive Director or Board Chair), a brief overview of the event, and most importantly, address where the money will go and how it will benefit your cause. Let’s face it, no matter how creative you are with your benefits, they’re all basically the same. Here’s an example:

$20,000 Platinum Level

  • 1 table (10 seats) at the event
  • Includes 4 tickets to the VIP reception
  • Complimentary valet parking
  • 1 designated social media post
  • Preferred seating in the ballroom 
  • Premier Logo presence throughout the event and in all pre-event marketing materials. 

For some organizations, 20k may seem like a HUGE ask. For many of our clients, the starting level can be anywhere from 50k to 100k. It’s all relative, so my first piece of advice is to start your levels just a wee bit higher than you think you can obtain. If you have a small network with small pockets, then maybe starting at $1,000 is the right place for you- there’s no shame in starting small, and for most people $1,000 is not a small ask! 

One of my LEAST favorite approaches to a Sponsorship Deck is laying out the levels in a grid format. If you’re using an X and Y axis grid to present your sponsorship levels, you have inadvertently triggered my highschool math PTSD. Not only is this approach dry and rigid, it lacks the ability to do any storytelling. 

Here are my guiding light principles for securing sponsors for you event:

1. Don’t fall prey to the comfort and ease of relying on a “rinse and repeat“ approach to crafting your sponsor levels, benefits, tiers, and the ask letter. While your Sponsor Deck certainly doesn’t need a full makeover every year, it does need to be “freshened up” every year and fully re-worked every 3-5 years.

2. Prioritize the Sponsor Deck design and get your asks out in a timely manner. All good Fundraisers know you need to get sponsorship requests submitted to most major companies at least 6-9 months in advance to increase the chances of securing those dollars. Don’t get lost in the weeds of your daily tasks and push the sponsorship solicitation out- this can be a nail in the coffin for your pre-event fundraising efforts. It’s best to get started 9-12 months out to ensure you have ample time to get it in front of your major supporters.

3. Keep it digestible!! If your sponsorship packet is over 5 pages, it’s time to bust out your little red pen. Keep the message short and sweet- we don’t need the entire history of the organization and a bunch of pie charts and data numbers (okay so maybe a few but not a whole page!)  …and don’t forget to incorporate mission-impact (ie. what will the dollars help you achieve?) without boring them to sleep. See point 6 below for more on this…

4. Offer realistic (and obtainable) benefits. The number of times we’ve inherited events that promised 12 seats at a table at a venue with 60” rounds is just downright shameful (think “sardines”). Make sure you check with your Marketing Team before promising 10 dedicated social posts, or with your Programs Team before offering “volunteer days” with the kids. Benefits should be attractive, obtainable, and ideally unique if possible. Be creative!

5. Draft a custom ask letter for your event chairs, honorees, or awardees to use for their solicitation. This will create a deeper and more meaningful connection for their network and elevate the perception of the event from potential new donors.

6. Integrate Impact into your deck. What will the money help you achieve? How will their dollars help you achieve your goals, shape your mission, or create a bigger impact on the cause at hand? This critical ingredient is surprisingly overlooked and one that you need to spend time developing if you want real results.

7. Setup and maintain your tracking and follow-up system. Maybe you have a fancy CRM like Salesforce or Blackbaud. Maybe you have a spreadsheet. Maybe it’s quill and ink- whatever it is, make sure you’re keeping track of who you’re contacting and how often you’re following up. As my dad always says, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” so you can’t be afraid to keep yourself top of mind with a “friendly reminder” or “just wanting to say hi” or if you’re really bold, “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”

8. Use negotiation language. This one can be really intimidating for nonprofit professionals who are afraid of coming off “salesy”. What we have to remember is that most of the people we’re soliciting work in corporate environments so this language is comfortable for them. The number one question for a potential sponsor is this: “what’s important to your company and how can my XYZ organization help you achieve that?” This isn’t salesy, this is seeking to understand their needs to see how you can craft a sponsor benefits package that helps them meet those needs.

9. Have a plan in place for securing guest lists once a sponsor has committed. This seemingly simple task can quickly become a full time job with endless back and forth emails trying to hunt down people’s names, phone numbers, and heaven forbid, their food allergies! Using an embedded form, a Google form, or having a person dedicated to this task will alleviate your burden tremendously and help ensure registration runs smoothly.

Let’s also remember: we  can’t take it personally when a sponsor doesn’t come through! There’s a variety of reasons that sponsors don’t support, but there’s one thing we know for sure, sponsors definitely won’t support you if you don’t make the ask in the first place. 

If you believe in your mission, the ask should be easy, so get out there and make it rain! 

Check out our other articles

Dear Development Team Members

Ready to start fundraising?