Setting Sponsorship Levels

February 25, 2014

Reader Question: “We are looking at having a community wide 5K run to help raise funds for the sports programs at our elementary school. We are planning for about 1,000 people. We are charging $20 for adults and $15 for kids. It’s in Berryessa, San Jose, CA. We wanted to have 3 tiers of sponsorship. What amounts would you suggest? It’s our first time putting on this event. The costs are expected to be about 8K. We are a PTA so we are non profit.” – Manju

A Small Change: Before I say anything about levels I should say that your sponsorship levels really change depending on the size of your event, your organization, what kind of benefits you can offer, etc. So this is more of a starting place than a definitive reference on how to set your sponsorship levels. It makes a difference what businesses or groups are geographically near where you work, are you in a big town with lots of small middle and large businesses? Are you in a small town that has mostly small businesses?

Often times non-profits will either ask for way too much or way too little. If your fundraising office raises between 2 to 7 million dollars a year it is going to be a long time before you are able to find a presenting sponsor at the $50,000 level. I would say set your presenting level at somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000. It might take a couple of years to get there but at least you have a starting place. If you have a great event with a sizable number of prominent people coming don’t sell yourself short.

Make sure that you have a few different tiers of sponsorship. Have a basic level that will be your entry point for new businesses and organizations to come in. I usually put that between $500 and $1,500 depending on the size of the event. You want to have a middle level to upgrade those businesses to, and a higher level for your major supporters. The middle level could be anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the size of your event. For a high level sponsor I’d put the level somewhere between $5,000 to $10,000. If you have a huge event you might have another level in there but do not set too many levels or it gets confusing. I think 3 to 5 levels is a good start. If you are a small event with just a couple hundred people $5,000 might be your presenting level.

Think about who you are approaching. If you are approaching a big business they probably have or with the right amount of cultivation could be a major sponsor at some point for you. If you are working with local stores and small family businesses they will probably give in the $500 to $1,000 range. Asking businesses for the right amount is important make sure you are cultivating existing sponsors and that you know something about them (see my post on Making “The Ask” and Prospect Research).

Another thing you can do with sponsors that cover hard costs is provide them with a sponsorship for an in-kind gift or in-kind and cash gift. I would only do this if they cover a hard cost. Some example might be if you have a sponsor that creates your annual video for you for no charge, or you are getting medical supplies for no charge, or services. Make sure that it is something that you will actually use not just a general in-kind service.

It is hard to set levels and set a hard rule for all events. If you have specific questions or you have sponsorship levels at your organization please post them below. Another time I will talk about sponsorship benefits and what kinds of benefits you can offer and what businesses are looking for. My next couple posts will probably be about how to find donors or transparency in giving. Thanks for your comments and please post any ideas or questions.

Reader Question: “I am a member of a fraternity and our chapter is planning our first weekend event next summer for 300-350 tickets being sold. How far out should we start trying to get sponsors?” – Harold

A Small Change: Great questions Harold. It is never too late to make an attempt at getting a sponsorship. I’ve had businesses make a decision to give even a week before an event. However, if you are going to ask for sponsors of $1,000 or more, you need to give your businesses at least 3 to 6 months. When you start getting sponsors that give $5,000 or more you really need to start 9 to 12 months out. Many businesses need enough time for the sponsorship to be in their annual budgeting process.

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Event Sponsorship Levels

February 18, 2014

Do you struggle setting levels for your sponsorship events? Ever wonder what is too high or what is too low? I think those are questions everyone struggles with when you first start a sponsorship program.

Before you set your levels make sure that you have some way to steward and work with these groups (see my post on starting a business program). It is also useful to have a gift acceptance policy and have talked about beforehand how you will negotiate with sponsors regarding their cash and in-kind gifts. I’m getting ahead of myself.

When starting a sponsorship program make sure that you know your history. Many organizations have programs in place with historical sponsors to those programs. Take the levels that you currently have and have an internal discussion about if they are working. Is it really easy for you to get a high level sponsor (then your levels might be too low)? Do you traditionally have a lot of major sponsorship gifts or is it all small size gifts (levels too high)?

Note: I want this blog to be about what your nonprofit needs and questions are. Please let me know if I am talking about information you are interested in or if you have specific or general questions.

Reader Question: “We’re having a concert/gala for our young ladies in my church. These are people of our own community in need of a lot of assistance because of the rural area we live in. There are scholarships that we want to give to these young people, along with gifts and monetary offerings to make sure their focus remain on obtaining the goals set forth for their futures. Can you assist me in the necessary things I need to get started [with promotions]?” – Sheila

A Small Change: In terms of promotion I would talk with the parents and friends of the students and ask for their help in inviting friends. I would also let them know you are looking to secure some sponsorships. If it is the first time you’ve done an event like that make sure you know your budget and set a fundraising goal. Then ask a couple of local businesses to help sponsor it. I’d start with some of the community banks. Let them know you’re have a sign with their logo or announce them on the stage.

Reader Question: “I’m planning a cross-country “march”. My goal is to raise funds to help the families of soldiers who were wounded or killed in the Afghanistan war. I’m sure that having local sponsors along the way would be helpful, but without knowing specific times as to when I will be in their respective areas, would requesting their sponsorship be wise? Also, how would I be able to reciprocate sponsorship, to ensure that companies also benefit?” – David

A Small Change: How are you planning on promoting the event? There are a few easy things you can do for sponsors. Use your website to post the logos of your sponsors. Or, maybe you could have a special page where your sponsors could share a word of encouragement. For most race type events a great promotion tool is the t-shirt. Put the logos of your sponsors on it. That is a great practical way for sponsors to benefit. If it’s just you “marching” then maybe donors can get a t-shirt for a donation of a specific size.


Party for a Party’s Sake

February 11, 2014

This post is part of a series on non-profit events. From time to time I will have guest authors write in on topics they have an expertise in. Thank you Brenda for taking the time to share some of your thoughts and advice on non-profit events.- Jason

When staff members get together to talk about donor recognition, increasing revenue and finding creative ways to reach new donors, usually one of the first ideas on the table is to have an ‘event.’ But, is a reception, lunch, ground breaking ceremony, auction or dinner what you need? These things can be done well and reach your key audience, but there are pitfalls and drawbacks you want to consider carefully and be careful to avoid.

In planning events, it is important to avoid letting the tail wag the dog. First, decide what your need is. (We need to have a donor event is NOT a legitimate need!) Your need should be defined in terms of moving your fundraising objectives forward. Let’s say your organization wants to draw attention to the opening of its new housing facility for victims of domestic violence. Which donors or groups of donors need attention and what has been done to communicate your message so far? You may not be able to design one event that is the best solution for every group. Better to have a clearly defined message and defined measures of success for one group than an event that invites everyone, but doesn’t advance your objective. Sometimes, an event is NOT what you need. You may be able to get the same results with visits or other techniques. The worst thing you can do is spend money for a party and then find that your event didn’t attract your core audience and you spent your time and money on fancy hors d’oeuvres for staff.


Starting a Business Program- PART 2

February 4, 2014

Read PART 1 about working with employee groups and setting up a gift acceptance policy.

When starting your program you can look to develop in a few different ways (cont’d):
Have businesses sponsor event or programs. Look at your organization and figure out what is that you have that you can “sell” to a local business. They want to lend their name to your organization it makes them look good and adds credibility to your organization. What annual events or campaigns do you have that you could ask businesses to sponsor? I’ll talk more about setting levels at a later time. Is there a place on your organization’s website that you could post a message that says, “this page (or website) is sponsored by” and post a business logo? This can be done for an e-newsletter, a monthly publication you send out, a brochure you create, etc. It is important that you are specific about what the business is getting so they know what exactly they are sponsoring and for how long. And don’t sell yourself short. One of the biggest problems non-profits have is that they will offer too much for too little.

General contributions and grants. Lots of businesses have money that they want to give to local and national community projects. My best advice here is that you just need to ask for it. A mid to large size organization might get some random gifts from local businesses but if you are a small non-profit they probably don’t know about you (same thing if you’re a mid-size non-profit). Put together a plan for how you will approach past business givers, and a plan for how you will look to involve new ones.

I could probably talk in a great deal of more depth about business and will continue to at a later time. Do you have any specific stories or questions related to business giving?

Reader Question:”We hold an annual, volunteer run event and this year I am making a stronger effort to get in kind donations for things such as tables for the info fair, video equipment and laptops loaned for the day, etc.. The problem is that the folks that are attending our event are not a natural client base for party rental services and tech equipment. What can I offer potential donors in light of the fact that it will be pretty obvious that advertising to our group will not likely garner them additional business?” – Katie

A Small Change: Katie great question. Businesses benefit in a number of different ways through sponsorship. They have an opportunity to set themselves up as community advocates because they’ve given. I think one of the largest reasons businesses give is because they want the public perception that comes form giving.

Think about other opportunities and ways you can promote your sponsors maybe on your website. I would be surprised if no one in your donor base has regular events. This is a great way for a business to get their name in front of some new people.

Reader Question: “What would a non-profit organization charge businesses annually to have their logo/name on the web-site? Is there some “formula” for advertising benefits to the company that we can reasonably ask for and not undercharge?” – Sheila

A Small Change: I wouldn’t say there is a formula. I would steer clear of advertising and focus on sponsorship. If you are a large nonprofit or you have a lot of visibility then you can have higher sponsorship levels. Make sure you are setting something up you can sustain. Try to start reasonable and upgrade sponsors as you grow in recognition.