I know that several of our NCIIA Student Ambassadors brought up the concern of how to raise sponsorships for their entrepreneurial event, whether it is an Invention 2 Venture or a TEDx. So, my first blog post will be some tips that I found helpful when I started raising money for the various organizations I have worked for. Raising sponsorship is not as hard as you might think. It requires vigor and endurance, an occasional display of staggering boldness, a plan of action, and time.
(1) Start early! Most companies allocate a certain amount of money for sponsorships, so it is important to get in on that money before it is gone. So, start contacting companies as early as you can!
(2) Set a budget. You need to know how much you really need to accomplish an event, and the sponsors will want to know how their money is going to be used. I personally like to set up a budget with 3 levels. The first level is the minimum amount of money you will need to put on the event—if you don’t reach this mark, the event cannot happen. The second level is the amount of money you would like to have to implement all of your reasonable ideas—obtaining an interesting/somewhat known speaker, using color flyers instead of black and white, purchasing a bit more advertisement space, etc. The third level is the amount of money you would like to have so that you are not limited in anyway. Granted, this still needs to be a reasonable, attainable amount, but it never hurts to dream big!
(3) Provide incentives. Most companies will be very interested in how they will benefit from sponsoring your event. Know your target and make those benefits most appealing to them. A major benefit will be in advertising opportunities—putting their logo on any flyers or promotional products you send out, having them set up a booth at your event, allowing them to give a short shout out during the event, etc. Be creative and make sure their sponsorship is prominently visual. The more exposure they will receive, the more likely they will help. It might even be helpful to develop an offer sheet which includes: value proposition, why, where, when, how, how much, who, and what.
(4) Start by asking! I give the same advice to a boy interested in dating a girl as I do to people trying to raise money—JUST ASK! This might seem fairly obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people are afraid to ask for sponsorships. This is the part where the staggering boldness factors in, but remember, the worst outcome possible is that they will just say no. Write a short, concise email summarizing the reason why you are holding the event. Tell them what you are doing (the challenge or event), why you are doing it (the purpose), when you are doing it, and specifically what you would like from them as a sponsor (money, advertisement, speaker, etc.) Follow up that you would like to meet with them and discuss the details.
(5) Take advantage of your current contacts/relationships. Companies are more likely to sponsor you if you have some sort of credibility with them. Instead of just cold calling/emailing, have a friend or colleague introduce you to the company. Companies are 80x more likely to support you if you have a connection. Utilize every connection you have, both personal and professional!
And finally, my best advice: smile, stay positive, and say thank you. Fundraising enhances you as a person and will increase the impact of your event!
~ Dee Helton, Student Ambassador at UT Health Science Center