The Secret to Renewing Event Sponsors – Revealed!

The Secret to Renewing Event Sponsors – Revealed!

If you are hosting a fundraising event this year that you have hosted before, you are probably in the position of “renewing” the support from your business and individual sponsors. If you have a very “mature event,” meaning one that has been repeated several times over, you are hopefully getting to the point where all of your event expenses are covered by sponsors – right? You are completely immune to the weather – right?

So how do you secure sponsorship donations year after year? How do you “renew” them? There is a foolproof secret, and I’ll reveal it in a bit, but first, let’s revisit ten basic tips about event sponsorships.

  1. You want your sponsors to cover the actual hard costs of the event. That way ticket sales, auction proceeds, raffles and everything else is pure profit. (And if you DO get rained out, you’re not left in the hole!)
  2. You want your sponsors to be “tiered,” and you want the number of top level sponsors to be limited. For example, offer just one single lead sponsorship at $10,000, three at $5,000, and as many as possible less than that.
  3. The best time to “renew” sponsors is right after the event!
  4. Right after the event is also the best time to sit down with them and ask them how you might make the event more valuable to them as a sponsor. Did they get enough recognition, the right kind of recognition? Do they have ideas about how the event could evolve?
  5. Should you ask them to upgrade their sponsorship? – YES! Ask your $1,000 sponsors to give $1,500 next year, and your $1,500 sponsors to give $2,500 next year.
  6. Always send last year’s event sponsors the printed invitations, even if they haven’t renewed. You might even go back several years. That way they still get a chance to stay in touch with the event. And maybe they’ll sponsor next year.
  7. Also – include sponsorship information with the printed invitation itself (to everybody). It will be too late for a sponsor to get listed on the invitation, but not too late to be listed as an event sponsor on the website and at the event itself. “We still need sponsors…”
  8. It’s better (and usually easier) to raise the money needed to buy beer and wine than it is to get the beer and wine donated. Doing so also allows you to control both quality and quantity. This principle also applies to donated doughnuts, coffee, desserts, and so on. Most donor events should not be potlucks! For one of my most successful events, we bought all the ingredients and had the chef donated – it was fabulous.
    (BTW – I am used to getting pushback on this point, from people arguing that some businesses will ONLY donate food items. My response is that it’s fine as long as the quality and quantity of the items donated were up to par with what you would have purchased for the event under any other circumstances. Lowering your standards just because it’s free is not a good idea. What about people who say they don’t want their contributions spent buying them dinner? Have a fish bowl near the exit for people to drop off checks to help defray the costs of the dinner – “Suggested Donation $50.”)
  9. Ask your event sponsors why they sponsor the event. See if you can get a quote from the CEO about why supporting the land trust is important to the company every year. Then PUBLISH their quotes at the event, on your website, in the newsletter, and everywhere else you can think of.
  10. Want to learn more about events? Go to as many events in your area as you can. As a legitimate event expense, buy tickets to events hosted by other land trusts, other conservation organizations, and any other organizations you admire – those that you feel are really doing a good job. Come back prepared with a list of ideas for your event (and things you’d just as soon not do).

So enough already – what’s the secret to renewing last year’s sponsors?

Call them.

Yup – simple as that. Send a renewal letter first with your sponsorship packet. Send it to all of last year’s event sponsors and even go back a few years. Remind them of their sponsorship last year and in years past. Ask for an upgraded sponsorship. Mention a specific amount. And then CALL EACH ONE. Within three weeks, pick up the phone and talk to them in person. Businesses, even more so than individual donors, can easily miss something in the mail. It’s important to let them know that they are important to you personally. You convey that importance by talking to them in person. These are great calls for Board members to make!

During the call, you will want to remind them of their past support and any personal anecdotes you can remember from last year. Tell them that their support of the event supports your mission and why that’s so critically important. Have a story or two ready about what has happened in the last year and how the event created the possibility for that success. And then ask them to support the event again at the upgraded level. Make sure to mention the same specific amount as the letter. Make the calls in reverse order of sponsorship size – the $10,000 sponsor first, the $5,000 sponsors next, and so on, and be prepared to brag about who you’ve already got as sponsors!

Got some events stories? Do share.





Photo courtesy of Grandon Harris, Bayfield Regional Conservancy.

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Will I see you at a conference this spring? This spring I’m heading to state conferences in Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania. I’m also planning to attend the River Rally in Mobile, Alabama.

Will I see you there?


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Last week, blogger and humorist Vu Le, Non-Profit with Balls, came out in favor of the oxford comma, which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is intelligent in addition to being pretty funny.

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Fundraiser’s Almanac
Here’s what I’m thinking about for April. What are YOU thinking about?


Getting My Files Organized:  I am – admittedly, and proudly – an “old fart.” I still use paper files and I still depend on them, even though I get better every year at finding things electronically. Regardless, April is a good month to get whatever-files-you-have organized. Take the time in April to get your files (be they paper or electronic) in order. Start with your board members and former board members. Then work on your top donors. Pretend that no one who knows this person is still around. How can you organize the information in such a way that a relative newcomer can learn it quickly?


Renewing Lapsed Members:  My basic system for renewing members was to send them a sequence of an email, four letters, and a phone call (usually resulting in a message left on a machine). Still some people simply did not respond at all. And that group represented an important audience for me because wooing them back was easier and cheaper than replacing them with someone new. But how to woo them back?


Donor Screening:  Second only to formally soliciting your Board Members to make their own gift commitments, Donor Screening is probably the most important tool for getting Board Members started with major gift fundraising. And April is a great month to do it. For more information about donor screening, look on my Resources Page for the Donor Screening fact sheet.


Spring Appeal:  If you’re doing a Spring Appeal this year (and I recommend it) you should send it out in April. I like sending Spring Appeals out to members and donors asking them to help with something other than operations; like money to buy a stewardship truck for example, or to raise the closing costs on a spectacular new preserve. To maximize results, you’ll want to pay attention to all the rules of direct mail marketing, and you’ll want to send out at least one follow-up letter. So – mail the first letter toward the end of April and one the week before Memorial Day.

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