This blog post appeared as a guest post on the etouches blog
Quite often organizers on SponsorMyEvent ask me: how long will it take to find a sponsor. My answer might be a bit disappointing, but it is very true: sometimes it is very fast, sometimes it takes a long time and sometimes it will not work at all.
Is sponsorship like speed-dating or more like a long-term game? The best answer I could give is: it depends. Let’s see which factors have an influence as to whether you can onboard a sponsor very quickly or whether you have to spend a long time.
Of course money plays a crucial role for sponsorship and the delays. As a rule of thumb it can be said, the higher the tier of involvement is, the longer it will take to onboard the sponsor. It is pretty obvious that $500 are spent easier than $50k. Organizers have little influence on this component, but they should be aware that higher budgets can easily take a couple of months of negotiations before the sponsor will commit and transfer the money. Also it should not be forgotten that companies have budgetary constraints and cannot freely and quickly allocate larger amounts of money within a short amount of time. Companies need to calculate the ROI and justify it. It is important to help them by understanding and anticipating this process. Very often budgets are planned 12-15 months ahead so that organizers should not be surprised that their efforts might become tedious.
The size of the company
Smaller companies are like speedboats while bigger corporations act more like big vessels. In a small company it is very often the owner or one of the partners who decides whether to sponsor an event or not. This essentially speeds up the process and facilitates the negotiations.
Bigger companies need to follow the hierarchy and the workflow. Validation procedures might be in place and quite often your contact person might not have the power to decide over a budget alone. Depending on the number of involved persons, this can take a few days, up to even a couple of weeks in worst case.
Organizers have few possibilities to interfere with internal procedures, but it is always advisable to reach out to the highest ranked person possible, preferably if this person can decide over the sponsorship budget.
Your pitch will play an important role in speeding up or slowing down the process. The more complete the pitch is, the more streamlined the negotiations will be because you and the sponsor can focus on really relevant questions instead of trying to figure out basics that should be included in the pitch. Key elements for your pitch are the description of the event, the reasons why the sponsor should get involved including demographics and examples of the visibility the sponsor can expect, some words about the organizer and of course the sponsorship packages (or some better constructs if they apply to your event).
It is always extremely helpful to put yourself in the position of the sponsor to anticipate the questions they will ask you. This will speed up the process and avoid unnecessary pitfalls and roadblocks. It can be helpful to see the sponsor as an investorrather than a cash-cow.
Do you have everything ready? Contracts, Invoices, asset-lists etc.? The sponsor might ask you to provide these things even before anything is signed. Surprisingly these are exactly the things that considerably slow down the process – nobody thought about them, nobody prepared them. And when it is time to call, mayhem breaks loose. It is not only putting yourself in a stressful situation but you will as well make a very unprofessional impression to the sponsor. In my trainings and consulting sessions, I urge organizers to use available technology to their benefit. It has never been easier to keep things organized by using the right tools. CRM’s provide great ways to streamline the sponsor outreach and to handle the entire deal-flow. They might include tasks, todo-lists, sometimes document management, tracked emails and many more things that help organizers getting things done.
The downside is of course the steep learning curve. You should not expect to be able to use a fully fledged CRM within half a day. Starting early and being efficient pays off.
Receiving the money can take time. I must admit that never in my life I have paid anything with a check. Still I am puzzled how often sponsors pay their organizers by sending the check by snail-mail. And how often do I hear from organizers that it takes days and days before the mailman rings the door and finally brings the awaited check. The problem is not only the delivery but quite often the problem starts in the company: writing the check is a procedure that surprisingly takes some time and is often postponed in favour of more important tasks. Therefore I urge organizers to use alternative and more streamlined solutions. Of course the good old wire transfer works perfectly well, but more and more sponsors are happy to pay by credit or debit card, especially when it comes to smaller amounts. Make it as easy as possible for your sponsors to pay.
There is a large number of payment providers that will let you accept credit or debit cards, but sometimes the setup process can be consuming and tricky, especially for non-tech-savvy people. We at SponsorMyEvent have made good experiences with Stripe.com (disclaimer: we are not affiliated to them) and have it included in our proposal editor for organizers. You can perfectly include it as well in well known invoicing systems.
No, sponsorship is not always speed-dating. Prepare to engage in lengthy and sometimes maybe frustrating negotiations which may fail at any moment. Finding sponsors is more like running a marathon: the strategy and preparation matters just as much as the execution. If you realze after 20 miles that you forgot to pack in some water, you will never finish the race.