Sponsorship, Philanthropy and Partnership

Understanding the difference will help you succeed in the sale

Sponsorship, philanthropy and partnerships are the key to the financial success of most events. Understanding the difference between the type of support to ask for will make a world of difference in the amount you are able to sell or raise for your event.

We’re going to do a small case study to teach you how to approach different companies in your company based on whether they would be a good fit for a sponsorship ask, a philanthropic ask or a partnership ask.

Let’s start by looking at the three different types of support an event or organization can receive.

“Event sponsorship, aside from charity sponsorship, is a part of a company’s integrated marketing communications plan. The main reason there’s an attraction to event sponsorship by marketers is that they can get their product or company name in front of many consumers at once. Marketing know that if they get their product or company under the right event sponsorship, they can get visibility among their target audience.” – Marketing Binder

Philanthropy refers to charitable acts or other good works like volunteering your time or efforts that help others or contribute to the well-being of society overall. For some people, philanthropy means donations of money, often large sums, to support or create university buildings, research centers, or fund four-year college scholarships. For others, acts of philanthropy mean an annual donation to a local theater, food pantry, or public school.” - Investopedia

“An event partner or media partner describes a mutually beneficial collaboration with typically no financial exchange…prospects who have a vested interest in the event topic, product or audience. In return an event partner will not only add value through associating their brand to your event but through opening up their exclusive marketing and promotions channel to help promote it to their audience.” – Sarah Halfpenny Events

Sponsors are looking to gain from being visible at the event. Their hope is to get visibility in order to sell their product or service, usually post-event. In our blog post, Getting Sponsorships Without Begging, we talk about selling sponsorships using your target market. If the people that are going to be at your event are the same people the company sells to then it is to their advantage to be seen at your event. An example would be a college or university sponsoring an awards event where high school students are being recognized. This is the perfect opportunity for the school to showcase what they have available to award-winning students. Or, at a festival that is targeted toward young families, a company like Kraft may find value in sponsoring the event so that they can hand out samples of a new cheese string flavour.

People selling “sponsorships” for a charity organization often make the mistake of treating every discussion like a philanthropic one. “You should support us/our event because we do good work in the community…” Philanthropic supporters will support your charity if the work you do aligns with their values, morals and their commitment to the community. If your organization is for drug rehabilitation and you are approaching a company or individual who supports youth organizations you will likely not make the sale. Philanthropic supporters often have more to give but the cause must align. 

Approaching your local radio station and asking them for $1000 toward your event likely will be a waste of time. A potential partner like a radio station knows the power they have in their reach. The power they have to reach your target audience, likely far outweighs the amount of money you have to spend on marketing your event. Approaching them as a partner will get you much further. But, keep in mind that radio stations make their money by people paying to advertise. If they gave away free advertising to everyone who asked they would never make any money. What do you have to offer them in exchange? This is not a one way street. Do your research, how can your event benefit them? How can your target audience be of value to them?

Before approaching a sponsor, philanthropic supporter or potential partner it is important you know why you are approaching them. How do you see them fitting into your event? Do you see them as a sponsor because you know that your target audience aligns with theirs? Or are you doing a youth focused event and know that company A has a community commitment to supporting youth? Or, you know that the new local radio station in your community is trying to let people know they are now there so you approach them as a partner so that you can promote their arrival in the community and they can use their long reach to help promote your event.

Think about what the conversation would look like if you didn’t do your homework in advance.

Example Case Study

You are working on a soup competition fundraiser for your community youth center. Your target audience at this event is:

  • Women aged 30-35
  • Employed full time
  • Have children over the age of 10 years old
  • They love fine dining
  • They love to sample wine
  • They are in book clubs with their BFFs
  •  Have a family income of over $150,000

In your community, you have the following potential sponsors or supporters to approach;

  1. A mechanic
  2. A jewelry store
  3. A book store
  4. An insurance company
  5. The grocery store
  6. A large accounting firm
  7. The local volunteer fire department
  8. A gas station
  9. A coffee shop
  10. A barber

When you know who your target market is, knowing who to approach as a sponsor is easy-peasy. Which of these companies do you think would have the same target market as the event?

That’s right; the jewelry store, the book store, the insurance company and the coffee shop and perhaps the mechanic if they understand marketing. That one might be a harder sell from a marketing perspective if the owner is not familiar with target markets. Others on this list might be a good fit too but I would recommend starting with the low hanging fruit.

Which of these companies would see the philanthropic potential to supporting this event? This one is a little harder to figure out without doing some research into each of the companies. If you went to the website of the accounting firm and found out that they are huge supporters of fighting youth hunger, you know that they would be ideal to ask for a philanthropic donation to your event. This of course, does not guarantee that they will support your event but they will most certainly let you through the door to hear you out.

Finding a partner in your community may be a little harder. Remember that a partnership is based on a mutually beneficial relationship. Who from that list above can gain from your event but also provide you with something you need, that is not money. Sometimes to make a partnership work you will need to get creative. How about the fire department? What if you read in the local newspaper that the fire department was doing a campaign to recruit female firefighters? Could you approach them to help with your valet parking at the event and in return you allow them to leave a flyer on the front seat of every car? 

Raising money for your event or organization gets a whole lot easier if you put the time in at the beginning to get clear on your event, your target audience and what you have to offer. Then do your homework before you send an email or pick up the phone. Know who you are calling and why your event is a great fit for them.

Julia O’Grady has big vision, fresh ideas and a proven track record in the events industry. She and her team work hard to exceed client expectations and push ITM Events to achieve greater heights. A driven entrepreneur, Julia also manages the business side of ITM Events including human resources, finances, marketing and writing grant and sales proposals. In taking a high level approach to event management, Julia is able to visualize a project from inception to successful execution. She attracts valuable sponsors by offering meaningful opportunities to engage with participants. Julia uses her keen analytical mind to create incredible events that maximize the available budget. When Julia isn’t planning unforgettable events, she loves travelling the world with her family, staying active, and enjoying fine food and martinis.

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