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Part One: Small Shop Sponsorship – The Three-Headed Hydra

October 9, 2017

by Christian Robillard

This two-part series goes out to my warrior-friends in the nonprofits and charities who identify as “small shops.” These organizations are typically under $500,000 in yearly revenue and cringe at the thought of taking on additional tasks that will stretch their already scarce resources.

Well, I’m here to help you succeed in obtaining corporate sponsorship for your next event, campaign or initiative—all while having to invest very little time or resources to make it happen, at least at first.

How do I know this can work? Because I did it myself! I recently made the jump from a small shop with a sponsorship budget of zero dollars. But before I left over a year later, I had raised over $130,000 in unrestricted revenues. All funds raised were renewable and went directly into funding the work our organization was doing. The funds were managed while I only worked part-time (15 hours/week or less). So, believe me when I say I understand and sympathize with that under-resourced and over-worked struggle.

For me, sponsorship at first was a bit like the three-headed hydra from ancient Greek mythology: A fearsome creature that seemed to sprout two more heads each time you defeated one. So, to help you slay the corporate sponsorship beast for good, I’m going to give you the three "biggest heads" you’ll need to defeat to be successful. I'll also include tips to make sure these heads don’t grow back.

These are the same heads I had the hardest time with in my early days, and that I continue to come into conflict with even today. Follow these battle-tested methods, and I promise you’ll see results in the coming weeks and months. Let the battle begin!

The Sponsorship Package

The first "head" I had to fight to overcome was the sponsorship package. Going into this battle I thought this head would surely do me in. I didn’t have a fancy package, or anything really, nor did I have a long list of companies to contact. Yet despite popular belief, you do not need a fancy package, sent to as many inboxes as possible, to slay this head. Ultimately the sponsorship package is not the starting point, but it’s an outcome. The sponsorship package doesn’t sell your sponsors on your opportunity—YOU DO! So, stop typing up that package right now and save yourself the work.

How do you win this battle then if you don’t send your sponsors a fancy, multi-tier sponsorship package? The answer is: just an email.

What goes into this email you say? As little as possible: No details about the event, no gold-silver-bronze levels, no titles in your email signature, no asks of any kind— simply a request to pick their brain about a project you’re working on and a proposed date and time for a meeting.

With this mighty tool, I guarantee you’ll see your number of meetings confirmed jump considerably. (Tried this and still having trouble? Want to know where to go from there? Use these helpful tips to lead you to sponsorship success and further help you in this battle against head number one.)

Wondering who you can reach out to as potential sponsors? Well, let me help you find 394 warm prospects to contact. How do I know this technique works? Some of our staff who were planning a gala came to me for a sponsorship package to approach businesses to sponsor the event. I told them flat out that they wouldn’t need one, and to simply reach out to them via the email example I provided above.

Well, they made one anyways (I weep for the wasted time.) I ended up taking it and locking it in my drawer. I then proceeded to coach them on how to use this email template and a tool called the sponsorship pipeline to get more sponsorships. The success spoke for itself, and they never tried to use a sponsorship package again.

As for those other two heads, you’ll have to wait until next time and see how the story ends.

This article originally appeared in the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter blog. Watch for Part 2 in the December issue of AFP eWire Canada. 

Christian Robillard's expertise is firmly within the event and cause sponsorship space. Christian helps clients identify sellable assets, determine the value of their opportunities, and, most importantly, implement strategies that work. In addition to his work with The Sponsorship Collective, Christian is completing his Master’s degree in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Carleton University, with a focus on corporate social responsibility and corporate giving, social entrepreneurship, impact investing, and fundraising. Christian is the founder of the AFP Collegiate Carleton Chapter in Ottawa.


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