Make Your Event Sponsorships Stick Without Backbreaking Labor

You’re Ingenious Nonprofit
April 2016
Karen Eber Davis

Your board chair introduces Rob, the sponsor of the day. Polite applause ushers Rob to the microphone. Rob captures the room when he shares how glad his firm is to sponsor the event. He announces three surprising facts about his firm before issuing a challenge to find a quiz on the table to submit for a prize, and he introduces the speaker. As the event concludes, Rob and his coworkers linger to meet even more people. Back at the office, they compare notes, distribute a lot of prizes, and make a dozen follow-up appointments.

Rob and his firm engage in sticky sponsorships. Sticky sponsorships squirt glue all over participant’s minds. The glue dries clear and flexible with the sponsor’s name glowing through. Sticky sponsorships generate new relationships. They move existing ones upward in the customer acquisition process. Stickiness creates a positive association between the event, the nonprofit, the business, and potential customers. Sticky sponsorships return every dollar and more that sponsors invest in them.

This column explores remarkable ideas to grow your income and profits. By helping your event sponsors to create sticky sponsorships, you generate more revenue. Over time you can increase your sponsorship rates. What’s more, sticky sponsorships generate “rinse and repeat” future commitments.

The Sponsorship Challenge

Most event sponsorships barely stick. Like a self-stick note taped to a brick wall, they cling in our minds for a moment before fluttering to the floor.

Want proof? Name one sponsor from the last three events you attended. At the events, you heard the sponsor’s names. You noticed the banners. You read the program. You applauded to thank them. You might even have even filled in a quiz and shook the sponsor’s hand. Do you remember them?

After the event, most of us fail to remember the sponsors. Why? Afterwards, en route to our offices, and in the days that follow, we’re bombarded with other names, announcements, and news. If the event sponsor’s name sticks, it’s remembered, Otherwise it’s lost.

The good news is that research proves that even un-sticky sponsorships create lasting positive impressions on attendees. However, obtaining a “positive impression” may or may not be enough return for a potential sponsor to invest in or renew a sponsorship with you. When I ask my business clients about their return on event sponsorships, most reply, “Not much, but we like helping the cause.” Occasionally clients can trace substantial returns. Most report nebulous gains.

Helping your sponsors to gain sticky returns on their investment supports all the labor you put into events. It assures profitable events. It improves future income.

Sticky Solutions

Here are a few of the low-labor solutions I’ve developed for the clients whom I work with that support sticky sponsorships. 

Sticky Pre-Event

Most of the effort to create sticky sponsorships occurs before events.

  1. Pick your sponsors carefully. Who can benefit from sponsoring your event? Note: This is a very different question from, “Who can we “get” as a sponsor?”
  1. Get sticky early. Ask the business leaders whom they hope will be in the room. Reach beyond fluffy answers such as, “Wealthy people who will become customers.” Instead, learn: “People who are new in town and need financial support.” Ask questions to help the sponsor sharpen their invitation focus. Might you offer some kind of joint invitation? Take back what you learn to your office and build your invitation list.
  2. Suggest and help the sponsor to craft a pre, during and follow-up event plan. How will they activate their sponsorship? How will they take advantage of each benefit in their package? Determine what, if any, help they need from you. Set early deadlines.
  1. In advance, develop emails and materials to support the sponsors marketing efforts. To reduce your labor, explore if the sponsor can help generate or help. Would their marketing people like to help?
  1. Ask what introductions they would like. Assign these to board members, staff, and long-time volunteers.
  1. At least 48-hours before the event provide an attendee list with affiliations.
  1. Since sponsors can actually harm their cause by overselling and droning, work with them to script brief introductions. You have options. Consider sharing a clipping file of successful introductions. Or provide a coaching/planning session with a volunteer expert, etc. 
  1. Plan your introduction of the sponsor. Make it thoughtful and memorable. If possible, include a personal endorsement.

Sticky During The Event

At most events, you’ll be enjoying greeting people and finalizing details. Support your sponsors by:

  1. Encouraging sponsors, board members, and staff to arrive early so people can meet and connect.
  1. Stationing sponsors (and helpers) at intersections in the room so they have the opportunity to greet many guests and to help with crowd control. Ask helpers to stay nearby to catch overflow and move along chatty guests.

Sticky Ever After

After events, everyone is ready for “normal.” Post-event stickiness, however, is like pressing down on something you already glued. It provides great reward with minimal effort.

  1. Within a week, call to thank the sponsors. Ask about their returns. What follow-up do you suggest? Strategize on ways to capitalize on their investment. Can you develop something together? For instance, the sponsor might gather apps, articles, or media recommended at the event and provide it to attendees. As you conclude your conversation, share that you will check in again in a month. Returns take time.
  1. Call in thirty days. Report more good news about the event’s successes. Thank the donor for making it happen. Inquire about their results. Share any feedback you received and any insights about how the sponsor might achieve even more in the future. Let them know about their next opportunity and when you’ll be personally sharing information about it with them. (Put that date in your calendar.)
  1. Add to this list. Use what you learn to make future sponsorships opportunities stickier. Your additional will jet start your next event.

Sticky Sponsorships Without Backbreaking Labor

Sticky sponsorships are labor saving devices. They make renewals a LOT easier. Most of the work can take places before the event. What sticky value will you help your sponsors create?

Karen Eber Davis, MBA, a professional advisor on income development and partnership between for profits and nonprofits, founded Karen Eber Davis Consulting in Sarasota, FL, almost 25 years ago. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams: Open the Floodgates to Sustainability (CharityChannel Press, 2014). For a free excerpt from her book, email