So you've gotten over the hurdle of picking the topic for your event.
But the numbers are rolling in and your dreams of providing every attendee with a motivational print, a pair of knee socks, delicious canapes, and a signature cuppa coffee. That stuff's expensive! And your price point can't support it.
This is where the sponsors come in.
(And yes, it's perfectly fine to have sponsorship at a for-profit event!)
But you're scared to ask for money.
Never fear. Here are some tips to help you ease into the sponsorship game.
1. Think about what you have to offer, then ask accordingly.
So if your event is targeted toward photographers, see if you can get a photo printing company to sponsor your swag bags with a coupon for their services or even the printed materials. Make connections between who is going to be in your audience and what businesses would want to reach them. Advertising dollars are often easier spent in-kind than monetarily, so be sure to recognize that.
2. Be conscious when creating your list of potential sponsors (but always have backups in mind).
Exclusivity is a big selling point for potential sponsors, so be sure to lead with the fact that they'll be the ONLY one in their industry to be advertising. But that doesn't mean all graphic designers will say yes to your request. So keep a list of 3-4 potential sponsors for each item you'd like sponsored, and then just work your way down the list until you hit a business who needs an opportunity that you've created.
3. Make sure you're asking the right sized businesses.
While it'd be AWESOME if Starbucks would sponsor your 20 person workshop, they probably don't need the advertising. And while a brand new letterpresser is going to love creating work for you, it may be a BIG hit to their fledgling business if you ask for 150 letterpress invitations for your conference.
Note how much a particular item costs (let's say, prints for 50 people cost $10 per print with approximately a 50% markup), and then ask if, based on their web presence, client list, or Etsy sales and reviews, if that business can afford the wholesale cost of this in-kind gift (plus any labor that would go into it).
If your gut reaction is no, then do everyone a favor and find a different sponsor. No good feels will come from asking someone who isn't ready to give more than they have.
4. Create a GREAT script.
Dear amazing-business-that-I-have-a-relationship with,
I love your work so much and I am creating an event that could very much use your help. I'm hosting a (insert your type of event here) on (insert date and time here) with (insert the number of people coming here) amazingly talented (insert your ideal audience member here).
With over 50 female entrepreneurs coming together, we are hoping to round up an exclusive team of talented vendors who would be interested in sponsoring (swag bags/food/alcohol/etc.). We were looking at (insert product you want them to donate) and we knew you'd be the perfect fit. We're wondering if you'd consider a full in-kind sponsorship of this event by providing us (insert what you want them to give you...50 motivational prints, 50 headshots, canapes for 50 people).
We think this partnership could be mutually beneficial because 1. our audience is directly aligned with your target market 2. you'd receive (list all the benefits they'd get, like a mention on the website, logo on printed materials, etc.)
And of course, we'd love it if you could attend the event.
Let me know your thoughts and I'm excited to see how we can work together on this project!
(your name), (your event website)
5. Email at will.
Not everyone will say yes. But not everyone will say no. The trick is to make sure each vendor knows their an exclusive partner (so, only ONE apparel sponsor, or only ONE printing sponsor), and also that the relationship benefits you as much as it benefits them (that advertising, though!).
Have you worked with sponsorship before? If so, I'd love to hear your experience in the comments (either from a for-profit OR non-profit standpoint!)