How to Ask for Things for Free
When I first started running my own events, I had literally zero dollars with which to invest in said event.
So it became very obvious, very quickly that if I wanted to make this thing happen sooner rather than later, I had to start asking people for things for free.
Which is so damn hard to do. Asking for sponsorship or for a collaboration or for someone to give you money to
Realize why you're making the ask
What do you really, really need? Money? Space? Someone to bounce ideas off of? Because if you go up to a potential sponsor and you ask them for a cash donation and they're not getting a ton of potential business out of it AND you're making money off the event? You're going to have a tough sell right out of the gate.
Instead, remember that sponsors are people too (not just big corporations with tons of cash to spend on your event) and they need you just as much as you need them (they need: your network, you need: their $$$$ or services).
Remember your sponsor's needs
Realize that asking for someone's hard earned product or service might be a bit offensive if you don't have a good reason for why they should help you.
Which means a) don't be offended if they say no. It just wasn't the right opportunity for them at the time. And, b) try to come up with really dank benefits that will serve said sponsor (Pro Tip: When I create events, I try to think of potential sponsors who will appreciate attending the event and being able to show off their product/service at the event...in a natural, non-sleezy way of course).
Make sure you're clear whether you're open to other options (or not if you aren't)
This is important because if you're asking someone to financially support you but you don't know why you need them, then you probably shouldn't ask them for something.
How this plays out in real life is this: you ask for sponsorships. Someone comes back to you and says "I can't give you a financial donation, but I can give you a coaching call to raffle off," you might think "Sweet! I wanted to do a raffle! This is perfect!"
But probably, more likely, you're going to be like "That doesn't really fit in with my mission and I don't want to dilute this event's message." In which case, you may have to tell the sponsor NO which might lead to some miffed feelings on both sides. Buyer beware: make sure that you write out clear intentions and expectations when you approach sponsors.
NOW! ON TO THE HOW!
Start with people you know.
You've got a relationship with a baker? She's more likely to say yes than the restaurant you've never eaten at.
Send a really succinct, pointed email.
No more than 6 sentences, try to outline a few of the benefits, and ask specifically for what you're looking for. I always outline a few benefits in advance:
1. Logos on website + all promotional printed materials, including 250 fliers posted around XX neighborhood
2. Verbal thank you by host at the beginning of the event
3. Ticket to the event
And so on. If you're doing a bigger conference, some sponsors really like hosting dinners or luncheons or break out sessions can be attractive, particularly if they get to talk about their product in front of their ideal audience.
Ask. And ask. And ask again.
Here's the thing: someone will say no. They'll say no again. And then again. Make a star chart and reward yourself for getting No's to take some of the sting away. But then, get back up and ask again.
Keep asking my friend, because the best advice I've ever heard is that you don't get what you don't ask for.