Whether you’re planning a virtual, in-person, or hybrid fundraising event, certain aspects of your planning will remain consistent across types. For example, when it comes to working with sponsors, it’s always essential to secure partners who align with your brand and mission.
It’s also important to remember that the most successful virtual events aren’t mere replicas of in-person experiences, but events that truly embrace the strengths of an online experience. This ties directly into the sponsor experience you pitch and provide.
Here are seven tips to help you identify how to best work with sponsors for your virtual fundraising event and support a creative, re-imagined event design.
1. Challenge Event Assumptions and Ask, “What Is the Goal?”
To design a successful virtual event, it isn’t necessary to rinse and repeat your in-person event calendar or create “virtual versions” of your usual event experiences. Instead, take a step back and review your organizational and fundraising event goals. Think creatively about how you can work to meet those goals in a virtual setting. Instead of immediately jumping to “How can we move our gala online?”, first ask a few key questions like,
- What’s the best way to meet the same goal online?
- What do my attendees want?
- What do my sponsors want?
- What elements of the event would be enhanced with sponsors?
Asking these types of questions will allow you to not only create sponsorship packages that appeal to both attendees and sponsors, but fund an event that adds value to all parties involved.
To keep a pulse on what your sponsors are looking for, take a consultative approach to working together. Ask questions before and after the event to ensure your event design meets their needs. At the end of the Collaborative: Virtual Sessions in 2020, we polled our sponsors with key questions such as:
- What are the primary objectives of your sponsorship?
- What benefits would you like to see in future sponsorship packages?
- How do you measure your sponsorship as a success?
- Overall, how do you rate the event for supporting those objectives?
This allowed us to fold in learnings to all of our event experiences moving forward and to continue to fine-tune our approach.
2. Emphasize Sponsor Reach
The switch from an in-person to virtual event can have serious benefits to sponsors. As you reach out to secure partnerships, be sure to emphasize what an online event could mean in terms of reach and access to new communities. While the event experience itself is different, virtual events have the power to connect sponsors with individuals they otherwise might not have had access to. With the removal of physical, geographic, and often budgetary constraints, you can focus on putting your mission and your sponsor’s name and message in front of as many people as possible.
For the 2020 Collaborative: Virtual Sessions, the ease of accessibility and shift in strategy caused our event to grow from 1,200 registrants to over 10,000. The barrier to entry is significantly reduced when attendees don’t have to consider things like travel and associated expenses.
3. Consider Free Event Registration
Another way to increase accessibility and broaden your event’s reach is to offer free registration for event attendees. This strategy has the ability to significantly increase your event attendance. If your event goal—or sponsors’ goals—are to get in front of as many people as possible, you can consider free event registration alongside other creative solutions.
For example, if you’re worried about using registration fees to cover a specific component of your event’s cost (say, T-shirts), seek out a sponsorship specifically for that cost in order to still offer the event for free. That way, as many attendees as possible can attend. With your larger audience, you can then incorporate creative fundraising opportunities and asks to ensure the event still meets your financial goals. Not to mention, you’ll now have a larger pool to follow up with and weave into your nonprofit’s community.
4. Bring Signage to Life in a Virtual Setting
To weave your sponsors into your event in an authentic and consistent way, list out all of the touch-points an attendee might have throughout their experience.
- Advertisements or marketing materials
- Event page
- Email confirmation and updates
- Social media posts
- Broadcasting platform
- Mobile app
- Follow-up emails
While an attendee at an in-person event might walk by a large sign or booth, your organization has a higher degree of control over how and when virtual event attendees are exposed to your sponsors and their information. Create a plan for how to incorporate your sponsors in a way that’s not only high-exposure, but that adds value to your attendee’s experience.
5. Get Creative With In-Kind Gifts
At first thought, in-kind sponsors might seem contrary to planning a virtual event. However, with a little creativity, these types of gifts can add serious value to your attendees’ experience. For example, you might secure multiple in-kind sponsors or gifts and build an event box to mail to attendees that includes items that delight and reinforce brand exposure.
6. Provide Fun Ways to Gather
Even if you’re hosting a crowdfunding campaign without a true “event” component, you can still gather your supporters virtually for a fun activity to foster a sense of community and connection.
For example, if you’re hosting a virtual 5K, you could invite participants to get online after their “race” for a post-workout yoga stretch. By supplying an online experience that adds value and brings your community together, you create a larger sense of quid pro quo and foster more personal relationships with your donors.
After you’ve designed your virtual event and identified potential sponsorship partners and how they might get involved, all that’s left is nailing your pitch. Learn what to include in your proposal and tips for delivering an effective pitch in our free guide below.