Events build community among your members, let you share your message with a wider audience, and demonstrate your value within your association’s field. 

But planning an event can be expensive. If you’re like many small- to medium-sized organizations (and even some of the big ones!), you might not have a massive marketing budget to pull from for planning costs. This is where finding an event sponsor can help.

You may have noticed event sponsors at other events you’ve attended. Their logos may be displayed on brochures or signs. The emcee for the night might mention them in their opening remarks. But, how in the world do associations find these event sponsors?

Never fear! We have some tips for you.

Below, we’ll cover:

  • How do you know if your event needs sponsors?
  • 7 Tips to Find Sponsors for Your Events
  • How to Find Sponsors for Hybrid and Virtual Events

How do you know if your event needs sponsors?

Not all events need a sponsor. Before looking into how to find a sponsor for your event, consider your event’s goals. If the event is smaller and focused on current members, you may already have the space, budget, and other resources needed to plan it without a sponsor.

However, if you’re looking to plan a large, public-facing event, like an annual gala or 5k run, you may want to consider finding one or multiple sponsors to help with the event.

In particular, here are a few situations where you may want to bring a few event sponsors on board: 

  • You’re hosting a larger event that requires more funding. Big annual events may have costs beyond what you’ve planned for in your budget. They often require larger spaces, more entertainment, or additional food. You’ll also have to print a greater number of brochures, name tags, or other giveaway items. A sponsor can help pick up these additional costs.
  • You want to increase your event’s credibility. Having a well-known sponsor for your event can improve your brand’s image. People who already trust the sponsor company will be more likely to trust what your association has to offer. This can also increase your audience reach, recruiting new people to register for your event.
  • You want to offer members access to relevant products and services. A sponsor relevant to your field can provide added value for attendees. For example, if you’re an association for wedding planners, having catering companies, hotels, or other relevant businesses sponsor the event can offer networking opportunities for members.

7 Tips to Find Sponsors for Your Events

Once you’ve determined that your event could benefit from finding a sponsor, it’s time to make those connections. Here are seven tips to help you find your next event sponsor!

1. Identify your audience

First and foremost, when it comes to finding event sponsors, it’s crucial that you identify—in detail—your audience. The last thing you want is to have an angry event sponsor, unsatisfied with what they’re getting out of the deal. Plus, knowing your audience (i.e., what type of people are going to be at the event) is how you’re really going to sell your sponsorship opportunity.

For example, let’s say you’re hosting a networking conference for young professionals. When you pitch sponsorship opportunities to companies, you can promote the chance they’ll have to connect with Millennials and Gen Z.

Remember, sponsorships should be mutually beneficial. If you can connect the right companies with the right people, you’ll be in a pretty solid position.

2. Create different sponsorship tiers

You don’t want to make finding sponsors any harder than it is. Let’s say you’ve found a company or organization that’s interested, but they can’t meet the amount of money you’re asking for. Does that mean you rule them out altogether? No! You offer a variety of options and levels to try and boost interest and participation.

Also, keep in mind that it’s crucial for the monetary amount you place on each level to match the benefits associated with that level. If you’re struggling to determine what that amount should be, start by putting a price on each benefit exclusively. Then add those prices up to determine the cost of the level. You may have to do some tweaking here, but it’s still a good place to start.

3. Identify potential sponsorship candidates

You shouldn’t go asking every business in the area if they want to sponsor your event. Instead, make a more targeted list. Consider things like:

  • Whether they’ve given to similar causes before
  • How their business aligns with your mission
  • What audience they try to target and whether that matches your primary audience

As you reflect on these questions, list out potential sources where you might be able to find sponsors. These places could include:

  • Past event sponsors
  • Referrals from contacts at other associations or similar organizations
  • Your members’ businesses
  • Local businesses that have corporate giving programs
  • Businesses that have sponsored similar events (such as for other associations)

4. Refine your pitch

Once you’ve identified companies that could be a good fit, start reaching out via phone and email. If you email first and they don’t respond, give them a quick call. But do understand that, just like you, these people are busy, so keep your calls and emails short and have your pitch ready.

If you’re able to prepare a short, personalized proposal for the companies and organizations you’re contacting, you might have a better chance of sealing the deal—and sooner. This little trick shows you’re organized, reputable, and dedicated to making the process easier.

In addition to personalizing your proposals, some steps to improve your pitch include:

  • Reach out a few months in advance. Allow for needed follow-up time and planning.
  • Find the right individuals at the business to pitch. Avoid sending your pitch to a generic email (unless the business specifically asks you to!) or to someone who isn’t involved in those types of decisions. 
  • Introduce your organization and describe your mission and audience. Make it clear who you are and who your members are.
  • Highlight the benefits that sponsors will receive. Let potential sponsors imagine the value they’ll get from their involvement in your event, such as access to a wider audience. 
  • Offer incentives. This includes incorporating each sponsors’ name and logo on promotional materials. 
  • Describe your sponsorship tiers. Remind sponsors that they can support your event in a way that fits their budget and needs.
  • Use past event data and sponsor testimonials. These can show prospective sponsors the popularity of your event.
  • Describe how you will help sponsors measure their marketing ROI. Sponsors want to be able to know at the end of the event that their support was worth the investment.

5. Follow up consistently

Let’s say you have a good call with someone, but they need to talk to their team about the sponsorship opportunity. Don’t let that contact slip through the cracks. Follow up with them (without being too pushy) and try to seal the deal.  

Similarly, if someone says they need time to think about it or “not this year, but maybe next,” make a note of that and follow up accordingly. They’re not going to go out of their way to reach out to you, so it’s crucial that you keep track of where people are in the sponsorship communication process.

6. Show appreciation

Theoretically, once you’ve secured your first handful of sponsors, finding sponsors for future events should get easier. But this is only true if you actively work to increase your event sponsor retention rates. One way to increase the odds of retaining a sponsor for a future event is by creating an appreciation strategy and keeping sponsors in the loop about your event’s success. 

This is similar to how you likely already show appreciation for your members. You don’t sign them up and then forget about them. Instead, you cultivate that relationship throughout the year by demonstrating your association’s value to them and thanking them for being a part of what lets your association do such great work.

Bottomline: You must express gratitude to your sponsors to encourage them to stay in touch with your organization.

7. Ask for feedback

Another way to increase sponsor retention for future years is to ask them for their feedback about the event. You can ask questions about what went well, what could’ve gone better, and any ideas they have for what you could offer in the future.

Asking for feedback shows sponsors that you’re willing to listen to their input and adjust your approach. Just make sure the following year that you actually implement their feedback so they know you take it seriously!

How to Find Sponsors for Hybrid and Virtual Events

Virtual and hybrid events may not have the same costs for venues, printed materials, and other components of in-person events, but they can still benefit from having a sponsor. Sponsors can particularly help when it comes to spreading the word about your event to a wider audience.

Finding sponsors for hybrid and virtual events is similar to the process for in-person events, but your sponsorship benefits might look slightly different. For instance, you might host a virtual exhibition hall for sponsors. You might also highlight them more through your social media channels and email marketing.

A key benefit for finding a sponsor for a virtual or hybrid event is that you can expand your sponsor search to connect with businesses that aren’t in your local area. Your virtual events aren’t bound by geography, so neither is your sponsorship search. 

This means it can be helpful to lean into your digital advertising campaigns to connect with potential virtual or hybrid event sponsors. For example, you can run social media or search engine ads to promote your virtual event sponsorship opportunity. 

Find the best sponsors for your next event

There are many reasons to pursue a sponsor for your event. They can help cover costs, add credibility to your event, and expand your audience reach. By creating the right sponsorship tiers and personalizing your pitches to companies, you can find great fits for your next event.

Once you have sponsors nailed down, you might wonder what to do next. Allow us to help! Check out our Complete Guide to Association Event Planning. It gives a step-by-step breakdown on how to plan, promote, and execute your association’s next event.