Fundraising Events and Sponsorship Categories

Businesswoman using tablet computer in dining room of a sponsored event

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Organizing a gala fundraising event may sound like fun to some, but there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into it. Keeping an eye on the bottom line, event planners must stay focused on creating value for sponsors, who underwrite a significant portion of event costs and funds raised.

Nonprofit event planners are always looking for ways to raise money for their causes while keeping the operating costs low. That's where event sponsorship plays an important role. There are a variety of benefits—from exclusivity to logo visibility—you may wish to offer sponsors of your next special event.

The Role of Sponsors

Sponsors contribute a certain amount of money to an event in exchange for certain perks. They are always interested in the demographic breakdown of an event's target audience so they can devise the best method of getting their message in front of those folks. Some businesses or organizations may wish to sponsor an event because it has a specific connection to a product they sell. For example, a brewer of craft beers might wish to sponsor a food-related event both to gain publicity and to have its beer included on the event menu.

Some companies seek out the largest events in their communities as a means of raising awareness about their brand and also as a way to give something back to their communities. In some cases, the name of an event might include the name of its largest sponsor. For example, Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, is one of the most popular marathons in the U.S. and perhaps the largest annual event in Duluth. It gets its name from a sponsor—Grandma's Saloon & Grill, located near the finish line.

Sponsorship Categories

One of the most desired benefits that all sponsors hope to secure with their sponsorship is category exclusivity, which is usually tied to the higher levels of sponsorship. For example, naming rights is something that is likely only going to be available to one sponsor, if it's available at all. Event planners can find many other ways to help sponsors get publicity in a way that best benefits the sponsor. A large music festival, for example, might have multiple stages with live entertainment, and each stage might bear the name of a specific sponsor.

Other common benefits that might be included in sponsorships include:

  • Logos on event marketing materials
  • Logos on the event website
  • Logos on event t-shirts
  • Mentions and links on social media
  • Space to hang a banner at the event
  • Speaking opportunities for company representative at the event
  • A certain number of free passes to the event, based on sponsorship level
  • Access to VIP areas or engagements

This is only a partial list as different types of events can cater to sponsors in different ways that are specific to their events.

Sponsorship Value

Sponsors consider​ their return on investment (ROI) when measuring the value of sponsorships, and the most important elements include awareness and financial benefits. The example of the craft brewer at a food-related event is a sponsorship that can lead directly to a boost in sales based on the brewer's presence at the event. The Grandma's example likely has a greater impact in terms of awareness. Having its name on such a popular event has made the restaurant synonymous with the community.

In the end, sponsorships are most effective when both the event and the sponsors find ways to benefit—both financially and in terms of publicity.