Hack The 6ix Summer 2016

How To Get Sponsors In 7 Easy Steps

Getting sponsors for an event, an organization or even your own personal work can be a pretty daunting task at times. You’ll be facing a bunch of rejections, but all it takes is a handful of sponsors to work towards funding your goals! I am no master at business development or at sales, but through raising money for events, organizations and even getting sponsors for my own personal projects, here are some tips and tricks I can share!

A little bit of context of what I’ve done and how I’ve learnt all this. In the past two years, I’ve have raised a collective amount of a bit over $60,000 individually and over $210,000 when working with a team. We’ve all used this system to gather and contact sponsors and then use the proceeds to create some fantastic events such as Hack The 6ix. Now that you have an insight on the amount of money you can expect from these steps, let’s dig into the actual process of doing business development!

1) Determine a precise plan for what the sponsorship money is being used towards! One of the biggest problems I’ve seen with people trying to get sponsors is not being able to explain where their money is going. Think of it from a sponsor’s perspective — you would want to know why this student or young professional is asking for the money and whether or not they are going to be productive with it. Additionally, how will the sponsor benefit from their contributions and what could they potentially offer if it isn’t of monetary value.
 2) Figure out who needs to contacted. Create a list of all the companies you can think of that would benefit from being a sponsor, and also provide some sort of benefit to your event’s attendees and organization. The next thing to do is then research companies that are relevant and applicable to the event that you are hosting. These will be your main focus sponsors, the ones that will most likely benefit the most from your conference or event and will most likely show interest in sponsorship. 
 3) The next step is now your secondary sponsors, this includes everyone, literally any company that can recruit or gain traction through being a sponsor. Most of these sponsors are looking to hire for recruitment, while the first tier are looking for recruitment, marketing, and usually community support milestones. If your event is going to host attendees from a tech background, then reach out to tech companies that can hire these attendees. If you’re hosting a finance event, then reach out to finance companies! After this step, you should have a list of these companies that would then represent your ‘secondary sponsors’.
 4) Research Research Research! Your business development team now has a list of maybe a few hundred companies listed in an excel file, now that you have to figure out who to contact or how to even get in touch with those companies. This is usually when having a bigger team comes in handy — you can share this file and ask if anyone has any direct connections to any of the companies (ie. Friend worked there, or they know the recruiter etc). This should hopefully save you some time from having to research who to contact. Now begins the tedious part of finding contact information for each of these companies. But there’s a few ways to do this! The first way would be going to the companies’ website and finding a community sponsorship coordinator or a human resource contact, if it’s the general “info@company.ca”, then I’ll ignore it and directly go to Linkedin and find the point of contact there. I prefer using Linkedin to collect the emails of the companies’ human resources manager or sponsorship coordinator (if they have one) through a chrome extension that allows you to get the persons’ email easily, by clicking a button while on the persons’ Linkedin page. The chrome extension I have experience with is called ‘Charlie’, and it can be found here. This will take a while, so be patient and keep at it. Work with your team and split up the work amongst your peers to get through the list of potential sponsors as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
 5) Hooray! Now you’ve essentially created a rolodex of contacts for sponsors! It’s time to get in touch with them. This is where things can get really interesting! Contacting each and every sponsor should be personalized (similar to a cover letters) — it’s pretty easy to catch a templated email. Be simple and to the point. Anything too generic might get ignored. On the flip side, anything with excessive amounts of information might also drive them away since they might not be very enticed by what your telling simply through text and may not what to follow up with you later for further details. Leave them with something that will pique their interest but still leave them wanting to know more about it. Let them know that you want them to contact you for further details, either by email, phone, or potentially in person. This is also where sales experience comes in handy, and that in itself is a whole other topic (I’ll write about sales in another post). This is where you’ll need to hustle and make sure you know the company you’ll be following up with but also be able to realize what they would truly want out of a sponsorship (ie. A bot making company might have launched a new bot platform, in which you case you could convince them to sponsor the event so that participants can put their product into use). Using this idea, it allows us to now be able to send out a similar email to all the sponsors, as there really isn’t much to read besides the implicit content that should generally say “please follow up with us for further explanation on how you can benefit from being a sponsor”. For this task, using a CRM allows you to send out this blast email but also keeps track of who opens it and understand how to follow up with them after they’ve responded or have declined. CRMs are powerful pieces of software, but there’s only two things you truly need from them: email tracking and templating. The CRM that lets you do both of these tasks fairly easily would be Hubspot Sales which you can download here. So make sure you have that downloaded and set up for the next step! Finally, it’s time to make an email that’s concise and direct! I’ve attached a sample email I’ve used in the past below:

I would love to talk to you about a sponsorship opportunity for Hack the 6ix!
Hack The 6ix is a large-scale hackathon hosted by Nspire Innovation Network in partnership with MaRS Discovery District. This event is expected to attract hundreds of very talented developers, engineers, and designers over the course of 36 hours.
We believe that COMPANY_NAME would be able to not only provide support to the hackers, but also be able to benefit from being one of our sponsors this year!
I would be more than happy to schedule a call to tell you more about Hack The 6ix, does DATE_THREE_DAYS_FROM_TODAY work for you?
Umesh Khanna

NOTE: The email above is typically can vary from event to event. For hackathons, it’s fairly easy to get sponsors on a call as that’s what will directly benefit them. Though for events that aren’t your typical tech hackathons, then consider outlining briefly what they can gain from the event.

6) Now it’s time to play the waiting game. After you’ve sent out all the emails you’ll have to wait until the companies respond. In the first week, you’ll have some companies who’ll schedule a call with you, tell you directly that they can’t sponsor this year but would love to sponsor later on, or not even open the email/ignore it. For the scheduled follow up calls, research the company a bit more before the call — see how they can really benefit from being a sponsor and then use your pitching skills to convince them that it’s worth the investment. It’s also important to not push the company too hard — if they can only provide $500, try to push them lightly to a $1,000 tier, but if they’re resistant, try to negotiate something else if possible (ie. Soylent was one of our sponsors in which they offered us a monetary investment, though they couldn’t give us more money, we were able to find a better solution which was getting Soylent products on top of the monetary cash sponsorship). This is where you have to make the right judgement — being too aggressive or negotiating too much might end up in getting no sponsorship at all. For those who email back mentioning how they can’t provide monetary value, try to negotiate with them for something else, initiate this by offering to set up a quick xcall. In the past we’ve convinced companies to provide snacks (which can range from $300 — $500) or some sort of incentive (API calls for hackers) that can still make them eligible as a contributor. The goal of having sponsors is not only to receive monetary value for expenses, but to also help the attendees. Having a sponsor that can provide machine learning APIs worth thousands of dollars instead of providing a cheque is better than receiving nothing. Finally, there are some companies who will just open up the email and ignore it, and there are also those who forget to even open their emails. How do you send a follow up email to a company after getting no response? Sending additional emails to a company that had not even opened the email may come across as irritating, but sending a few more emails to a company that keeps on opening them up may be viewed as persistent. This is where hubspot comes in — allowing you to see which emails were opened. I make the subject line ‘Company Name : Event Name’ so that I can see which ones have actually been opened and how many times they’ve been opened. This piece of software is useful, but not always 100% correct, so just use it to know when the email has been opened. If the email has been opened, and no response has been made after 3 days, send a followup email. If the company has not even opened the email after 5–6 days, find another contact or try calling the company directly (depending on size, if it’s a small company, a call can go a long way, if it’s a larger corporation, you might be stuck having your call redirected for days). Repeat this until every single company has gotten back to you! 
 7) After step 6, you’ve hopefully closed a few of these sponsorship deals, if not, keep at it. Make sure you and the sponsor are both on the same page as to what the value of sponsorship is and what the company is receiving. To do this and to make sure it is a enforced, send the company a contract explicitly outlining the terms and also information on how they can send their payment. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to give you money and for their finance team to clearly understand what the return on their investment is. The easier you make it for them, the happier they’ll be. Make sure you keep in touch with that company before your event, giving them updates before the event on what’s going to happen (schedule, events, etc) and also after the event (following up with companies and giving them anything else that remains, such as resumes of attendees or possibly feedback on their product if it was being used). Make sure your team has an explicit breakdown of where all the sponsorship money is going as some sponsors might request it after the event is completed.

If you have any more questions, or if you want to chat about anything related to the topic of this post, free to message me on facebook, and we can go from there!

Hack The 6ix Team Summer 2016