Seeking Sponsorship Skills

"Sponsorship is when a sponsor receives a commercial benefit in exchange for the payment of money or the provision of in-kind assistance. The benefit usually stems from the exposure the sponsorship can generate for the sponsor"
Image from KPMG Family Day held at IMMA during ’10,000 to 50’ exhibition

As part of our Arts Affiliate programme, we run regular sponsorship seeking sessions. These are all held online on Zoom to make them accesible to Affiliates nationwide. Contact Michelle to reserve your place and check if your Arts Affiliate membership is up to date.

Dates for 2023:

  • Weds, 8th February 2023, 11.00am – 1.00pm: Introduction to Corporate Sponsorship
  • Weds, 15th March 2023, 10.00am – 12.00pm: Introduction to Fundraising
  • Weds , 26th April 2023, 10.00am – 12.00pm: Sponsorship Seeking (Advanced)*
  • Weds, 17th May 2023, 10.00am – 11.00am: Introduction to ESG
  • Weds, 20th September 2023, 10.00am – 12.00pm: Introduction to Corporate Sponsorship
  • Weds, 11th October 2023, 10.00am – 12.00pm: Sponsorship Seeking – ESG Focus (Advanced)*
  • Weds, 8th November 2023, 10.00am – 12.00pm: Introduction to Fundraising & Sponsorship
  • Stay tuned for more course updates

*This session requires preparatory work and is for attendees who have previously attended introductory sessions and managed sponsors

If you’re thinking about seeking sponsorship, start by asking is it sponsorship that you really need? We get calls day in, day out at Business to Arts from individuals and arts organisations looking for ‘sponsorship’ for events, to study or to create art. On teasing out their need and discussing the opportunity and the potential for return on investment for the sponsor, it is often our advice that achieving a sponsor is unlikely, but perhaps another form of fundraising is more appropriate.

It is well worth sitting down well in advance of (up to 2 years before) your event or sponsorship need, and mapping out what the event is, it’s likely impact, and what the commercial opportunity would be for a sponsor.

By ‘commercial opportunity’ we mean how are they going to fulfil their business need? Think of sponsorship in terms of a marketing tool – if a company chooses to put money into your event, they may perhaps be forgoing money they would put in to an advertising campaign. What will you deliver a company that will be as significant to them as an advertising campaign?

Research, research, research
This is where research comes in. What can you offer a company in terms of ROI (return on investment)? What about branding (e.g. naming rights); entertainment opportunities; sampling; staff engagement (e.g. opportunities for staff to volunteer, events targeted at them and their families); community engagement etc.? This will help you build up your proposal.

Then think about your audience, and the values associated with your event. For example it might be seen as cutting edge, innovative and targeted at a young audience. This will help you identify the kind of company that would be a good fit with your sponsorship or event. What we mean is, you can deliver them customers!

If you’ve sat down and found that there aren’t really any significant commercial opportunities you can deliver to a company, it might well be that sponsorship is not the type of funding you should be seeking. It may be that you need to think about approaching individuals.

Think beyond Sponsorship
We always encourage the ‘not-all-eggs-in-one-basket’ approach to funding. It’s depending on one revenue source that has got many arts organisations into hot water in the past. Here’s a short guide to the kinds of ways you could segment out your income.

There are all kinds of grant funding available for projects – whether from local, national or EU sources. The Arts Council shouldn’t be your only port of call.

This covers all earned income from tickets, artwork, merchandise, catalogue/programme sales; fees; room hire; franchising of bookshop, café or bar (if you have a venue); etc. If you think creatively, earnings can (and should be) a significant part of your income.

A donation is money given with no expectation of return. Donations could be simply encouraged by a ‘donation box’ at the entrance to your venue; or you could make a formal approach or ‘ask’ to an individual or company. It is useful to think about things in terms of problems and solutions. If you are approaching someone for a donation, present the problem, explain the solution and what impact their donation will have.

Donations may not always come as straightforward instant cheques. You may find someone discusses a ‘challenge grant’ with you. This is where they guarantee to give you a sum of money, if you can source a matching amount from elsewhere. There is also great potential among your supporters of a ‘legacy gift’, which is where someone writes your organisation into their Last Will and Testament as a beneficiary.

Private or Corporate Foundations the world over have funds available to be applied for. There is a bit of time needed in research to find foundations who fund what you do, and to write the application. ‘Challenge Grants’ mentioned above, can be common to Foundations also. Foundations love social issues and community development, so Outreach Programmes are often popular for funding.

Many organisations have membership programmes, whether you call them Friends, Patrons, Members etc. Essentially Patronage is an annual fee for a sort of ‘club’ which gives benefits, such as discounts, priority booking, etc.

If you’d like more information on any of the above, we are happy to talk! If you think Sponsorship is right for your project, you might be interested in coming to an Introduction to Sponsorship seminar offered as part of Affiliate Membership with Business to Arts.

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