Step 1: Discovery
Before you do any outreach, it’s helpful to define a goal for the sponsorship you need to raise. Determine what you are aiming for in terms of value amount. It’s help to set three different targets to help you through this process:
A Minimum Goal: What is the absolute minimum required for you to run your event? Determine what costs are crucial vs. a nice to have. Knowing a break point will help you keep a good gauge on the success of your outreach
A Target Goal: This is what you are actually aiming for (and communicate with potential sponsors).
A Maximum Goal: Under no circumstance should you exceed this limit. Maximum goals are helpful for two reasons: First, it sends a very clear message to sponsors that you have a specific goal and understand what is required to accomplish it. Secondly, it will makes sponsors feel a sense of scarcity. They are now in a competitive situation and may lose an opportunity to participate if they don’t act soon.
Having a clear understand of what you need will make future conversations much more productive. Take the time to understand your event beforehand so that you can effectively communicate in the conversations to come.
Step 2: Do your Research
Find the Right Sponsors
It helps to be strategic when deciding where to spend your time. Your organizing team’s network will also be instrumental when it comes to finding the right sponsors. Take some time to list out the top 10-15 local companies you think would be ideal sponsors. If you are not sure where to start, take a look at similar local events on Meetup.com or neighboring Startup Weekends - they may have sponsors that are local to the area and willing to help. Think of a sponsor like a partner; you will be helping eachother achieve something - so its important to understand the value you have to offer (see below to learn more).
Note: We encourage teams to recruit more than one sponsor. Single sponsors are great in theory, but often take ownership of the event. Multiple sponsors will help your organizing team keep control and set clear expectations so that sponsors understand the objective and goals of the weekend.
Understand Sponsor’s Needs
As you approach a potential sponsor, it’s your job to help them see/understand the benefit of sponsoring (yes! sponsors get a lot out of the event too). Invest in the prep time to learn about the sponsor before hand. If you take the time to understand their priorities it shows that you genuinely care about their interests. Focus on presenting the event as an opportunity where you both can benefit by achieving a common goal.
Have a clear message why you believe this in their best interest and the more explicit you can make it, the better. Here are some benefits we’ve seen sponsors get excited about:
Brand Awareness. Help them spread the word about their service/product. Having a brand associated with a local startup event can help a company spread awareness. You may also want to point out that this is an opportunity for smaller businesses to share the stage with our bigger global partners. Playing on the same field as Google and Coca-Cola can boost the credit of smaller brands.
They will be viewed as a thought leader. Brand awareness is sometimes more than just awareness of the company. Clarifying that these events can help establish their brand as a thought leader in the tech or entrepreneur space can be an important differentiator.
The opportunity to engage with people within their core markets. SW Attendees are very specific niche of people. Having 54 hours to intimately interact with teams is a great way to get API/SDK usage. Even if it is not directly tied to use of a service, these events give companies the chance to learn more about core customers in a friendly setting.
Local Community Support. Startup Weekend is on a mission to make entrepreneurial available to everyone. You’d be surprised by how many companies are willing to help support their local community. These events are also a way to tangibly show their values. For example, some companies may state in their mission that they support women in tech - If you are hosting a Women’s SW, this provides them a channel to physically show their support (which they can share/highlight with their community). If you need help communicating the value of these events, our white paper is great resource to help drive a conversation.
Offer access to lead generation. For both customers and clients. These events can help them find new business by interacting with a high density of local entrepreneurs.
New market opportunities within their core market of business. Companies have the chance to explore new trends, projects and ideas that may be important to their core business - especially if they don’t have any innovation departments within their company. They can also safely engage with other companies in the same space (outside of their business).
HR and Hiring. Is the potential sponsor looking to hire? SW is great way for Companies to find new hires, or ‘interview’ potential candidates. Working with someone for 54 hours is a really great way to learn about people before they join your team. On the otherside, SW can be a great perk for existing employees. Help them innovate internally and give back to their team by offering some comped tickets to your event.
Step 3:The Introduction
First impressions aren’t everything, but if done right it can speed up the conversation. Two quick points to help when it comes to reaching out:
Companies don’t make decisions, people do. You’ll need to find the correct person to reach out to, based on the relevant department and decision makers within the org. You don’t have to reach the correct person on your first pass, but often reaching out to the wrong individual (who can help direct your request) leads to better results than blast emailing a support channel or asking the wrong department.
Warm introductions are better than cold one. Network is the king! Take a look at LinkedIn, you’ll be surprised how many connections you have through your connections. The best way to reach someone you don’t know is through an introduction by a friend or colleague.
As you begin the conversation, remember that the relationship is what matters most. Do your research, help make your contact a champion internally.
Step 4: Make the Ask
If you’ve done your research you should feel confident describing why your Startup Weekend is in their best interest. We’re a sizable community at this point, know that you have the Startup Weekend brand at your back. Somethings to remember as you make the ask:
Be Clear and Transparent. Explain your objectives, and make a very clear ask. Be specific on the dollar amount you are asking for, what they get in exchange. Communicate a timeline and be very transparent. Treat them as partners (don’t just take the money and run). Engage them to build a longer term relationship.
Describe the event. Where, When, Why. Take the time to describe what will happen at the event. We know what startup weekend is, but we shouldn’t assume any sponsor understands what we do.
Structure the ask in a compelling way. State why this is a great opportunity (explain their benefits based on the research you did above).
Paint a Picture of Success. Give a case study of a successful Startup Weekend. Show a successful example of someone that came to an event. Paint a picture of the potential outcomes based on the outcomes of the research phase. “We believe that these are your objects and this is what we think your partnership will lead to at the end of the event.” Ultimately you want to get them excited.
Step 5: Follow Up
At this point you’ve hopefully had some luck closing sponsors. We’ve included Step 5, to stress that your job is not done once a sponsor agrees to commit. Follow up is just as important.
Document the Agreement. When you have successfully closed a sponsorship, it helps to document the commitment in writing. Even if it’s a simple bulleted email, it will help clarify the agreement, avoiding confusion or disagreements later on.
Communicate. Keep the sponsor updated on key milestones as your event progress. Bringing them into the local family will help set the right expectations and make them feel like key contributors.
Manage their brand with great care throughout the event. Treat it with respect.
Send a wrap up email after the event, summarizing the outcomes and thank so you can go back and continue building the relationship moving forward.
Stay in touch. active communication. Show that you care about them. Make sure to support and give back in times when you don’t need them so that they can support you when you are in times of need.
The White Paper - Helps sponsors understand the value they can bring to support local entrepreneurs.
Impact Report - Helps highlight the success and footprint Startup Weekend has had around the world.
SW Videos - Use a past SW event to help portray the energy and excitement during the weekend.
Startup Weekend blog - Find examples and stories about successful Startup Weekend events.
The Organizer’s Facebook Group - Ask the masses. Other organizers are always willing to give tips and tricks to help you out.
Your Regional Manager - We’re happy to chat more. If need ideas or are struggling to find support, please reach out! We’re here to help.