How to Write a Successful Sponsorship Proposal
So what should you include in your proposal – and what should you leave out?
I’ve raised sponsorship for the National Museums of Scotland, leading Scottish universities and a range of cultural organisations and here are my top tips as to what should be included to help that potential sponsor see what it is that you’re proposing to bring them (remember, successful sponsorship is all about benefits).
Writing a Successful Sponsorship Proposal
Front it Out – make sure your front page grabs their attention. If you’re proposing headline sponsorship for an event, rename it the ‘Generous Sponsor Science & Technology Festival’ (or whatever), use their corporate colours and definitely their logo. If you can’t incorporate their name – for example, if you already have a named event – you could use the ‘sponsored by’ headline. You will know what will work best but try to incorporate their name, use their logo and, if possible, their corporate colours (provided they don’t clash with yours). Depending on the level of sponsorship, it might be worth investing in a designer to mock something up – but I wouldn’t recommend this for anything other than a high value sponsorship. Publisher is just as good and Word in the right hands can be too.
Show Me the Money – don’t hide how much you’re asking for somewhere in page 2. They know this is a sponsorship proposal. They can either afford it or they can’t so put it front and centre: Headline Sponsorship: £xx,000 plus VAT (if you’re in the UK – see note below)
Benefits – rather than going into huge amounts of detail about you, what you do, what the project, event, post you are seeking sponsorship is all about, simply introduce the concept in a short, snappy paragraph (you can always include additional information about your organisation or the project as an appendix). Once you’ve opened with your summary, eye-catching paragraph, go straight in to listing the benefits that this company will receive from being involved with your company. Remember, sponsorship is NOT philanthropy. They will want to know what they’re going to get out of it so tell them upfront. If appropriate, and if it will work, use their language – see how they describe themselves in their corporate information and try to mirror that in what you are offering as benefits.
Be Different – don’t start off your list of benefits with the usual logo/branding etc. By all means, include them in the proposal but try to open with a few benefits that are creative or unique to your charity. The aim is to grab their interest, get them thinking about the possibilities and encourage them to read more. What employee benefits can you give in terms of volunteering/personal development? What audience can you put them in front of and, more importantly, how can you help them engage with that audience? Will you send a mailing to your audience on their behalf for example? Give them a platform as a speaker at your event? Give them the opportunity to give away freebies or present themselves in a different way?
One of the most successful sponsorship deals I ever negotiated involved the company wanting to show the general public every aspect of their business. They had a well-known fashion arm but a less-well known production arm plus another that worked exclusively with big name designers. Not only did they sponsor an event – the highest sponsorship the charity had ever received at that time – they also provided an educational programme for families showing how cashmere production worked and giving the opportunity to ‘try out’ spinning, alongside a fashion show opened by model Jodie Kidd. Would I have included this in the proposal myself? No. At the initial meeting with the Chief Executive (to which I came empty handed – ie no proposal) I asked him what he would most like to showcase about his business to the general public, listened to what he said, went off and discussed with colleagues in other departments to see what was achievable and came up with this sponsorship that worked brilliantly for both parties. The company would never have asked for all of this either as they wouldn’t have known we could offer it so be flexible and remember successful sponsorship negotiations are a CONVERSATION – ask and listen.
Put Like with Like – rather than going through pages and pages of benefits listed in a random order, try to keep similar types of benefits together under one heading. So, for example, have a heading for Hospitality that includes bullet points for Event hospitality, tickets, employee involvement, client entertainment etc. under Profile list everything from Press & PR to Social Media while Branding can include Print Media, logos and where they will be used etc. Remember to include information on distribution too – how many hits does your website get, how large is the print run and so on. Don’t go into huge amounts of detail about your audience demographics in the proposal. You can always add in an appendix on this if it is likely to be of interest to a potential sponsor.
Format – use lots of images where possible – people and animals work better than landscapes or buildings for encouraging support. Use their logo throughout the document – perhaps as a header or footer alongside your own. Make sure you have lots of white space and that information regarding benefits is listed as bullet points. Make sections clear with Headline text in a different font or size bolded out or underlined (or both). You want information to jump out of the page and Subsections, bullets and highlighted text all serve to do this. Remember too that we read in an ‘F’ shape – across the top of the page, with our eyes darting downwards and across – hence the need for sections that pop out and grab the eye. Don’t present a proposal with pages and pages of unbroken text.
Keep it Short – 3 to 4 pages max is good. That gives you an eye-catching cover, 1 – 2 pages of targeted benefits that have been tailored to this specific sponsor (or at least appear to be), a page on why they should support you – the impact of what you are proposing to do, how it fits with their branding, who your audience are and how it links with theirs. Spell it out so they can see where your thinking about this partnership has come from.
VAT – if you’re in the UK, you MUST add VAT to the amount of sponsorship that you are seeking. Yes, it will increase your sponsorship by 20% (at time of writing) but a) the sponsor will expect it and b) you would write £10,000 plus VAT (not the rounded up figure). They can then claim it against VAT earned at the end of the tax year.
Other aspects that you could consider including are quotes from other sponsors or previous sponsors which you could pepper throughout the text. And if you don’t have previous sponsors, do you have inspiring quotes from clients or users that would fit with what you are asking the sponsor to support?
Be creative, listen to what sponsors are asking for and, most importantly, make sure you can deliver everything that you promise.
Follow these tips for framing a proposal that will give you the best chance to deliver successful sponsorship that is a win, win for both you and your sponsor.