[GUEST POST] Virtual Event Sponsorships Made Easy

As major donor contributions dipped in the first quarter of 2020 and a dip in overall fundraising revenue is expected to deepen as the pandemic stretches on, there are reasonable concerns about keeping fundraising events on the calendar. The environment is shifting such that peer-to-peer fundraising events can survive and thrive with the right approaches.

Key highlights:

  • People are getting more comfortable with digital platforms.For example, Zoom usage is up 151% compared to last year.
  • Even if digital engagement is our norm at the moment, donors digest information in myriad ways, and we should think about engagement as a vortex, not a pyramid.
  • Virtual events should not be thought of as a digital version of your physical event, but a translated experience that should be engaged on its own terms.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising in particular has its own challenges, quirks, and opportunities that can translate well into a virtual environment if thought out.

One item that many organizations are grappling with in particular are sponsorships. There are going to be concerns around the proper return on investment around sponsorships that corporate partners may be providing.

Here are a few key strategies to employ when engaging with corporate partners, since they can make or break keeping an event in the first place.

Engage Immediately

If you are weighing whether you should cancel an in-person event or move it to a virtual event, it is best to speak to your sponsors before making a decision. For instance, community giving event hosts have been able to translate the sponsorship experience into a virtual environment very well throughout 2020.

A big reason is due to early communication to showcase trust as well as coordinate strategy, such as when the Communities of Texas Foundation and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas reached out to the Dallas Cowboys to see if they’d join them in GivingTuesdayNow, an event that ended up generating over $20 million in one day and leveraging the power of peer-to-peer fundraising to drive impact.

  • Reach out to your primary sponsorship contact and be honest about your thoughts on the future of the event without their involvement.
  • Be prepared to scale down any original commitments.
  • Have a few key deliverables ready to outline what a virtual event sponsorship would look like (don’t worry, we’re getting to that!).

Over-communicate With Sponsors

The reality is that businesses providing sponsorships were expecting to get a lot of face time and in-person shoutouts with the money they were planning to put toward your event. So stepping back and rethinking what the experience will be like for both guests and your sponsors is extremely important.

Get rid of the mindset that virtual events are boring and put yourself in the role of managing a new type of experience for your guests and sponsors! If you aren’t excited, then you won’t be able to generate excitement around sponsoring the event. Being creative in how you approach the production of your event and in turn where sponsors slot in is key.

  • Create an organizationally branded slide deck to offer sponsors different packages as well as outline the basics of the event (date/time, audience demographics, experience delivery method, etc.)
  • Establish sponsorships that make sense for the medium itself. Can you put logos on the ticket, donation, and fundraiser pages? Can you insert the sponsor into a livestream somehow? Are you utilizing emails and social media to spotlight your sponsors?
  • How can you create a sense of treating your sponsors like VIPs? Have you offered them free tickets to extend to their own clients? Have you set up a pre-event call to do a virtual “walk through” of your event platform and experience? Go overboard with communication as opposed to assuming the sponsors are feeling supported through a few emails.

Virtual Sponsorship Ideas

The translation into the virtual environment can be a bit of a reset on how events are run, but it can also push forward really exciting ways to engage your audience and make sponsors feel extra special during a time where Zoom burnout is a real thing. A few sponsorship ideas are:

  • Awards ceremony presentations
  • Leaderboard sponsorship for both teams and individual fundraisers
  • Branded cocktail “rooms” for VIPs (remember to put security features in place to avoid Zoom bombing)
  • Match Minutes during a livestream, where all gifts made are doubled by the sponsor
  • Branded physical materials sent to guests, such as t-shirts (though beware costs!)
  • Virtual scavenger hunts, brought to guests by the sponsor
  • Meal breaks or even VIP guest delivery
  • Branded games, such as trivia or online games guests can participate in

Make sure to thank your sponsors — a lot! This can come through video thank yous, social media posts, sponsored Zoom backgrounds, and many more ways. Check out 20 different sponsorship thank you ideas here from Neon One consultant Julia Campbell.

The possibilities are endless, and with a bit of creativity and planning, your sponsors will be asking for the virtual options even when physical events come back in force.

Did you know that Cathexis Partners is a Neon One Certified Consultant? They help clients utilize our peer-to-peer fundraising platform, Rallybound – learn more about our software today!.

By Tim Sarrantonio, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Neon One

Tim Sarrantonio is a team member at Neon One and has more than 10 years of experience working for and volunteering with nonprofits. Tim has raised over $3 million for various causes, engaged and enhanced databases of all sizes, procured multiple successful grants, and formulated engaging communications and fundraising campaigns for several nonprofits. He has presented at international conferences and is a TEDx speaker on technology and philanthropy. He volunteers heavily in his home Niskayuna, NY.


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