How to Sell MORE Sponsorships for Virtual or Hybrid Events

Make it more than a transaction—offer sponsors tons of valuable and rewarding ways to get in front of people in their community.

Sponsors at live fundraising events are accustomed to certain benefits—banners in a ballroom, a table and dinner for their guests, sometimes on-stage recognition. Selling sponsorships in the era of virtual and hybrid events present fundraisers with a challenge when those traditional benefits don’t look quite the same.

As virtual events and “hybrid”-style events (a fundraiser with an online audience and a live, in-person audience) continue to dominate the fundraising scene, nonprofits must invent creative new advertising offerings with tangible value to court new sponsors and retain existing ones.

  1. Inspire confidence with current sponsors by offering similar benefits to what they’re accustomed to seeing at traditional live events.
  2. Offer new opportunities for sponsors to get visibility with the new technology available in a virtual or hybrid event.
  3. Advertise the potential for sponsors to reach a wider audience than ever before now that your event is reaching a broader online audience, in addition to the staple attendees.

How Event Sponsor Benefits Are Evolving

State of Nonprofit Fundraising Report for 2021In our State of Nonprofit Fundraising report, 27% of nonprofits reported losing sponsors in 2020. Some sponsors left in the transition to online-only events, suggesting that a small portion of businesses were turned off by the idea of sponsoring a virtual-only fundraiser. Many businesses were also struggling financially, and couldn’t support causes the way they had in the past. Nonprofits still face tougher competition than ever for limited sponsor dollars.

The magic combination for a virtual or hybrid event: replicate which traditional sponsor benefits you can, and add additional opportunities for visibility for recognition to entice sponsors.

Replicating the typical sponsor benefits offered at a live event is tricky when neither sponsors nor their guests can attend in person, sit at a table, and enjoy a catered meal together. Some organizations have come up with creative adaptations, like Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star in Houston, TX. The nonprofit’s BIG Taste of Houston event traditionally featured a tasting dinner with chefs on site. To take their event virtual, BBBS gave sponsors “tables” where each guest of the table had tasting appetizers delivered by volunteers to their door for tasting during the livestream.

Some potential sponsors may reflexively assume an online fundraiser has less impact than a traditional live event, but last year, 66% of nonprofits reported reaching more new donors than ever before with virtual events.

Unexpected Gains Through Virtual Events | State of Nonprofit Fundraising

Opening your fundraiser to online participants allows those who don’t live locally or can’t afford a ticket to donate and bid in the auction—meaning more eyes on sponsor logos, ad spots, and mentions on the video feed. This presents a huge opportunity for new sponsorships and expanded sponsor benefits if you can sell them!

Offer Sponsors REAL VALUE

Virtual and hybrid events present many new, fun engagement opportunities for sponsors that can convert to real exposure. In your hybrid or virtual event sponsor packet, list where and when sponsor logos will appear, and estimate how many people those placements will reach. This is the tangible “value” that will sell the professionalism of the event, as well as the legitimacy and reach of a sponsorship for that event.

Here are just a few ideas to get you and your fundraising team thinking about what exciting benefits you can offer future sponsors to get them involved!

  • Opening your fundraiser to a limited number of in-person guests creates an image of exclusivity that can be alluring and appealing to sponsors. Sell tables to the live side of the event at a premium, and be sure to provide a high-end experience to those guests and sponsors who buy them.
  • Make sponsors part of the live stream with a fun and creative ad spot! Offer ad spots of varying lengths to fit all budgets, and pepper them throughout the video feed, or simply place sponsor logos on transitions between video segments.
  • TIP: Encourage sponsors to get creative and funny with their ad spots to entertain guests and keep the mood light throughout the event.

    Send goodie bags to all guests containing sponsor gifts, such as a cocktail recipe with ingredients included, or a fun accompaniment to the video feed like dress-up accessories and party supplies. Put sponsor logos on gifts, bags, and any other materials you send out to guests.

  • Most livestream platforms offer the ability to add logos or shout-outs during the stream, so be sure to find out what your options are when choosing a platform.
  • Give sponsors visibility in your online auction software. Investigate where you can place sponsor logos throughout the user interface. Use auction item images and descriptions to give donors recognition!
  • For nonprofits still planning to sell tickets to their virtual events—or at least collecting RSVP information—the event and ticketing website presents another easy and widely-seen opportunity to showcase sponsors.

Get together with your fundraising team and brainstorm all the possible ways you can recognize sponsors on the virtual and in-person sides of the house. You may be surprised what you come up with!

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