Fundraising, Sponsorship, and Budgets
Sponsorship is an important part of getting your idea supported and launched. No matter what your experience, background, or project is, sponsorship is a skill that can be learned by anyone and will benefit you as you learn how to communicate your vision and the value of your project effectively. An important thing to know is that raising money for your project does not have to be flashy or glamorous: it simply requires that you are capable of researching what an individual or organization wants and can communicate how your project delivers on that want.
Fundraising and Sponsorship for Your Leaders Project
Student Energy is happy to have you participating in the Leaders Fellowship program. As part of the program, you and your team are required to carry out a team project of your choosing that will create a positive impact within your communities. Depending on the project you choose to focus on, you may be required to raise funds to secure the resources necessary to carry out your team project successfully.
We know that many young leaders do not have access to the funding and resources needed. However, thousands of young people in Student Energy’s networks have managed to source the funds to participate in our programs, hold regional summits, and travel to global forums. With creativity and commitment, you will be able to see fundraising and sponsorship as an exciting, skill-building exercise.
Understanding Fundraising and Sponsorship
A huge part of sponsorship is relationship building. Through Student Energy’s 10-year history, we’ve been able to see that our best sponsorship deals and recurring sponsorship have been achieved by building strong, authentic relationships with people at those organizations.
There are basic sponsorship factors you should have ready: always be prepared to make your “ask” of the organization:
- Have a strong understanding of that organization’s goals
- Know exactly what you have to offer them
Building a relationship where the person at that organization trusts you, can see you are genuinely excited and committed to your project and feel that you do care about how their company can add value to the project beyond committing money will help to lay the groundwork for future opportunities to work with that company. This is also where the follow-up stage of your partnership is very important: don’t drop the ball on your partnership as soon as the cheque has cleared and the event is done, make sure to keep them engaged by sending them a summary of how their support impacted the project and ask for a follow-up meeting to get feedback on the partnership.
Tip: Make sure to have several questions ready for that company whenever you encounter them — be genuine and ask their advice on the direction of your project and get to know how their company works on energy and sustainability issues. You might even end up landing yourself a project advisor or a mentor!
The difference between “fundraising” and “sponsorship”:
Generally fundraising includes individual donations, crowdfunding, and charity events. Sponsorship tends to be broader, including anything from grants, to company sponsorship, to philanthropic donations. For the purposes of this overview, we will use the term ‘sponsorship’ to refer to all sources of revenue for your project that are not an investment.
Budgeting and Fundraising in Action
There are several different ways to raise sponsorship for your project beyond getting a company to write a cheque. Here are some examples:
- Build Your Budget: For any project where you plan to spend money (on venue, supplies, awards, etc.), you should build a budget to understand how much money you need to raise overall and map out where that money will come from. [Text Wrapping Break]
- or more complex projects, you may even want to categorize your expenses under categories like:
- Hospitality (which could include food and drink)
- Printing and Supplies
Over time this will help you to understand where the majority of expenses go to and help you make decisions about how you spend on projects. For example, if you are running a series of community consultations on local energy issues, and realize that the combined travel costs of going out to different communities far exceeds your other costs, you may want to explore cheaper options — like running digital focus groups and channeling some of that saved money into modest gift cards to incentivize participation.
Ultimately, budgeting is an essential skill for any role — whether in a big company or running a small event — so learning how to build a simple budget for your project will kickstart your experience in project management, which can be applied to many future roles.
Find a simple budget template to download and use here.
Important: Make sure you click “File” and “Download” before you begin editing the document. Then use it as your own unique project budget with the title “[Your Project] Budget”.
- Prospecting and Pipeline Building: Your pipeline includes the potential sponsors of companies, organizations, or partners that will contribute to your project. These may include the parent of a good friend, a contact through your professor, or even a local company you’ve never interacted with. Prepare as much as you can in advance as you will need to ask a lot of people and be pleasantly persistent.
Tips: Finding Prospects
- The most promising contacts will be those with the fewest degrees of separation. Hold a brainstorming session with your Leaders team to see if anyone comes to mind - a friend of a friend, a parent, a previous employer.
- Schedule a call or meeting with your advisors; these may be a professor, employer. Sit down with them for a chat about the type of support you’re seeking. It’s possible they are willing to support you themselves, but will also have a range of contacts they can put you in touch with.
- One tip for finding those initial prospects: look for similar events and projects, and see who is sponsoring them. This should give you a good starting point to understand why organizations support certain types of initiatives, and the incentives that drove them to support (i.e., does the sponsor of an event also have a sponsored panel at that event on a topic related to their work? Is their CEO giving a keynote?)
Building and using your Pipeline Tracker
- Start your pipeline tracker, using excel or google sheets, using these headings (see below for definitions of each of these stages):
- Contact Made
- Meetings Booked
- Proposal Submitted
- Follow-up Meeting
- Research 25 potential sponsors and list them under the “Prospects” heading
- Focus on moving each of these prospects to the next stage of the pipeline, don’t get focused on closing a deal in the first meeting
- Research networking events, workshops, or other activities where your prospects are likely to be and plan to have at least one of your team attend these with the goal of meeting this company and telling them about your project.
Very Important: Before contacting any sponsor who is an active sponsor of a project run by your peers, your local Student Energy Chapter, or Student Energy Global, get in touch with your peers, chapter or Student Energy staff first to ensure that you are not risking their relationship with the sponsor. [Text Wrapping Break]
Definition of Pipeline Stages:
Prospects: You’ve done the research to know that these potential sponsors will be interested in your project.
Contact made: You have reached out to this company to find the best department or person to speak to about your project.
Meeting: You have a meeting confirmed! This can be an in-person or phone meeting. Skype or Google Hangouts are also options if you are meeting someone outside of your phone plan coverage.
Proposal Submitted: You have sent them your sponsorship package or a customized write-up of what the partnership could look like, and have a plan to follow up with them and get their feedback.
Follow-up Meeting: This is where you would get their feedback on the proposal and how you can change different aspects to meet both of your goals. Important: It can be easy to feel like you need to accept all changes a potential sponsor asks you to make to the partnership proposal — Don’t hesitate to tell them that you need to check back with your team and see if that’s possible, and that you can come up with some other solutions if not. They will respect that you have a system in place for reviewing these changes with the project team. Be open if the proposed change is so large that you would need more financial support to fulfill it: often the company will be open to providing some more money to get more value out of their partnership. It can be best to go into your meeting with an understanding of the maximum level of time and deliverables you would be willing to commit to for that level of funding. Check back in with the Student Energy team if you are unsure about navigating this discussion!
Outcome: Their ultimate decision or next step for the partnership discussion.
- Discerning What You Have to Offer: Once you’ve developed the necessary trust with a potential sponsor investigate ways that sponsorship will benefit their organization, and your project. Your sponsor might be interested in marketing opportunities, access to a pool of students to hire for internships or passes to an event. Depending on your Leaders project and how you proceed to have sponsorship met, your team can create and present different offers that will leverage the proposal. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Also use this stage to agree on how you will measure sponsorship success. This will be determined by the agreement you arrive at. Your sponsor will be interested in gaining quantitative or qualitative results, and use this opportunity to establish the frequency of reporting.[Text Wrapping Break]
- Building your Sponsorship Package: The balance between getting companies to buy-in to your vision, while offering tangible value for their organization (more transaction: brand visibility, access to talent, gaining insights).
Sponsorship seeks to attract financial support from a sponsor typically supported by building relationships with an interested company, enterprise, and/or organization. Sponsors seek to gain market value and added visibility by reaching an intended audience. Sponsorships are typically more transactional, and sponsors seek to gain marketing or an opportunity to build up their reputation through activities that will build a positive connection towards their products, services, or operations. Sponsors are likely to support you for benefits such as:[Text Wrapping Break]
- Exposure to an important target market
- Positive brand recognition
- Exclusive networking or relationship-building opportunities
- Tickets and access to events
- Exclusive access to content or media assets (videos, pictures, ideas, etc.)
- Recruitment benefits
- Surveying and market research
- Fundamental belief in your vision or philosophy
- Corporate Social Responsibility
Sponsorship associates the brand of a partner to the vision of an event or project. It is important to recognize that no two sponsors will have the exact same reasons for getting involved, which requires more conversations and dialogue and relationship building with the sponsor in comparison to fundraising.
Your Leaders Project one-pager will be your introduction to potential sponsors. Describe your project practicum clearly and succinctly and also explain why your team decided to develop your project and how it will create a positive impact.[Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Another thing to include in your one-pager is your ask. This is your chance to ask your potential sponsor for their support. Be very clear about what your ask is, whether it’s industry advice, monetary support, sponsorship for an event. Be clear on the benefits and how much money you are asking for, and for how long.
- Getting that meeting!
Start contacting your prospects[Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Now that you have collected a list of prospect supporters in your pipeline, you can start reaching out to them. Prioritize those contacts you believe are most likely to say yes to your sponsorship proposal to conserve time and effort. This is your first step to building a trusting relationship with a potential sponsor. We suggest the following techniques you can use to reach the right person:[Text Wrapping Break]
- Email and Follow-Up
- Connect through a company website
- Networking with your potential sponsors
- LinkedIn Messaging
- Phone Calling[Text Wrapping Break]
Here are some sample emails to get you started. Feel free to change up words but this is the idea on length and amount of information. One of the most common mistakes made in sponsorship is sending long emails with an attachment hoping that the company will read the whole email, and jump right into signing a contribution agreement based on your attached sponsorship package. This approach isn’t realistic, so we’ll provide some templates below on how to write succinct messages that are easy to respond to.
Cold Email (you have had no introduction or encounter with this person)
Dear [their name],
I'm [your name] and I'm reaching out to you because [describe the project you are running and the key impact point it will create — keep this to 2-3 lines maximum].
Our team views [company] as a great leader in the [topic- i.e. renewable energy], I am wondering if you would be interested in meeting with members of our project team to see how you may be able to be involved in this initiative. I have attached an overview of the project here so you can have more information, and please let me know when may be a convenient time for you to meet with us.
Thank you in advance,
Passed-on Email (someone recommended you get in touch with this person / company)
I received your contact email from [person who introduced you] because he let me know you may be interested in a project I am leading — [project name].
I'm [your name] and I'm reaching out to you because [describe the project you are running and the key impact point it will create — keep this to 2-3 lines maximum]. [person who introduced you] felt you would be interested in the project since [company] is a leader in energy and particularly focused on [any specific focus that aligns with your project]. I am wondering if you would be interested in meeting with members of the team to see how you may be able to be involved in this initiative. I have attached an overview here so you can have more information, and please let me know when may be a convenient time for you to meet with us.
Thank you in advance,
Email after Meeting at an Event
Hello [their name],
It was great meeting you at [event] [time], and thank you for the great conversation about [topic] — it was really good to get your insights on [your project].
It would be great to set up some time to discuss how [company] could get involved in [project]. We’re expecting [impact of your project] and feel that there are some great alignments with [company] and your work on [topic].
Is there some time in the coming week that works for a meeting or phone call?
I know you're quite busy so please feel free to connect me with anyone on your team who might be best placed to speak on this.
Thank you in advance,
Follow-up Email to no reply
I hope that you are doing well. I wanted to quickly follow up and see if you have any interest in meeting with our team about [project]. I'm sure you're quite busy but we would really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about the chance for [company] to get involved.
Is there some time in the coming week that would work to connect?
Thank you in advance and hope to hear from you soon,
Why these emails work:
- They’re so short and to-the-point that they are very likely to read it
- They are flattered you are asking for their advice and interested in learning more about their company
- You end the email with a question so they have something specific to respond about
- It’s focused on them, not you
- Having a good meeting
Now that you’ve connected with the sponsorship decision maker, it’s your job to develop a relationship, your goal is to build their trust in your initiative and minimise their risks in getting involved. Tips for having a productive meeting where you can build a positive relationship:
- Listen to what they have to say
- Show that you’ve done your research
- Avoid an aggressive sales pitch
- Maintain professionalism
- Provide marketing materials such as the one-pagers you’ve created above for your project.
First meeting sample questions:
Tip: try to work these into the conversation naturally, but have a notebook with you with these listed in case you forget, and to take notes on important things they mention. You’ll want to integrate any points they make about their company’s goals, interests and strategies into your proposal.
- How is your company engaging on sustainability, climate action and energy challenges?
- Does your company do any youth engagement work?
- What are your objectives around engaging with young people?
- When supporting projects or events, what are your typical objectives of that partnership?
- Could you tell me about any partnerships recently that have been positive experiences for your company?
- Would you mind looking at a draft proposal for how we would like to work with your company on our project, and offer some feedback for our team?
- Fulfillment and Follow-up: Once you’ve developed the necessary trust with a potential sponsor investigate ways that sponsorship will benefit their organization, and your project. Your sponsor might be interested in marketing opportunities, access to a pool of students to hire for internships or passes to an event. Depending on your Leaders project and how you proceed to have sponsorship met, your team can create and present different offers that will leverage the proposal. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Also use this stage to agree on how you will measure sponsorship success. This will be determined by the agreement you arrive at. Your sponsor will be interested in gaining quantitative or qualitative results, and use this opportunity to establish the frequency of reporting.
Fulfillment tracker template.
Contribution agreement template.
Crowdfunding: You can fund your project by raising money over the internet. This can be small amounts of money from lots of people, and you can set a funding goal so people can see the progress of that goal and how their contribution contributes. Sometimes there are “perks” associated with funding at different levels. One example would be, for a $50 contribution the event chair will thank-you during the closing speech of the event.
Donation: Money donated to your project. Donations can be made through individuals or from companies. The main difference from grants is that these are unrestricted funds (do not need to be spent on specific categories of activities under your project), and can be very low levels of funding (i.e. $1, $5, $10, etc.)
In-kind Donation: This includes any contribution to your project that is not money. This can include access to a free venue, free catering, marketing of your event or project, and editing your research, to name some examples. If your project is being listed or referred to anywhere, typically in-kind partners should be listed with financial sponsors to acknowledge their important contribution to your project, or they can be listed under an “in-kind partners” category.
Value Proposition: How your project is important, unique, and relevant to this company.
Grants: are sums of money given by a government or other organization for a particular purpose.
Sponsors: Individuals or organizations that are funding your project, where they will receive brand exposure, opportunities to engage with your student network, or insights into how young people are talking about energy issues. [Text Wrapping Break]
Call to Action: This is the ask you are making to a company. For these purposes it will be a financial ask with potentially some asks around advice or connections for your project.
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