Position Sponsorships as a Marketing Vehicle

Sponsors Mingle at Special Event

We all know that sponsorship is important to nonprofits and businesses alike. Sponsorship is all about marketing.

 Securing sponsors is about building effective partnerships that enhance your organization’s mission and the sponsoring company’s business goals. And, sponsorship is about raising money.

All sponsors want to reach as many people as possible in their target market. So, the more you know about your organization’s audience, the better your chances of securing sponsors.

But, do we know why special events are so significant in developing these relationships?

Chalk it up to experiential marketing – the best way to deepen the emotional bond between a company and its customers, through creating memorable experiences.

Experiential marketing is a well-known concept to business marketers. It is a great way to deepen the emotional bond between a company and its customers, through the creating of memorable experiences.

The goal is to establish a connection based on emotional and rational response levels and always contains a face-to-face interactive element. This is exactly what sponsors want. And, during a well-designed and executed special event this is exactly what they get!

On the other hand, special events are a way for the nonprofit to interact with its audiences including donors and prospective donors. They help raise the nonprofit’s voice in a crowded field and ensure that people will know who they are and what they do and why they are important.

Sponsorship guru Patricia Martin brings real focus to the issue with her post Just One Question to Ask a Sponsor in her Culture Scout blog post. She notes that no matter what shape the economy is in, sponsors still need to market their brands. And, what better way than in partnership with a cause?

A Year End Reflection on Special Events


Michigan Civil War Battle Flag shown at Kalamazoo Sanitary Fair Special Event. Archives of Michigan

Michigan Civil War Battle Flag shown at Kalamazoo Sanitary Fair Special Event. Archives of Michigan














I’m often asked if it is smart to hold special events during challenging times.

My response – Absolutely!

Special events bring attention to your mission and help generate publicity for your nonprofit. They are an excellent  fundraising tool, as they encourage donors and sponsors. And, special events are great for engaging your leadership and volunteers.

Special events have been the mainstay of successful fundraising since the Civil War. The Ladies Soldier’s Aid Society of Kalamazoo raised $9,618 for wounded and sick soldiers at a four-day special event at the Kalamazoo Sanitary Fair in 1864. (Orosz, 1997)

The first known American Red Cross fundraiser was a play produced by six children in Waterford, Pennsylvania in 1884 to aid flood victims. The organization’s fundraising focus changed virtually overnight in 1917 when President Woodrow Wilson created the Red Cross War Council. A series of special events including bazaars, block dances and “Kick the Kaiser” parties raised $115 million.

Birthday ball for the president 

During the Great Depression, the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, started raising money with an annual “President’s Birthday Ball.” The balls were held every January on Roosevelt’s birthday. The balls were so successful that in 1938 they were merged into the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later renamed the March of Dimes. (March of Dimes website)





As 2009 closes and we look towards 2010, I offer these “Special Events” Resolutions to you and your organizations:

  • We will host at least two special events in 2010
  • The events will be integrated into our development plan.
  • We will start our planning early with brainstorming sessions that engage our board members.
  • We will invite new people to the table and think “Outside the Box.”
  • We will stay true to our mission and focused on our goals when we plan special events.

My best to you and your family for a healthy, creative 2010.