Making event sponsorship and grant funding fun!

Hi guys, you’re listening to the talking regional tourism and events podcast. My name is Linda Tillman, and on this show, we talk about how a successful tourism events economy can drive regional growth and community pride. We offer you tips, insights and even some great case studies on how you can create a sustainable visitor economy. Now let’s talk. 

Hi guys, welcome to the talking tourism and event podcast. This is season one, where we’re talking everything regional events, and episode 4 sponsorship and grant funding for events. In this podcast we are looking at how you can be more efficient and effective in attracting the required funding support for your next event. Following on from module 3 where we looked at finance sustainability of events, I want to dig deeper into one of the core funding sources for all events, something that you will all be familiar with and that’s sponsorship and grant funding. We love it and we hate it, right? I know you get what I’m talking about! I want to share with you some systems and processes to use in securing sponsorship and grant funding, and to provide you with some practical tips on how you can be better at securing the right partnerships for your event. Okay, let’s dive in. 

Now the first thing you need to do when you’re looking at sponsorship and grant funding for your event is to be very very clear on what you need and want sponsorship and grant funding for. Do you know how much you actually need? What will you use it for? Are there expense items in your current event budget that can be offset by in-kind support? You need to think about these things. Please don’t just go out and cold-call as many people as you can and cross your fingers and hope that you attract thousands of dollars for your event. It’s a bloody waste of time. And we know time is precious when we’re organising events. So what I wanted to suggest you do is you take the time to analyse your budget and determine what is needed to support the financial sustainability of your event. What you need to remember is that sponsorship and grant funding is not to be the primary source of funding for your event. And I’m going to say that again.

Sponsorship and grant funding is not to be the primary source of funding for your event. Write that down. What you also need to do is you need to review your business plan and consider where sponsorship and grant funding will support the achievement of goals and targets for example, you may have set a goal to build some new infrastructure at your event site. You may have set a financial target for the next 3 years. Have a think about that and consider where sponsorship and grant funding fit in to support that.

Now once you understand your needs, what you then need to do is do some work to identify your perfect match. I’m not talking about tinder! I’m talking bout your perfect match for event funding. This is the most critical part, and if you can get this right, I guarantee it will save you lots of time pitching, and heaven forbid, getting knocked back, which never feels good. If you can send the right proposal to the right funding partner, you’re going to find the perfect match. So, what you need to do to do this, first, you need to understand what your event can offer, so I always encourage people to do a big audit and think about all the benefits you could potentially offer to a funding body or a corporate partner. That could be things like, naming rights to your event. It could be networking opportunities. It could be co-branded merchandise. You may be able to offer speaking engagements or product placement. You know what I’m talking about, have a think about all of those key things that your event could potentially offer as a benefit. brainstorm it with your committee, your treasurer, whoever it is you need to to really understand what all those elements are. Then what you need to do is you need to then identify prospective sponsors and understand what they want to achieve. So that’s doing a bit of research, so, thinking about who could be the potential fit for you and then doing some research online, because you need to actually understand the background to these companies, you need to understand what they want to achieve. You know, do they want to increase brand loyalty, do they ant to build a new audience? Maybe the want to launch a new product or service, grow their database, increase sales. Once again, you get what I mean, but you need to actually do the work to understand what they want to achieve, because if you can identify the benefits that your events can offer, the elements that the potential sponsors want to gain from a partnership and you can match those up, then you can start creating the pitch for the perfect match. I encourage you to have a look at the rEVENTS Academy tool called the sponsorship tracker, and that’s a really handy spreadsheet that allows you to collate this information, so collating the benefit assets of your event, and then also collecting the detail on what the prospective sponsors want to achieve.

Now, once you’ve done the groundwork it’s time to start pitching. A lot of people jump into this straight away and think, ‘we’ve just got to get out and pitch our event’ but make sure you do that step prior to this to save yourself time and disappointment. I’m a real firm believer that when you have a good asset list, and a well-defined audience or potential sponsor list, your ideal sponsor will appear on their own. We all know what it feels like to get knocked back, heaven forbid I’ve been knocked back a million times and I’ve learned how to refine that over the years. It’s not a good feeling. But if you do take the time upfront to do that research and understand what you’re looking for and what you can offer in return, it certainly makes the outcome much sweeter.

Never, under any circumstances, I mean any, should you pitch cold. Always find the right person to deal with, and contact them beforehand to ask a few questions. You need to ask them questions like; who is your target audience? How do they normally engage in sponsorship? What does your target market value? What can you tell me about your sales goals for the coming year? And what would you consider to be the most important elements of a sponsorship proposal? Don’t be scared to ask these questions, they’ll actually appreciate it. It’s all about making that initial contact, pitching the event and gaining feedback so that you can tailor the proposal. I also gauge interest and the fit for the event at this point, because you don’t want to waste each other’s time. If they’re not interested, they’re not interested, or maybe they don’t have the budget left. You don’t want to go through that whole process of preparing a proposal, spending time doing the research and doing a pitch if you know the answers going to be no. so really important to make those phone calls, it can be awkward to make those initial phone calls and a little bit intimidating, but I can tell you once you’ve done it and you’ve found the right match, it’s so rewarding.

Now, with grants, once you’ve identified some, it’s a similar process. You need to take the time to ensure that they’re the right fit for your project. So, some tips when you’re applying for grants. I always ‘suggest to my clients to call the funding body prior to commencing the application. You’ll be surprised at how many little tips and ideas they give you, and that will save you a lot of time. You need to read the instructions and the criteria thoroughly, read it a couple of times, get someone else to read it as well. You can waste a lot of time submitting a grant application for a project that’s not even appropriate. Write questions and answers in a word document prior to submitting it online – there’s nothing worse than having that unfortunate situation where you’re submitting online, live into an online form and you lose everything! Also, you need to answer the question. That sounds so silly, but you need to answer the question. I’ve seen so many people apply for grant applications, and they waffle, and they don’t answer the question. you’re better off using dot points and really simple responses rather than just putting in fluff. I always suggest that you ask someone separate to the project to read the submission before you submit; fresh eyes can be an absolute wonder. Can someone in the funding body review the application and provide feedback? This is sometimes the case, and it’s really useful. You should take advantage of webinars on how to apply, and a lot of funding bodies do this now. Budget is often the first thing that funders will look at, so make sure you’ve got a really detailed budget with your funding application. You need to include credible letters of support, and as many as you can, and include visuals if required, so photos, site plans, and if you’re looking at doing a new infrastructure development include a plan and map of that development – as much as you possibly can. Now, another great tool in the rEVENTS Academy tool list is the grants opportunity tool kit. So, this has a great list of useful grant opportunities, and it’s a great asset to help you find grants suitable for your events. Now, I’m close to wrapping up, but I want to give you as much as possible around sponsorships and grants. I hope it’s not too overwhelming, but just stick with me for a few more minutes and I’ve got a little bit more for you.

So, you should be at the stage now where you are starting your pitching. And this can be a long process, so make sure you allow the time to do it. I’ve had an instance, or instances, where I’ve actually been in the pitching phase for 18 months, you know, it depends on the size and scale and how much you’re actually looking to source, but make sure you allow time for that, it can be a very time consuming process, and you can be negotiating with one sponsor for 6 to 12 months before you get the outcome so allow the time to put into the pitching process.

So, once you’ve finished that, the money starts arriving, right? And that’s great! Now it’s time to kick back and relax! Uh, not so fast. I would say that getting the commitment from the sponsor, and getting that agreement signed is around 20% of the total work of sponsorship. So in other words, now that you have the money, you still have 80% of the process ahead. Sponsorship is a transaction, and when sponsors they don’t get what they paid for? They’ll ask for a refund. Or worse, they’ll tell their colleagues how terrible you are to work with. Corporate sponsors and funding bodies have high expectations, so just because you have secured the cash doesn’t mean you can forget about them. This is when it’s time for you to get ready to work hard for your sponsors. What I suggest you do is identify and note expectations and diary reminders. This is where the detailed agreement tracker tab in the rEVENT sponsorship tracker template comes in really handy. So check that one out, because basically when you secure a sponsor, you complete the detail in that tab and it gives you one central place to keep all of that information. You need to keep all of that information handy to make sure that you’re delivering on your promises, or over delivering. I’m always suggesting to partners to deliver more when they can. It really does help when you’re looking to re-establish or renew your sponsorship commitments.

A few other things that you may want to do in terms of making sure that you’re delivering for your sponsors;

Create a leverage kit for sponsors – what is that you ask, so essentially a leverage kit is an online resource of content, images and resources for your funding body to actually help promote your event and for them to actually promote the partnership that they have with your event. So, I call this a leverage kit, and it can have within-in it your logos, images, videography, it can have your style guide; anything that you want them to actually use to help promote the partnership for your event. And that makes it very easy for your sponsor or your funding body to access that.

Add the sponsor primary email contact to your e-newsletter subscription - That way they’re keeping up to date – whenever you’re sending out stuff to potential visitors, then they’re also receiving that, and they’re being kept up to date and regularly in the loop.

Make sure you have regular phone, where you can make it face-to-face, and email contact - and how much of that depends on the level of sponsorship, and you’ll be able to determine that.

You need to look after your sponsors and partners at the event – so a hospitality area.

You need to share the logo placement and results that highlight their brand - so before I talked about the detailed agreement tracker tab in the rEVENT sponsorship tracker template, now that’s a really handy place to actually do this, so whenever you do any logo placements, social media posts or anything, make sure you take the link and insert that in your tracker document; it means that at the end of the event you can create a really thorough report and show where you’ve provided that brand exposure for them.

And finally, do the post event debrief- so don’t just think once the events over your job is done; make sure you schedule a one on one debrief with them. Because just remember – and this is the final thinking for you to be very mindful of; this is the golden nugget – renewing existing relationships is far far easier than developing new ones. And you will know what I’m talking about. Take the time post-event to have a debrief, and supply your sponsors and funding bodies with an appropriate report on results.

So there you have it, simple steps to securing successful financial partners for your event. Remember, this is all about systems and making you less busy. So, as you work through this for your next event, set up the sponsorship tracker that I’ve been talking about and keep everything in one place.  This will save hours of time. Now I mentioned a little earlier that we have some stuff for you. Head on over to and you can purchase DIY tools to assist you with sponsorship and grant funding. If you become a member of the rEVENTS hub community, you’ll get all of this and so much more for free! It’s all waiting for you in the hub at

Thanks for joining us in the regional tourism and events podcast. For more great stuff, be sure to visit us at Talk again soon!

Cristy HoughtonComment