Most people who know me, know that I love events.  I think they’re fun.  I know that events get a bad rap among fundraisers:  You can raise so much more with major gifts work. Events are inefficient, time consuming, ya-dah-ya-dah-ya-dah.  I know.  I get it.  And it isn’t that I disagree.  I agree.  Completely….It’s just that I think the benefits of events are under-sold by those same folks who vociferously tout their disadvantages.

One of the best ways to bring in revenue through a fundraising event is through sponsorships. If you have a new event or you don’t have a strong history of sponsorship partnerships, it can be difficult to get sponsors on-board. A great way to introduce your agency to potential sponsors is through a breakfast briefing.

How a Breakfast Briefing Worked for a Community Nonprofit:

I worked once for a wonderful social service organization in Northeast Georgia that for decades received large amounts of support from state and federal grants (still does, in fact).  But at the beginning of the last recession, both the state and federal governments pretty dramatically cut the organization’s funding.

For many years, the organization had focused all of its energies on developing its exceptional programs and had in many ways neglected its community relations.  Suddenly faced with grant cuts, it needed community support in a significant way. It had not kept in touch with its early, founding donors and had not developed strong relationships with new ones.  The Board decided to have an event.  Early requests for sponsorship support were disappointing.  One company’s response was typical, “How come, if you’ve been serving the community for 23 years, we’ve never heard of you before?”

Not promising as far as beginnings of sponsorship campaigns go.

The organization needed to re-introduce itself to the community.  We decided to hold a Corporate Breakfast.  We managed to get a restaurant that had a heart for the work we were doing to donate a continental breakfast.  We invited as many company CEO’s, VPs, and other decision-makers as we could bring to the table.  Our board members called and invited to get people to attend.  We promised (and kept our promise) not to ask for money, to keep it short, and let people go in time to get to the office bright and early.

The Breakfast Briefing Program Script:

At the event, our board members offered a very carefully scripted presentation:

  • a couple of welcomes and introductions with a few of those who welcomed sharing short “why they were involved with the organization and why they cared” messages
  • a very brief minute or two of who the organization was
  • a quick explanation of why we had historically operated quietly and why they might not be familiar with us
  • a short overview of our upcoming event
  • a request for an opportunity to follow up with them to talk about opportunities for them to be involved—no obligation, of course, just to find out more.

Almost all of them were willing to hear more and many became involved.

Our board members personally inviting people to that very short breakfast briefing made a huge difference.  It opened doors for us. We were fortunate to have a restaurant donate the food, but even if we had had to pay for it, it would have been well worth it to have had a few minutes to make our pitch and make the connections between our board members and the leaders in the community who ultimately made the decisions about their companies’ participation in our event.

One reason the idea worked:  bringing together several potential sponsors created buzz and energy in the crowd. We even managed to get some earned media from the local press. And, bringing several business leaders together at the same time created positive peer pressure among corporate decision makers.

Why I love breakfast for free, awareness events:

  • They’re generally less expensive than other meals (in part because they entail no alcohol).
  • It’s easier to get execs to breakfast than to any other meeting or meal during their very scheduled days. Everybody’s work day ends at a different time. Lunch is already insanely booked. Breakfast is usually more available and people like knowing that they have a hard stop that allows them to walk away.
  • Who doesn’t love good coffee? and breakfast pastries?
  • The decorations and other hoopla expectations for a breakfast are usually more limited.

The Follow-Up:

As we followed up with our business guests after that event, many of them did get involved in our event.  Not only that, several got involved in other ways as well.  That breakfast was the beginning of a relationship with those businesses. (It bears repeating:  there are upsides to events if you follow up on them appropriately).  For us, the breakfast became the entrée that opened the door.

In our follow up calls to people who attended, we

  1. thanked them for coming
  2. asked for their impressions of the organization and the upcoming event
  3. asked if they might want to be involved with the event or in some other way (and followed up if they said “yes”)
  4. asked permission to stay in touch (through newsletters and email).

I love breakfast briefings and introducing organizations and sponsorship campaigns and opportunities to communities. I’ve seen this idea work repeatedly and have done it with several different organizations.  Give it a try if your organization is launching a new event or needs to introduce yourself to a pool of prospective sponsors!

If you need some help jump starting a sponsorship campaign, introducing your agency to the community, try it or call us, we help organizations get their corporate campaigns off the ground.

Photo used by permission from Light Writer 33

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