Lately the organizer team for SQLSaturday #35 in Dallas has had several requests from other SQLSaturday organizers about how to get sponsors and handle the sponsorships.  For us Jen McCown (Blog|Twitter) did an unbelievable job of finding sponsors and getting them involved in sponsoring the event.  In fact, she did such a wonderful job that it quickly became overwhelming and more than one person could handle.  That’s where I came in to help, but before you finish reading this post you need to read her blog on how she found the sponsors, contacted them, and defined the sponsorship levels. READ HERE.

My part was to handle the coordination of benefits with each of our sponsors to ensure they each got what their sponsorship level entitled them to.  Fortunately for me I am a very organized person, which was a benefit to me.  You have to be organized and able to communicate well.  You have to think ahead about all the small things you need to ask them in addition to their benefits.  Things like how many people are they sending, do any of them require a vegetarian lunch (we provided lunch for all sponsors and volunteers), do they require power, and how many items are they wanting to raffle.  You also need to make a list of things they simply need to be informed about like how big the table sizes are, as they might be bringing a table cloth.  Clear communication is paramount.  I sent each sponsor an email with a bulleted list of their benefits and the status of each item.  I also included a seperate list for the questions we needed answered that did not pertain to the sponsor benefits, and finally an ending paragraph of the informational things we wanted them to be aware of.  Getting everything possible in a single easy to read format avoids sending tons of emails about every little thing as you think of it.  This will save you time (which you will need), and help prevent you from annoying the sponsor with tons of email.  Remember you not only want them to sponsor this event, but also events in the future.  Make it easy for them and yourself by only including action items in follow up emails, and be as accomodating as you can while being strict with the rules of what their sponsorship level allows.  Sometimes this means doing some of the leg work yourself like picking up flyers for event bags, having them send stuff to you for their table and making sure it is ready for them that morning, and mailing back anything they have left over after the event.

The other thing you absolutely need is a good spreadsheat to track progress with each sponsor.  Make sure to include each benefit for their level, the answers to your questions not specific to their sponsorship, and the items they need to be informed about so nothing gets through the cracks.  You have to use your best judgement on the frequency of follow up emails concerning outstanding action items.  You don’t want to be that obsessive and pesky guy.  Do you really need to follow up with them every week when the event is three months away? No.  Three to four weeks on the other hand, you probably need to if those items are regarding them getting things mailed to you.

The bottom line is that you need to be organized and communicate clearly.  Make sure you thank them in your communications, and certainly be sure to thank them in person at the event.  Again you want them to sponsor future SQLSaturdays, so make sure they know how much you value their sponsorship.  Remember that sponsorships are great targeted business for the sponsors and great for our community!