6 Association Fundraising Ideas Sponsors Will Love

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Your association exists to provide your members with valuable services and resources. But as association professionals know, this requires creativity, innovation, and a winning fundraising strategy. Sponsors, whether they’re driving revenue for a specific fundraising event, underwriting a specific program, or providing general support, are key to helping your association fulfill its mission and serve its members. Here are six fundraising ideas to pitch to your association’s sponsors. 

1. Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the idea that businesses have a responsibility to the people and environment that exists around them. Building partnerships with socially-responsible companies through CSR initiatives is bigger than just pitching a sponsorship. Social responsibility programs also boost your association’s reputation, serve your community, and attract new members. In fact, according to Harvard Business School, a majority of consumers believe it’s important for companies to take a public stand on social causes. As such, prioritizing corporate social responsibility, both internally and with corporate sponsors, sheds a positive light on each party.

CSR programs open doors for sponsorship opportunities while aligning the sponsor’s brand with the association’s mission. Target businesses that share your association’s values and have overlapping audiences. 

2. Themed Galas

Themed galas offer attendees and sponsors a unique and immersive experience that raises money for your association. Galas also present powerful networking opportunities for association members to make connections amongst themselves and also with sponsors and corporate partners. 

What’s more, galas are chock full of branding opportunities for sponsors that can play off of the event’s theme or components. For example, if your gala features food from around the world, consider a local international market for a sponsorship. Or if the event includes wine or beer-tasting, look to a winery or brewery in your area. 

Galas often engage wealthier donors. GolfStatus suggests targeting the following types of businesses to sponsor events that attract a wealthier attendee base:

  • High-end restaurants, bars, or lounges
  • Sports and fitness providers
  • Financial service providers
  • Home service providers
  • Luxury brands
  • Travel providers

Galas also present opportunities for in-kind sponsorships that help offset the event’s costs for your association. For example, donations of food, beverage, audiovisual equipment or services, venue, decor, music, door prizes, or entertainment.

3. Sporting Events

Tap into the sports enthusiasts in your member and support base with a sports-based event or competition. Even casual sports fans will enjoy a fundraising event focused around a particular sport or activity.

  • Charity golf tournaments can involve all skill levels and serve to expand your association’s member and donor base. Sponsors love golf tournaments because of the affluent golfer demographic.
  • Road races or run/walks can be targeted to serious runners all the way down to kids and families. Sponsors enjoy the exposure they get to a broad audience of participants.
  • Outings to professional sporting events are excellent for member networking and an underwriting sponsor gains visibility at the event.

These types of fundraising events come with various sponsorship options and opportunities for the sponsoring business. Work together with the sponsors to customize their involvement, whether they’re looking for visibility, the chance to mingle and interact with attendees, or somewhere in between.

CASE STUDY: LOUISVILLE CHAPTER OF ASHRAE 

The Louisville Chapter of ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) provides education to members, promotes students’ interest in HVAC&R engineering and technical fields, raises funds for research, and supports the establishment of engineering standards. 

ASHRAE has held a golf tournament for several years as a fundraising event, but also to engage existing members and attract new ones. Sponsors from the HVAC industry have jumped at the chance to sponsor the event each year, thanks to the valuable exposure they get to their very specific target audience. Tournament organizers leverage the digital sponsorships provided by the event management platform that offered each sponsor much more visibility. Plus, the fundraiser is centered around an event that both the association’s members and sponsors truly enjoy.

4. Charity Auctions

While auctions can be held as a standalone event, they’re often effective as an accompanying piece of a gala, golf tournament, or other fundraising event. Charity auctions create a sense of excitement, especially when you’re able to secure high-end donations. Attendees typically go into such an event knowing they’re helping raise money for your association and are likely to open up their wallets to compete for exclusive auction items. Silent auctions are ideal for smaller items or bundles, while higher value items should be reserved for a live auction.

Sponsors are key for a successful auction and are an ideal opportunity for in-kind donations of goods or services. When items are donated or underwritten by sponsors rather than purchased or consigned, all the profits directly benefit your association. Be sure to highlight auction item donations in your event promotion, recognize sponsors in multiple ways at the event, and follow up with a thank you in the days following the auction. 

5. Virtual Fundraising

Virtual events gained popularity during recent years in response to the pandemic, but have shown a lasting value for associations and event sponsors, for several reasons:

  • Virtual events have the potential to reach a broader audience than an in-person event, since attendees don’t have to be in the same room together. 
  • Since virtual events can have such a broad reach, sponsors get even more brand visibility, boosting their ROI.
  • Virtual events are typically more cost-effective, simply because they don’t come with the overhead of a traditional in-person event. 
  • Virtual events appeal to certain sponsors, particularly technology companies, that are seeking new and innovative sponsorship opportunities.

Consider these ideas for virtual fundraising events:

  • An online-only silent auction
  • A Q&A with a well-known figure in your association’s field or industry
  • A virtual dinner party
  • A virtual conference featuring members and other speakers

You can also supplement an in-person event with a companion virtual component that lets more people get involved for an even broader reach. The platform you use for your virtual event should have the ability to accept donations to maximize the fundraising potential of the event.

6. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns

Peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising campaigns leverage personal relationships to raise funds for an organization or cause. P2P campaigns are a great way to engage your association members in fundraising, the association’s mission, and rally your association’s supporters in a collective effort.

P2P campaigns are also attractive to sponsors in that they provide brand recognition, particularly for sponsors who value community engagement. Involve sponsors by asking them to provide a matching gift, fundraise alongside their employees, or even name the campaign after a major contributor. 

Wrapping Up

As your association looks to fund non-dues revenue to keep your organization functioning and providing valuable services to your members, continue to find ways to innovate with new fundraising ideas and strategies. So whether you choose to host a charity golf tournament,  launch a CSR initiative, or anything in between, building strong relationships with your sponsors will lay the foundation for long-term support and help you attract additional sponsors for your association’s work.

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