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Uncommon Official Guide™ to Finding Funding

Image credit: Tara Winstead, Pexel

A while ago, we wrote about putting the fun back in funding for your next gathering.

Given the unexpected turn 2021 has taken, everyone can do with a little something for nothing, so here’s our (very unofficial) official guide to efficiently securing funding for your next gathering – virtual or in-person. We prefer to call them partners, rather than sponsors. It’s easy for sponsors to throw money at something and expect silver service – but what you want is a partner who’s as invested in the outcomes of your gathering as you and your participants.

Step 1:

Nail the purpose of your gathering and why a partner should want to be involved (and no, “we’re going to throw you to a pack of unqualified, vaguely relevant, prospective clients” is not a good reason).

Pro tip: For even better results, involve prospective partners in the process of defining the purpose and desired outcomes of your gathering - is there scope for designing with their goals in mind? No one wants to miss out on a party they helped plan…

Step 2:

Identify the most suitable financial model for your partnership campaign (e.g. several partners contributing affordable amounts, or just a few with deep pockets?). Decide on a strategy and stick with it. It’ll be tempting to cave and start handing out discounts. Don’t do it. A credible and astute partner will see the value in your gathering and want to be involved.

Step 3:

Option A: Figure out how many tiers you’re going to offer – the fewer the better. The more equal you make partner tiers, the better your chances of everyone working together for collective success. Try not to ‘gold, silver & bronze’ them – this is not the Olympics.

Option B: Avoid pre-packaged offerings. It’s a bit more work to create bespoke packages, but they allow for discretionary pricing and promise a better fit with a partner’s goals, resulting in a better perception of value for money.

Step 4:

Decide what your deliverables are going to be. Here are some fictional (but relatable) examples:

  • Possibility to co-design the experience

  • Meaningful connections with other partners & participants

  • Category exclusivity

  • First right of refusal to partnership at a subsequent gathering

  • X number of spots reserved at the gathering with additional spots available at a handsomely discounted rate

  • Tasteful brand recognition leading up to and at the event

  • A commitment to diversity, inclusion and representation*

  • A commitment to sustainable practices in the design and delivery of your gathering*

* These commitments are set to become de rigeur, so don’t get caught behind the curve.

Step 5:

Start putting together a shortlist. Make life easier for yourself by only adding names and organisations aligned with what you’re trying to do and/or you have a pre-existing relationship with. Pulling names off a random database (does anyone still do this?!) or stalking strangers on LinkedIn is unlikely to result in successful deal closures. Arrange them in order of categories and likelihood.

Step 6:

Pick up the phone (or if you really must, start scheduling those Zoom calls. Calendly is a tool we’re crushing on, and Hubspot offers a version of it)

Step 7:

Things you can say (using the example of an industry-wide annual gathering – and if you’re committing to following through, of course):

  • Planning an industry gathering you should be a part of

  • We have been missing something of this scale in “Location X” / “Industry Y”

  • Very much organised “by industry, for industry”

  • Identified key challenges and opportunities including ABC and 123 that we can collectively work on

  • Intended to celebrate the “Location X” / “Industry Y” community

  • We can really only do this with the support of partners like yourselves

  • We’d love to offer (refer to Step 4) at (refer to Step 2)

  • This is going to be an engaging and participant-driven gathering, not a webinar or Death by PowerPoint exercise

  • We want to build a real sense of community and consistency around this gathering, and we want you to be a part of it

Step 8:

Work in true partnership with your confirmed partners, deliver a memorable and meaningful gathering, drive real change within your industry or community. GO DOWN IN HISTORY.


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