Until this year, we’ve always been on the edge for getting our finances together in the fall. We started this year much better prepared and have been much more successful. We now stand at 75% of our budget goal. At the core is two different changes that we made:
Focusing on returning sponsors and involving the whole team: we took our existing sponsors and assigned senior team members to send emails and make phone calls. Our business & media subteam prepares scripts for them. We then had them deliver our thank you gifts last spring and then again this spring asking if they would like to support us again this year. Five of our six biggest sponsors said yes, and several even increased their donations, and the sixth pushed the decision to their HQ. We’ve had similar success further down our sponsor list as well.
While our parents have been supportive, their rate of participation and average giving has been falling. So this year we invited all parents to a BBQ and shop tour on a Saturday afternoon, and then gave them our pitch. Our participation rate has already reached 60%, whereas it had fallen well under 50% before, and the average donation has increased two-thirds.
I strongly agree with the focus on returning sponsors (assuming your team has the luxury, of course). It’s often difficult to convince a sponsor to fund your team for any decent amount, so don’t waste all the time and effort you spent last year getting them on board. Make sure they stay on board - send thank you cards/gifts/etc, set up frequent and informative communication (a newsletter or weekly blog perhaps), and make sure to emphasize that you are once again asking for money in the coming year.
If you maintain good relationships with your sponsors and keep them happy and updated, rarely will they ever drop your team for reasons not related to a tightened corporate budget. Neglecting them can mean that your funds will kind of disappear, so start your efforts with where the money already is.