Sponsorship can be an important source of income for Clubs, Societies & Projects. These training pages look at how to go about getting sponsorship and other forms of external funding, and the Union’s rules for how that funding must be administered.
A sponsorship should be thought of as a business partnership and requires a different approach to seeking donations or fundraising. It requires perseverance and consistent and open communication with potential sponsors. It should not be thought of as a one-off act to secure funding but a long-term partnership that will benefit the club for now and the future.
Sponsorship can come in many forms and isn’t solely financial. The two models of sponsorship are cash vs contra – cash being the obvious one, with contra or ‘in-kind’ sponsorship being an exchange of goods or services. For example, the Badminton club may seek free or discounted court hire from a local sports center, or Choir may seek free or discounted venue hire for a concert or rehearsals. Many clubs receive contra sponsorship in the form of hospitality, e.g. free food or drink for an event or activity. The difference is essentially boosting your income (cash) vs reducing your expenditure (contra/in-kind).
Start by Understanding Your Group
Before approaching a potential sponsor, it is important to understand what information you should convey in order to boost your chances of success. Aspects of your CSP, such as:
- Your CSP's history and story
- Future projects and development
- College brand
- Your membership
Can positively influence your pitch to the sponsor.
History and Future Projects
The first step before approaching sponsors is to identify why your club deserves sponsorship. What can you offer the company by way of your reputation and success in engaging certain demographics of students. The best way to do this is to summarise the history of your club including your financial status and any future projects & developments. Even if a company can’t sponsor your club at this point in time, or your activities don’t currently meet their strategic objectives, they may be interested in future projects which better align with their plans.
Imperial is a prestegious and globally-renowned institution, so use this to your advantage. Attract potential sponsors by showcasing Imperial's high calibre of students and graduates. Providing the most up-to-date league table data and including other relevant information and metrics, such as academic performance, student satisfaction scores, citation scores, etc. can also help secure a sponsorship, especially from top UK employers.
It is critically important to know your specific CSP's membership, as well the college's as a whole. Knowing your membership can lead you to consider certain sponsors outside of your activity. For instance, you might be a martial arts club and find that 70% of your members are engineers. This way, you can target companies that are looking to engage with this demographic. Equally, you may find that your club attracts a certain ethnic group e.g. BAME students (Black, Asian, Minority & Ethnic). This is particularly well-suited for companies offering graduate programmes or schemes aimed at certain demographics. Ultimately, both the club and your members will benefit from the sponsorship and have direct access to these opportunities.
Any claim you include in your pitch should be backed up by data. This will convince the potential sponsor of the legitimacy of your statements, and provide further insight into the demographics that your CSP attracts. The aforementioned points are data driven – both quantitative and qualitative.
There are different channels for data collection at your disposal.
eActivities collects mostly degree-related data from your members, such as:
- Faculty, department & course
- Year of study
- Study type (undergraduate, postgraduate research/taught)
- Emails* (this is not to be distributed outside of your committee, especially not to sponsors).
This data is accessible through Details > Members. As you go through the tabs provided you will get an overall percentage breakdown of the listed aspects.
You can also survey members for additional information that can be of use. This can include, for example, hobbies outside of their studies or the sector they are looking to go into. You can create a survey online using Microsoft Forms or Qualtrics (the College's survey platform) and distribute it through a variety of social channels or email. Alternatively, you can collect responses on paper and digitise.
Other online platforms can be used to collect data. For example, Mailchimp, the online marketing platform, records the open rates of any emails you send out. Open rates are a very reliable way to determine the impact of your communications, information which is valuable to sponsors.
Outside of your followers, likes and members across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., you can also measure the impact of your social media usage by taking advantage of the free analytics provided by many social media platforms. For example, Facebook Insights allows you to track user interaction of your page. This includes ‘post reach’, and the number of ‘shares’ or ‘clicks’ your post has received. Instagram's 'Insight' tool also presents similar functionalities, and adds further information such as the 'Country of Origin' and 'Age Group' percentages of your interactions.
Case studies help towards creating a story for the sponsor, making your club seem more real. This can include photos of events or individual members and quotes. You can also do this for your alumni network to show the impact the club has had on their career/life.
Google can be used for data regarding the College’s academic rankings and league table performance. Each league table uses its own metrics to determine the prestige of a university, so comparing different surveys and rankings, e.g. Student Satisfaction, The National Student Survey (NSS), Global University Employability Ranking, Times Higher Education, etc., will provide different but equally useful insights. Non-academic rankings (such as the College’s position in the BUCS rankings) can also be valuable, depending on the sponsor.
Note: It is paramount you bear in mind GDPR when collecting and using member data.
Step 1 - Plan & Prepare
To find the right sponsor, you must:
- Know your club
- Know what you can offer (i.e. publicity, events)
- Know what you would like from the sponsor (i.e. financial support, professional support)
- Know your values and needs
- Know your sponsor's values and needs
A good place to start is by identifying a large number of potential sponsors. Create a Venn Diagram for each sponsor to determine whether they're values and needs align with yours. Additionally, identify what the benefits of sponsorship should be, both for the supplier and to your Club, Society or Project. This will also allow you to draft a strong sponsorship proposal later on.
The benefits to the Club, Society or Project would be the solution to a funding or product requirement as well as increased publicity by being associated with the sponsor.
Sponsorship can be offered for a number of activities. Some of the time they will be one-off deals: a charity show, publication, sporting event, leaflets or posters. Sponsorship may also be sought for longer-term projects and gifts-in-kind.
Initially, think about who has sponsored your group in the past; speak to older and former members and review your online transaction pages from previous years. Also consider your equipment suppliers, and contacts that you and your committee may have within suppliers and companies.
Once you have a shortlist of companies you think you should approach, you need to refine your search and then establish contact with the potential sponsors. Ask them for their Annual Report, advice on what projects they may or may not support and establish a contact within the organisation or gain contact details for their marketing department. If you already have a contact within the company then go via them or ask for an endorsement.
Attending careers events is also a great way of making contacts with companies.
In summary, the typical routes to sponsorship are:
- Internships & work experience
- Family & friends
- Networking e.g. careers events
- Former sponsors
- Equipment suppliers
Step 2 - Approach & Negotiate
Successful proposals sent to Sponsors will include the following;
- Activity title
- Proposal summary
- Sponsorship options – offer tiers and the possibility for a tailored sponsorship
- Key strengths – re-emphasise the benefits of the activity
- Any relevant material such as photos of your Club, Society or Project, quotes from members or articles from Felix
- Signatory's name, contact details and commitee role
Ensure you make it clear to the sponsor what benefits they will gain from sponsoring your event. Some examples of benefits to the sponsor include:
- Displaying the company logo on the header or footer of all official Club, Society or Project emails,
- Arranging talks by the company to gain exposure to members of your Club, Society or Project,
- Printing logos on banners, flyers or programmes at events,
- Advertisement space on your Club, Society or Project website,
- A targeted email to your members or an item in your newsletter.
- Do not under-cost. Ask for more than you need.
- Include all costs and allocate overhead costs if possible.
- Do not pull a number out of thin air.
- Don’t forget to add VAT to any costs - all sponsorships attract 20% VAT.
- Describe what you intend to do with the money.
- Break down expenditure to help identify all costs.
- Cost each item using best estimates and obtain quotes.
- Decide whether this is a reasonable total.
Think whether your proposal offers value for money. It is worth considering the value of services or goods properly.
When constructing your proposal, remember:
- Be clear on your member demographic
- Find out corporation needs
- Promise deliverables
- Give options
- Approach the right person
- Phone call & follow up with email
- Keep a record of all communication
[company name] is requested to fund [Club, Society or Project name] work by contributing £[amount] towards [activity] and will receive [benefits].
Introduction (to the organisation and the activity to be funded)
Outline of any previous support received.
The proposal – clearly:
- What you want
- Why you want it
- What you want it for
- When you want it
- How they can help
- How they will benefit (what will they gain)
- How much will it cost (a breakdown of the budget)
Remember to address letters or emails to a specific individual – otherwise it will almost certainly end up being binned.
When getting in touch with a Sponsor, your initial reply may be a simple yes or no; or you may also not hear anything at all. In this case, you should chase up your proposal with a phone call to confirm the proposal has arrived, ask when it may be considered, and ask if any further information is required. However, be careful not to harass them.
Be sure to keep track of your progress by keeping a record of all information sent out to each individual company. Some companies will reply saying no in a variety of ways, e.g. they are not able to support at this time as they do not have the budget or it does not fit with their criteria. Other companies may show an interest and get back with specific questions or say they will be considering your application at the next meeting.
Don’t expect to hear back from the majority of the companies you contact.
When you receive a positive reply, respond with a brief thank you. If they have turned you down, think about approaching the company on another occasion, perhaps during the next academic year or for a different type of event.
Remember some companies may prefer to sponsor a more academically meaningful event rather than a ball or party. Be prepared to alter your proposal in order to get the sponsorship but keep in mind that the contract should always benefit your Club, Society or Project.
If you require any assistance negotiating with a sponsor reach out to your Management Group or check with other CSPs that have been successful.
Step 3 - Submit a Contract to the Union for Review
Once you have concluded the negotiations and you have a willing sponsor, you will need to draw up a contract. The Union has its own specifically designed sponsorship contract template that you can use; this should make the whole process quicker and easier. Some companies may draw up their own contracts; this is fine, however be sure to read the entire document carefully upon receipt and question anything you did not agree to.
Step 4 - Raise an Invoice For Payment
You will need to create a sales invoice from the Union in order to get the money from the company. Ideally you should get a purchase order number from the sponsor to quote on the invoice to ensure quick payment. Ensure that you code the income currently for VAT - sponsors from outside the UK will be under 0% VAT at VAT Code SN, while sponsors in the UK will be at 20% VAT at VAT Code S1.
Only a fully signed contract will be sufficient evidence for a sponsorship sales invoice. This means the contract must be signed by both the Union and the sponsors, and preferably by the CSP too.
Occasionally, you may be required to take payments in the form of cash or cheques. These should either be paid into the bank immediately after collection or handed into the Union to be stored securely in one of the Union’s safes.
Do not take money home with you – you are responsible for looking after your group’s money, if you lose it you will have to replace it!
Allow 30 days for the sponsor to pay the invoice. If the invoice is still outstanding after this time contact the sponsor and chase them for payment, if they haven’t paid after 60 days make contact with the Union Finance Team to seek advice upon what to do next.
Please note that chasing paying of any outstanding unpaid invoices attributable to Clubs, Societies or Projects older the 90 days since the issue date becomes the responsibility of the Union centrally. The Union will charge a fee of 10% of the invoice value once payment of the invoice has been secured, to cover the staffing costs of doing this. A consultation period for up to 90 days exists where Clubs, Societies & Projects are more than welcome to seek advice and help from the Union about securing payment of the invoice.
Step 5 - Maintain the Relationship
Keep in regular contact with your sponsors. Report back, let your sponsors know how everything is going and what their money has achieved for the Club, Society or Project.
However, if things go wrong be prepared to the return the money if the planned activity does not ahead.