A big splash not a damp squib: 12 dos and don’ts for raising sponsorship

Olof Williamson was a Senior Consultant at NCVO, looking at the latest thinking on funding, finance and public services. Olof has left NCVO and his posts have been retained for here for reference.

If you are really passionate about a cause, you may be planning to raise sponsorship through an event, sports or a sponsored challenge. Or you could be considering individual sponsorship as a way to bring in much-needed unrestricted income to your organisation. But how can you make it a success not a disappointment?

Many voluntary organisations raise huge sums through runs, walks, swims and even baked bean baths. Sponsored events are a big earner.

But you need to make sure yours makes a big splash and is not a damp squib.

Here are some Dos and Don’ts to help you:

Do plan what you’re asking

Think about what you want people to do for you – how much do you want from each sponsor, what your overall target is, how they can support you, if you want moral support as well or other kinds of support than cash.  Think about what you will do if someone wants to give an extra-large donation.

Do describe your cause

A vivid description of what you are raising money for will work wonders for your sponsors.  A clear explanation will help people feel your cause is accountable and transparent, and see the benefit of giving.

Do explain why the cause matters to you

Some people will want to know all about the cause, but many potential sponsors will trust your judgement.  They will want to know why it matters to you.

Do something unusual

There is a lot of competition for people’s time and money.  If you can do something unusual or genuinely challenging it will catch a sponsor’s attention and impress them.

  • For example, David Walliams this month raised over £1m for Sport Relief by swimming a long stretch of the Thames – not an everyday activity.  The challenge was important as well. Walliams told the Metro, ‘It wasn’t really fun, it was 140 miles swimming in cold water so the fun bit is when you get out.’

Sports events and challenges generally should be properly organised, so check out our advice on how this can be done, or have a look at KnowHow NonProfit’s extensive information about organising events and challenges.

Do use your networks

Ask a wide group of people for their support and take a bit of time to explain what you’re doing. Think laterally about who might support you and ask people from your work, school, family and friends and other groups or associations you are involved in.

Do be clever online

Go online to tell people about what you are doing, share photos and links to further information.  If you are fundraising for an established cause (i.e. a registered charity) you will be able to use online fundraising sites like JustGiving, BmyCharity, Virgin Money Giving or MyDonate (there are more of these).  If not, you can still collect sponsors’ pledges through online sponsor forms.  Also, social media like Facebook and Twitter gives you a means to alert lots more people to what you are doing.

Do remind people

Go back to people you’ve asked or who said they would support you but haven’t made a specific pledge.  Sometimes people aren’t sure how much to give or haven’t got enough information.  A gentle reminder can help.

Don’t bother people who’ve said no already

If someone doesn’t want to support you there is no point going back to them again and again.  This will just annoy them and doesn’t help long term.

Don’t go back to the same people too often

Some people get a lot of requests for sponsorship, and going back and asking them too soon after your last sponsored event is unfair.

Don’t talk down your cause

Being negative about either your event or your cause will not help to boost your tally. Keep positive and you will find your enthusiasm is infectious.

Don’t forget to say thank you

Once people have sponsored you they deserve to be thanked as a group and individually.  If you forget to do this then it is not just bad manners, it could also put them off supporting you or others in future.

Don’t be afraid!

Sometimes the most difficult part of doing a fundraiser is asking people to sponsor you.  But you don’t need to be afraid because people like giving to good causes and they will enjoy supporting you.  So get out there and ask!

One of the things I have really enjoyed about both raising money through sponsorship and about sponsoring other people is that it is inherently sociable.  It draws people in to your cause and gets them involved.

This kind of fundraising is a great way for lots of voluntary organisations to diversify their income and get some much-needed unrestricted funds, while also building a community of supporters who might help raise income in other ways.

It is not risk-free. If you’re going to send people out on an expedition you need to make sure they are safe and secure, and you are complying with the relevant rules and regulations. Also it is only as reliable as your fundraisers and sponsors – forgetting to pay, long collection times and over-estimating what the event could raise are all common. That’s why big charities often ask for an upfront charge and minimum fundraising targets for their open events.

There are many more people out there thinking about this topic.  Have a look at these useful resources to find out more about individual sponsorship:


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