Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Unconference Wisdom: Handling Sponsorships

Posted on: August 24, 2007

As part of the Knowledge Foundation, I’ve been involved in the organization of the team behind a fair bit of events – all the way from Barcamp, Blogcamp, Podworks, etc etc. One of the commonality – and some might say toughest part – is the sponsorship support that you need to raise for such initiatives. There are enough well-intended companies and people out there who would definitely help you out, and hats off to them for the support of such corporates and well wishers, but there are also companies which would commit to sponsorship and later on after the event is over, all communications would simply cease. That’s not good.

Most of the time, the blame seems to be on attritions as well, since the middle manager who was the “champion within” and got this sanctioned isn’t around anymore and you need to establish contact with a new manager and explain to him, and its almost a new pitch all over – and they might or might not be impressed. That is not a position to want to be in.

During my conversations with some of the barcamp and similar-themed conference organizers (including Shaastra, IIT’s biggest tech event), the problem always is in following up with the commitments of the sponsors. The success rate of retrieving committed sponsorships, seem to be quite low. The team in IIT has evolved to tackle this issue, and so have others. Here are the tips.

Better than Cure.
1. Sign and MoU, and make it binding. Along with the design of your sponsorship kit, do ask the representative to sign an MoU. Either pay the money in advance or sign a binding MoU, or its technically a no-game. Keep it simple as that.

When You need to Cure.
2. Use a little bit of leverage. At the end of the day, these sponsors did decide to sponsor the event, because they wanted to reach out to a specific community. Well, tell them that they are never going to be able to do that anymore, if they cant keep their promises. There are incidents where teams have sent a subtle message of blogging about this incident in the blogosphere – but I would suggest handling such things in peaceful means as much as possible.

I would strongly go with the first point. It is simple, and while both the parties are eager to participate and the event is still on planning mode, it is quite easy to get these matters in place, rather than later.

*sigh* Back to writing an email on handling a similar situation with TKF.

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