5 Tips for Warming Up Cold Sponsor Prospects


Sponsor sales can be nerve-wracking.  It’s a lot like dating. You want the comfort and security of a relationship, but you dread having to go through the process to get to that point.  Putting yourself out there can be scary.

Often times nonprofits put themselves out there in a way that’s safe, the lowest risk with the potential for the highest reward.  They send an email with a letter and a pitch deck. No risk. If the company doesn’t like it, they’ll just delete it, but if they are interested, they’ll call or send a check.  Woo hoo! See, no risk but potential for big reward.

The problem is that sending a cold prospect your pitch deck is like asking a blind date to marry you – before you’ve even gone on the date.  It’s crazy! No one would ever do that. Yes, you could potentially get someone to marry you that way, but would you really want them? You likely wouldn’t value the relationship and you’d always wonder if there was someone better out there.    

Sometimes nonprofits will stay within their same sponsorship pool, asking a handful of companies over and over again.  While this can be successful, you’re not reaching your max potential for sponsorships if you don’t expand outside your current list.    

If you don’t have a list of sponsor prospects, download my FREE Sponsor Prospecting Checklist.

Once you have your list of potential sponsors, before you pick up the phone or send an email, use these 5 tips to turn your cold prospects into warm leads.  

1.     Research

Find out who is the best person to contact at the organization.  This could be anyone from the Community Relations Manager to the Senior Marketing Director.    

Check out your sponsor prospect (the organization, not the person) on their website and social media.  Read their blog and social media posts. Did the company win any awards or have they been recognized recently?  Are they launching a new product or service? Did they hire a new HR manager? Are they opening a new location? Did they make a research breakthrough?  The more you know about your prospect, the better.

2.     Find a connection

Look up your contact on LinkedIn.  Do you have a connection that can introduce you?  Do you belong to similar organizations? Have you worked with or supported any of the organizations listed under their volunteer experience?  Find some common denominators.

3.     Ask for advice

Think about areas where you could ask your prospect for advice.  If you already have a sponsor pitch deck, ask your prospect for feedback on it.  Do not use this to launch into a sales pitch. Simply ask them for feedback and let them know you value their input.  If you don’t have a pitch deck, ask them what they think makes an effective pitch deck. Talk to them about their latest sponsor experience.  What worked for them and what didn’t?

Want to steer clear of talking about sponsorship in the beginning?  Ask them for help using their area of expertise. It can be a bit of an ego-booster to be asked to share knowledge and it’s a great way for them to get to know you better as well.  Keep in mind this is not a tactic. This is an opportunity to get real, valuable feedback or information from your sponsor prospect that will help your organization. Part of what makes cold calling undesirable is that it feels sleazy.  If this feels sleazy then you’re not asking the right questions or going about it incorrectly. This should feel authentic.

4.     Build trust

Give more than you get.  One of the best ways to eliminate anxiety about reaching out to a prospect is to make it about them.  More often than not, when we’re nervous we’re usually thinking about ourselves. Instead, focus on them.  Find out how you can help them. Again, this is not a tactic. It’s building a relationship. Relationships that are one-sided usually don’t last very long.  Show your sponsor prospect you’re interested in a long term relationship. On the flip side, don’t give so much that you look desperate or that it drains your time and resources.  It’s all about balance.

5.     Ease the pressure

If your sponsor prospect isn’t interested in sponsorship right now, and you genuinely think you could have a great partnership with them, let them know it’s OK to say no without guilt or pressure.  You can make sales using pressure tactics but it starts the relationship off on the wrong foot. But don’t walk away and ignore them either. It’s not an all or nothing, now or never prospect. Let them know it’s OK if they’re not interested now but that you’re not giving up on them.

 Now that you’ve done your research, found a connection, thought about areas you could ask your prospect for advice, and have decided you’re going to give more than you get, it’s time to pick up the phone and make those calls.  

If these tips are helpful to you, please leave a comment on my Facebook page.  I’d love to hear how you turned your cold prospect into warm lead which led to a red-hot sponsor relationship.  🔥