Sponsors are the lifeblood of fundraising events. Nonprofit organizations, political campaigns and social movements rely on a variety of funding sources, and often, this includes fundraisers like dinners, performances, exhibitions and galas. Businesses that sponsor events like these can gain brand recognition and industry clout while supporting causes they believe in. Not all sponsorships are the same, and there are multiple types of sponsorships businesses can pursue.

Four Kinds of Sponsorships

There are many different ways to sponsor an event. Some offer unique sponsorship packages like phone charging stations and naming rights for specific products. Generally, opportunities to support nonprofits fall into four broad types of sponsorship.

Financial Sponsors

Most discussions of sponsorships focus on financial sponsors. These are the sponsors that give money directly to an organization and campaign leaders to fund their events.

Media Sponsors

Media sponsors are financial sponsors that secure advertising for an event. This can mean purchasing advertising space on local television or in a local newspaper or publishing content about the event on their own channels, like creating a blog post about the event or cause.

In-Kind Sponsors

An in-kind sponsorship is an arrangement where the sponsoring business provides goods or services in lieu of direct financial support. For example, a restaurant may opt to provide food for a fundraising event.

Promotional Partnerships

Promotional partnerships are similar to media sponsors. The difference between these types of sponsorships is that promotional partners are typically individual figures rather than companies and media outlets. A promotional partner advertises the event or cause to his network.

Presenting Sponsor Definition

Sometimes, an event has multiple sponsors. Typically, the sponsors provide different types and levels of support. The sponsor that provides the greatest amount of support often receives top billing on promotional materials and may be treated as the party “hosting” the event. This sponsor is known as the presenting sponsor.

The presenting sponsor definition doesn't explicitly require the presenting sponsor to be the one that provided the largest amount of financial support, though. Sometimes, the presenting sponsor simply opted into a certain sponsorship package that includes the right to be named the presenting sponsor.

When a sponsor has the right to act as an event’s “host,” that sponsor fits the presenting sponsor definition. Usually, this sponsor is designated in the event’s title and promotional materials. For example, if Spirits Unlimited were to be the presenting sponsor of the annual Ghosthunters Ball, promotional materials may read, “The 11th Annual Ghosthunter’s Ball, presented by Spirits Unlimited.”

Sponsoring an Event

Businesses considering sponsoring events need to carefully consider the kinds of sponsorships available for each event. Sometimes, a cause just doesn't need the kinds of sponsorship certain business types can provide. When a business owner determines that a cause she cares about can use the type of sponsorship her business can provide, her next step is to determine the financial realities and logistics of pursuing the sponsorship.

A financial advisor can help a business owner determine whether she can afford to sponsor an event and how the sponsorship will impact the company’s operating expenses. Other considerations a company’s leadership team needs to make when evaluating sponsorship opportunities are:

  • How the sponsorship will impact the brand’s image with its target audience.
  • Whether the sponsorship will further the brand’s reach.
  • How the sponsorship will impact the nonprofit organization or campaign it's supporting.
  • Whether the company is actually equipped to provide the type of support the sponsorship requires.
  • Which types of sponsorship best fit the company’s brand.

In some cases, a company can improve its return on investment by providing multiple kinds of sponsorship. In other cases, a better strategy for the business is to focus on one type of sponsorship. And in certain situations, it's in the company’s best interest to pass on a sponsorship opportunity. When an event’s goals or values don't align with a brand’s goals and values, pursuing a sponsorship with the event can actually hurt the brand.