Do you have the desire to create a group or initiative that is going to feed into a passion or cause outside of school, but aren’t sure how to get started? Or perhaps you don’t think there’s a way to get the money you need to start, without first developing a stream of revenue?

Thanks to the “Sponsorship for Clubs” workshop, hosted by the Centre for Student Engagement, more student groups have gained insight in how to begin the process of acquiring sponsorship.

However, to gain sponsorship, you can’t just walk into a business and say you need $5,000. Sponsors need you to answer their needs as well.

According to Jim Tobin, the director and head of sponsorship for Scotiabank Canadian Marketing, “Sponsorship is the solution to a marketing problem. Think about how you might help to solve it.” By offering corporations the opportunity to create awareness, show community responsibility, showcase products and services, and generate sales leads, you are contributing to an integral part of the sponsorship relationship.

Sponsoring is not donating. It involves commercial incentives, either through the placement of a logo or a product. A donation is where there is no reciprocation of any kind, while a sponsor is looking to gain access to a wider audience, and connect with people they don’t currently reach. Whether that be through social media, access to a podium at an event, or linking the sponsorship back to them, thinking about how you are going to incorporate them into the event and offer a rare opportunity to help them reach their target market is crucial to framing yourself as a good investment for sponsors.

When determining who to approach about sponsorship, do the research and identify the types of companies that might be interested in the benefits you are offering.

Don’t be afraid to make use of personal connections, but most importantly, according to Darryl Chow, the director of corporate relations at U of T, “know what you are worth.” An awareness of whether you are asking for too much, or too little, is paramount. The key is “getting the right people, at the right time, to send their message.”

Developing an action plan is next—plan being the operative word. You only have one chance to make a first impression. After doing your research, the action plan usually starts with a cold email. Amir Kharazmi, who is responsible for business development for Blue Sky Solar Racing Team, emphasizes this, saying that “everything starts with that cold email.” The aim of the email is to set up a call, the aim of the call is to set up a meeting, and the aim of a meeting is to close the deal.

Helping your targeted sponsor to understand what you are trying to achieve, and then framing it so they see why they need to be a part of such an achievement is essential to gaining sponsorship. Frank Gu, the managing director of the Blue Sky Solar Racing Team, shares that “if you want a sustainable relationship with sponsors, there has to be something they can provide, and something we can provide in turn.”

When looking for sponsorship for any group or event, it is essential to remember that, as Chow says, “No amount of revenue should ever compromise the integrity of your institution.” It is also essential to remember that the University of Toronto has the right to refuse sponsorship from any organization that is directly or indirectly inconsistent with the university’s values.

Sponsorship doesn’t always mean asking for money, although that can be a part of it. Isha Chaudhary, a fourth-year student and the member services coordinator for ECSpeRT, says, “We’re looking for external sponsors, obviously to help fund events, but also to have items to give to the competitors, like gift bags and such. It’s the main reason we look for sponsors.”

“Offer organizations the opportunity to engage, not the opportunity to give you stuff,” advises Chow. Focus on what you offer, why you offer it, and what benefit it is to the university, students, alumni, and community. Showing exactly what one could gain by being associated with you, and then following through, is the best way to start a long-term relationship with a corporate sponsor.