One of the most important things you have to do in your organization is raise funds. Whether on an annual basis (annual giving) or for an event, you have to raise money to support your organization.

You are an Executive Director of an association or chamber of commerce.  How do you tackle this challenge?  Here are 5 strategies that any executive director can use.

Strategy #1: In order to get a business to financially support your organization, you have to ask them!  

Asking a business for money gets easier the more you do it. We promise.  Ask a business to sponsor an event or invest in an organization while you are standing in front of them. It is really hard for a person to say no to someone when you are face to face and you give them a compelling reason why they should write a check. If you can’t ask them in person, pick up the phone and call; email should be a last resort. If you have to do an email ask, personalize your email and let the person from whom you are asking money know that you can customize a package specific to their needs.

Strategy #2: Who should you ask? Everyone! 

Ask members and nonmembers alike. When you attend events, always take a look at the sponsor list. Who has the biggest logo on the programs, banners and screens? Go back to your office and Google the companies whose logos you saw. Lean on your board and other volunteer leaders to identify potential sponsors, especially if they have a personal relationship.  Come up with your elevator speech and then practice it over and over again.

Strategy #3: Customize offerings if necessary.

You could have spent months creating an incredible annual sponsorship brochure, or exhibitor/sponsor opportunity for an event – use it as a TOOL, a starting point to customize a membership for your businesses – but not the ONLY list of offerings Ask your potential sponsor about their pain points; maybe there is something you can do to help them. Also ask about their target clients.   Can you get their name in front of that group for them? Listen, listen, listen and really care about helping them as much as they are helping you.

Strategy #4: Get creative.  Think outside the box.  Everything can be sponsored.

Everything at an event can be sponsored. Brainstorm with your staff and encourage them to offer even the craziest of ideas.  Everyone already knows about the importance of sponsor mic time and logos and banners, but have you tried a signature cocktail named after your sponsors?  Or a photo booth with a sponsor logo on the pictures or frames? Perhaps create a “leaderboard” banner stand that you can take to all of your events with your sponsor logos? Or offer naming rights to a social event or activity?  The possibilities are endless.

Ways to Thank Sponsors

Strategy #5: Say thank you over and over throughout the year. 

Give a list of sponsors to your Board to whom they should write emails and thank you cards. Give your sponsors a call six months after they have written the check and ask them how business is going. Take them a little bag of cookies around the holidays to say thank you. You can also send an anniversary card to businesses that have been sponsors for several years.

You may be a executive director who is also new to the industry.  Remember, lean on your board and leaders to help identify the sponsors and then work with your staff to customize opportunities for sponsors.  Come up with a plan as to thank them and touch base with them throughout the year.  The most important thing you have to do is ask.

What else do you need to know to be successful in your executive director role?  Check out our new book – Executive Director: 101 What Execs Need to Know for Success.  It’s an easy read with helpful hints, secrets for success and best practices for Executive Director success across 14 different topic areas ranging from membership growth, development and engagement to strategic planning and financial management.  This book will help you be the best leader for your organization.

Check out our blog for more Executive Director 101 tips.