Category Archives: Sponsorship

Brand your events. You’ll be happy you did.

Nashville Hiking Meetup logoI joined Nashville Hiking Meetup in July of 2007. After several months of participating in hikes, leading hikes, and taking over the group in December of that year, someone suggested we have a social event at a bar or restaurant. Surprisingly enough I was skeptical. I said, "I know these people like to hike together, but will they like to socialize and drink a beer together?"

Boy, was I wrong.

We planned our first crowded barsocial event for January 6, 2008 at a local pub. Trip leader Seth had the brilliant idea (which I later learned was the idea of his then girlfriend and now wife Anna) to call it "Drink a Pint" which then morphed into "Drink a Pint Night" over time. People loved the event from day one.

Fast forward to modern times. We typically do one Drink a Pint Night per month now, attracting usually 100 people or more. Now members expect the "Pint Nights" (as most people call them now). By giving the regular event its own name, people identify with it and can refer to the mixer quickly as in, When is the next Pint Night?

Social events have become great way for current members to catch up with old friends, and new members to meet a few folks to realize we’re not crazy before they head out into the woods to hike or camp with us. Add a great brand name to your mixers and other events (and partner with other meetups in the area) and I bet you’ll have a winning combination. Furthermore, promise a venue you’ll bring X number of people into their establishment on a certain night, you’re bound to find a long term sponsor.

drinking beerNo, we’re not the only group in the world to use the event moniker “Drink a Pint Night” but it has stuck. I’m proud to say that our friends at Bowling Green Hiking Meetup have also taken on that brand.

Our pals at Tennessee Hiking Group do a great job at thinking up creative (although a little cutesy for my taste) titles for their events such as “Romancing the Stone: Standing Stone SP, Cooper Mountain Trail” and “Fiery Gizzard —> And we’re off to see the Gizzard…”

How have you branded your recurring events? Let us know in the comments.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Resources: Brand your events. You’ll be happy you did.

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If you want to borrow my audience…

With running a meetup of over 4,500 members, I receive many requests to promote other organization’s events and fundraising initiatives. I get it. You want to borrow my audience.

Just keep several things in mind:

  • Your offer must be relevant to my audience.
  • Realize I have companies and organizations paying Nashville Hiking Meetup to be a sponsor. How would it look to give you free promotion? I’d be happy to send you a quote for becoming a sponsor.
  • If I decide to promote your efforts, make it easy on me by writing posts (email, Facebook, Twitter) in my voice and in the appropriate format. Don’t just attach a PDF press release that I have to extract content out of.


See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

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How to get sponsors for your group

I just received an email from member Pete asking how Nashville Hiking Meetup got its sponsors. This is one of the questions I hear most often.

To me, it’s a very simple set of answers:

  • Your audience (membership) has to be an audience the sponsor wants as customers.
  • You must have demographic data on your members.
  • You must track the value of the sponsorship.
  • You have to present a clear “ask” to a potential sponsor.

Those are the quick start answers for those of you don’t have time to read an entire blog post.

Let’s break it down…

Is your membership the audience a sponsor wants?

I feel there must be a like-mindedness between a meetup and its sponsors. What values does your meetup support? Is a member likely to shop at a sponsor’s store or eat at their restaurant?

Since my meetup has certain defined values at its core (protecting the environment, expanding shared green space, building trails, healthy lifestyle), I seek out sponsors with similar values.

First define your group’s values and then brainstorm with a small subset of your membership (a management team of sorts) to make a list of sponsors you’d love to land.

Collect demographic data on your membership

Furthermore, your membership should “look like” a desired customer for a potential sponsor, and this typically means demographics. The most basic list of demographics you should have are:

  • home zip code
  • gender
  • age range

The next level would be:

  • annual income
  • marital status
  • highest level of education

From there you can really blow it out with expanded data on your members such as:

  • children living at home
  • how often member shops at certain kind of store
  • how much annually member spends on certain types of products
  • how likely is member to purchase from a sponsor

Now, does not make it easy to collect any of this information. In fact,  a meetup organizer cannot see any demographics due to Meetup’s privacy policy, but that increases a potential member’s chances of joining. If you know your personal data isn’t shared with meetup organizers (even email address), I feel a member is more likely to join. I’ll take that trade-off.

So how do you collect this demographic data? The simplest way is a survey. Click here to see an example survey I launched a couple of years ago.

And what’s the incentive for a member to fill out a survey? A prize drawing. Pull together a few items of value to your members (t-shirts with your meetup’s logo, gift cards from local stores, donated items from your membership) and publicize that the survey participants will be entered into a drawing.

Once you have your raw survey data, you can create nice pie and bar charts and put all of these demographic snapshots into a packet you can share with potential sponsors.

Tracking the value of a sponsorship

You need to be able to present to a prospective sponsor how you’re going to track the value of the product or cash they are providing, and follow through with this tracking. Nothing is more frustrating to a sponsor than seeing no return on their investment.

Tracking value doesn’t necessarily mean sales dollars. It’s very unlikely you, as a meetup leader, will have access to a sponsor’s sales data. Instead, you count other metrics:

  • testimonials from members about sponsors
  • number of members who attended an event at a sponsor’s location
  • number of clicks from a sponsor’s logo on your site to that sponsor’s site (I’ll get into how to track that in a later post)

Present a clear ask to a prospective sponsor

Sales Training 101 always tells us to know what we’re going to ask a prospect before that first conversation or meeting with the company. I’ve been on several sales calls in the past where the prospect asks in the first five minutes “what is it exactly that you want from us?”

Having a clear “ask” ahead of time (donated product, a space to hold meetings, gift cards, cash) will will prevent you from looking like an idiot in this situation.

You should also develop a standard price list for advertising on your site, email newsletter, or social media page, even if you plan on discounting later. Have a PDF of your price list digitally near at hand so when you get an email asking “how much will it cost me to sponsor your group,” you’ll have a document to quickly send to the prospect. No, it won’t be perfect or even fit all sizes, but it’s something. Be sure to follow up with that prospect later. And remember you can always negotiate.

Philosophically speaking

These answers were part philosophical and part practical. I know this post doesn’t answer one of Pete’s original questions which was how I landed a specific sponsor. Since I treat my meetup like a business, I don’t divulge specifics of a sponsor’s deal.

Land those first couple of sponsors, and just like in business, it’s easier to get customers if you have customers.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

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