How to Get Sponsors for your SQL Saturday

We had really excellent success with sponsorship at SQL Saturday #35 Dallas. I was the sponsorship coordinator, and I’m going to go ahead say it: we rocked it, man. I haven’t been given the go-ahead to discuss actual numbers, but I’ll say that our final budget ended up being something like five to six times what we originally planned, because we could.
 
Because we could.
 
The key inputs that helped us most, starting with the most important, are the key bits of advice I want to give to anyone planning a SQL Saturday:

1. Start with a big list of likely sponsors - I kept a list of all PASS Summit sponsors, and then got tons more leads from other SQL Saturdays’ sponsor lists. After that came individual ideas and leads from board and community members. 

2. Create a very clear sponsorship proposal, with multiple levels and good return on investment for the sponsor (see example below, or email me for the original PDF/Doc) 

3. Be persistent - the person(s) in charge of garnering sponsorship – and there should be AT LEAST one person solely dedicated to this – are salesmen.  You email or call, you present the awesomeness of sponsoring SQLSat without being annoying, you email or call back, you email or call back some more.  And for Pete’s sake, keep track of who you called, when, and what the status is…keep a spreadsheet, or a table! 

4. Advertise the event well to get good excpected attendee numbers. That means local user groups and associations, twitter and blog, newsletters, schools, and whatever else you can think of that’s free or cheap. One sponsor told us that the 500 attendeed range is absolutely ideal. While Dallas-Fort Worth makes it pretty easy to pull in that kind of attendance (with a little effort), I realize that the smaller communities may have difficulty with this. But hey, smaller attendance means smaller budget anyway! 

5. Be clear, be fair, stay in good communication with your sponsors.  The job got too big for me once it came time to coordinate sponsor benefits, so I had to hand off to Ryan Adams, who did an absolutely bang-up job of keeping sponsors in the loop, and getting their benefits together. 

I emailed tons of companies with a short introductory paragraph and the attached sponsorship plan that we as a committee had worked out. A few emailed back, and I followed up with the rest 2 or 3 times.  Here’s the wording we used on our sponsorship proposal (titled “Sponsorship Opportunity”):

Your company can take advantage of a unique opportunity to reach a large group of regional software professionals at our free one-day training event! 

 WHO 

The North Texas SQL Server User Group (NTSSUG) was formed to provide a forum where Microsoft SQL Server system administrators and developers could meet to learn, share ideas and make contact with other industry professionals. Members from our current roster of 600+ meet monthly to provide training and materials, and plan events such as SQL Saturday.

WHAT 

NTSSUG will host our first annual SQL Saturday on May 22, 2010, at the Region 10 Education Service Center in Richardson, Texas. SQL Saturday is a free one day training conference that is expected to draw over 400 SQL Server professionals from the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, Austin, Houston, and surrounding states.

 

CONTACT
Contact Jen McCown at Jen@JenniferMcCown.com

 

For more event information visit the SQL Saturday Home Page at http://www.sqlsaturday.com/ 

You can also contact us about benefits for sponsoring our monthly NTSSUG meetings. For information on the North Texas SQL Server User Group, see our webpage http://northtexas.sqlpass.org/ 

SPONSORSHIP LEVELS 

SQL Saturday is run by volunteers, and is free to attendees, but we do have significant costs to put on an event this size, including food and drink, speaker shirts, and programs. Your aid makes a successful SQL Saturday possible. The sponsorship levels are:  
You can also contact us about benefits for sponsoring our monthly NTSSUG meetings. For information on the North Texas SQL Server User Group, see our webpage http://northtexas.sqlpass.org/ 
SPONSORSHIP LEVELS 
 

SQL Saturday is run by volunteers, and is free to attendees, but we do have significant costs to put on an event this size, including food and drink, speaker shirts, and programs. Your aid makes a successful SQL Saturday possible. The sponsorship levels are:  

 

SQL Saturday 35 Sponsor Benefits

SQL Saturday 35 Sponsor Benefits

And then we have a nice little chart of sponsorship level (Friends of, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum) and the dollar amounts with each. We had several “friends of” that only contributed products or services, but no money. For the rest, we kept fairly strictly to this chart of benefits:
 
We did end up making some changes – first off, the laws about giving out people’s contact information are pretty strict, so we had to make sure there were very clear opt-out options. And we eventually ran out of certain Platinum sponsor benefits – do you believe that? We had TOO MANY PLATINUM SPONSORS! So we had to get creative to make sure that we had good substitute benefits, and work that out with individual companies before we accepted them as sponsors.
 
Also don’t forget that local companies may want a piece of the action – recruitment firms, local tech companies, and food vendors (we got a huge discount off of our afternoon Paciugo ice cream by listing them as a “bronze” sponsor).   Allow for a little flexibility in the sponsor plan (some companies may qualify for a higher level by providing some vital product or service), but by and large be firm.  We had some difficulty with one company in particular that wanted much much more than their sponsorship level granted them, and we had to be consistently firm.  That was truly the only negative aspect of the whole procedure, though.
 
Finally, reach out to other SQL Saturday organizers.  Let us know if you need more help, pointers, information, anything at all. We were well delighted with the success of our SQL Saturday in Dallas, and we’d love to see the same happen for you.

 

Happy days,

Jen

http://www.MidnightDBA.com/Jen

12 thoughts on “How to Get Sponsors for your SQL Saturday”

  1. Awesome write up! I don’t know why we didn’t blog about it before. I think I might need to do one for how to handle sponsor coordination of benefits after they sign up. I’ll link to this post in mine.

  2. Jen,
    awesome, I been trying to build a SSUG and build up to an SQL Saturday someday. I notices speakers like Sean travel to different SQL Saturday’s, in the sponsorships, do you budget to pay for speakers or travel etc.?

  3. Gabriel,

    SQL Saturdays don’t pay for speaker travel or fees, speakers are all volunteers. We sometimes help them out – pick someone up from the airport, etc – but the whole grassroots format of SQL Saturday really limits what we spend money on. If you haven’t already, contact Andy Warren for the introductory SQL Sat materials (it’ll spell a lot of things out), or just visit the “Organize a SQL Saturday” page on SQLSaturday.com.

  4. Thanks Jen,
    I think I could really use the help starting up a SQL user group first, with the intent of a SQL Sat. It will be hard to get regional speakers from the El Paso area.. that’s way west of DFW, Austin and Houston.

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