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Designing and building the most fuel-efficient vehicle will be the main focus of your Shell Eco-marathon project – but not the only one. In order to turn your ideas into reality you will need to secure funding and financial support from third parties. This guide provides you practical advice to start a successful sponsorship campaign.
What do we need?
Assess your needs: Make sure you know exactly what your team needs before you ask partners for sponsorship and support:
- Money to purchase equipment or finance other aspects of the project
- Logistical support
- Other kinds of support
- List all your needs, describing each as precisely as possible.
- Draw up a detailed budget for the whole project:
- Divide it into categories (e.g. equipment, logistics, communications...)
- Indicate when and how the money will be spent
- Specify amounts with and without tax (VAT or equivalent)
Who should we approach?
Identify all the organisations that might be interested in the project. When approaching the private sector, research and approach those organisations whose core activity links to the main themes of Shell Eco-marathon: sustainable development; educational projects; focus on fuel efficiency. You could research the following resources:
- Directory of companies from the local Chamber of Commerce or similar organisation
- Directory of companies already associated with your educational establishment
- Business or trade journals (to find out which business are active in your target sectors)
For public sector organisations
- Local, city or regional authorities may have subsidies or public grants available for your project.
- Research institutes or energy/environment agencies that offer scholarships or finance projects conducted by young adults may also provide a good source of support and funding.
- Use your personal network. Family and friends might know of potential partners - talk to them about your Shell Eco-marathon project.
How do we get organised?
List the identified organisations in a structured manner. Include in your list the following information:
- Name of the organisation
- Name and full contact details of the relevant contact person. (This will change depending on the size of the company. For example, for smaller companies it may be the managing director him/herself, whereas for larger organisations it could be the communications director or external relation’s manager).
- Kind of support sought (e.g. financial, materials, logistics, etc.).
Use the list to:
- Prioritise target organisations (first approach the organisations that are most likely to help you)
- Keep track of the contact status for each organisation you approach (e.g. dates of initial contact, information sent, meeting set)
- Record important information (e.g. budget deadlines for the next year, details of any agreement made with the organisation and the outlook for the future
- Have one team member responsible for updating the list.
- Receiving funds from sponsors might require that you give your team the status of a legal entity, for example by establishing it as a non-profit organisation. Investigate this.
Time to reach out
Make the most out of the first contact. Your first contact with a potential sponsor is very important: make sure you do your best. First impressions last.
Do you already know someone within the organisation? Contact them first, they might be able to help you talk to the right person or give you some useful insights into your request. The key goal is to be given the opportunity to present your project and the Shell Eco-marathon in more detail in a subsequent meeting. Your first contact can be in person, by phone, email or letter.
- Have any necessary documents to hand, prepare what you want to say and keep in mind your objective: obtaining a meeting.
- Choose a persuasive spokesperson to make the calls. S/he should speak clearly, be pleasant and patient and also communicate your team’s energy and enthusiasm for the project.
In general, letters are preferable to emails. While it only takes one click to delete an email, most people will actually read through a letter before throwing it in the bin.
You find template letters below. Use the appropriate letter for inspiration but make sure you adapt it to your specific project and the potential sponsor’s interests.
- Attach your short presentation;
- Always follow up a first contact, call to check if your letter/email has been received but also be patient. Never call the day after or harass them by calling every day.
Time to reach out
Presenting your project
An invitation to present your project to a potential sponsor is a great opportunity: make the most of it. Prepare a short presentation about your project. Dedicate the necessary time and effort to make this document look as professional as possible; it will be your main tool to engage potential sponsors.
It should be tailored to the potential sponsor approached, short and sharp: keep ideas and messages simple, refrain from putting too much information on your slides, and last, but most important, free from spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
Here are some ideas to consider when you're putting your presentation together:
- A brief description of what Shell Eco-marathon is about (use the information in this website – remember to focus on the event’s objectives, purpose and history.
- Include information about your project, objectives, and strategy for this year, current status of the project, as well as results from last year if appropriate.
- Your team's strengths and/or what differentiate it from the others. If you have any letters of endorsement, include them as supporting evidence.
- A detailed budget showing how you intend to use the money raised.
- What you can offer in return for financial/material support: show where and how the sponsor's logo would appear on your vehicle and/or your team uniforms and your communication materials.
- The benefits the sponsor can expect from a partnership with your team, e.g. positive image, media coverage, marketing opportunities, etc. If your team has already attracted media coverage, provide examples.
- Pictures and visuals that are lively, fun and make your presentation compelling: people engage with pictures more than with words.
- Consider involving other departments at your school or college, such as marketing or design, to help produce a stunning presentation.
If you are emailing your presentation, be sure to include a cover letter/email explaining your approach, make it simple and to-the-point, and clearly indicate that you would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further in a meeting.
Remember that presentations are meant to be presented – if you are sending via email and will not be presenting, then tailor your presentation accordingly so that it is self-explanatory.
If you are mailing your presentation, make sure that your team's name and contact details are clearly displayed on your letter's header, and that the contact's name and address is accurately written on the envelope. You should include your presentation on CD-Rom, DVD or a memory stick enclosed with your cover letter.
When you are invited to give your presentation in person:
- Identify the best communicators in the team.
- Prepare and rehearse. Ask team members not connected with the presentation to give you some feedback on the content and suggest ideas to improve your pitch.
- Do some research about your potential sponsor.
- On the day, treat your audience with respect, dress professionally and show them that you have taken the time to prepare well.
Asking for feedback
After having sent your presentation/ presented your project in person, you should try to find out how it was perceived. This feedback can be very useful to amend your presentation for other potential sponsors.
When you are successful, try to understand the elements that won your audience over. If you were unsuccessful, you should still try to understand why the potential sponsor did not invite you to present your project in person or offer support.
You should always ask, politely, for any helpful tips for future prospects no matter whether your presentation outcome is successful or unsuccessful.
Establishing the Relationship
Securing solid sponsorship and supplier agreements will be critical to your success in the Shell Ecomarathon. And remember, the success of your sponsorship outreach will also greatly depend on the effectiveness and professionalism of your communications.
If you have secured a partnership, make sure you keep your sponsor involved throughout the project: update them regularly on your progress and send them any clippings or photos of the team and their logo that appear in the media.
After the event, arrange a meeting with the sponsors to show them how you delivered benefits to their company, report on the team’s performance and look towards the Shell Eco-marathon 2012.
If your sponsor is made to feel like a true partner in this project, s/he will be more likely to support your team in future editions of Shell Eco-marathon.