The 5-step MLH Sponsorship Process
Once you’ve ascertained how much money your hackathon needs and created your sponsorship materials, you’re ready to embark on the fundraising process.
1. Set Targets And Do Your Research
Compile a list of potential sponsors:
Check out sponsors of previous MLH events
Search your network (LinkedIn is a great tool for this)
Check in with career services — which companies sponsor tech job fairs on your campus?
2. Get In Touch
Send a well-crafted, thoughtful email.
Keep it clear and concise. Shorter is better.
Don’t attach the prospectus yet — your goal here is simply to get to the next step: a phone call.
Cover the basics — when, where, why, etc.
Ask for a short phone call on a specific date.
Reach out to the decision maker at each company. When in doubt, email the CEO.
Intros are infinitely better than cold emails.
Follow up: don’t worry if you don’t receive a response to your initial email; wait a week and ask again.
3. Have An Exploratory Phone Call
Make sure the sponsor knows what a hackathon is — use analogies like comparing it to a science fair
Ask about success metrics. What did they get from past sponsorships?
Sell your team and your story. What makes you special?
Let THEM do all the talking. You’ll figure out what companies most value this way.
Don’t be afraid to ask their budget. "Given the times you’ve sponsored events similar to this one, what have you spent and what did you get?"
Before you hang up, schedule a follow up call.
4. Make A Proposal
Do this right away. Sometimes it’s as easy as sending over a prospectus with the packages most relevant to that particular company. Other times, you’ll have to put together a custom proposal.
Make sure to explain why your offerings are a good fit.
Give your sponsorship deadline.
Less is more! Choose a uniform color scheme and keep text to a minimum on each slide.
5. Follow Up And Track Your Progress
Email a week or two later offering to answer questions.
Track your emails with a CRM, an email service like Boomerang, or plain old Excel.
When a sponsor says yes, invoice them immediately.
Tracking Your Incoming And Outgoing Funds
Keep in mind that sponsorship money comes in on a rolling basis
Develop a process for collecting and spending money. Ask about club accounts
Have one person in charge of maintaining the budget, outstanding invoices, and accounts payable so that they understand when money is coming in and out
Appoint one person to act as the point of contact for all sponsors (most likely your head of finance).
Be willing to negotiate offerings — to a point. It’s important to preserve the integrity of your hackathon.
If rejected, ask for something else! Many companies that can’t contribute money are happy to send a judge or an onsite mentor.
Under promise and over deliver so sponsors feel they got the most bang for their buck.
Make sure you’ve got your taxes under control. We recommend speaking with an accountant.
Webinar: Budgeting for Your Hackathon
Article: How Do I Find Sponsors?
Article: The Hackathon Budget
Template: Budget spreadsheet
Example: Previous sponsorship decks