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 at your university — which companies sponsor tech job fairs on your campus?

    • Fundraising announcements

2. Get In Touch

  • Send a well-crafted, thoughtful email.

    • For what to put in your email, check out our Sponsor Emails Cheat Sheet here.

  • 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 3-4 days and ask again. You can ping the contact up to 3 times.

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?

    • Get the prospect excited about the event. Be sure to share personal experiences about the impact of hackathons.

  • Let THEM do all the talking. You’ll figure out what companies most value this way.

    • Get them talking by asking questions. You want to make the call as conversational as possible so you can figure out their goals, while offering up your own experience and expertise. This helps build credibility and trust.

  • 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.