Evaluating in-kind Sponsorship

In-kind sponsors are those who provide goods or services instead of money as a sponsor of your event. Learn how to evaluate them in this section!

As you might have read in the different categories of sponsors, In-kind sponsors are those who provide goods or services instead of money as a sponsor of your event. It is important, as an organizer, to evaluate the pros and cons of each in-kind sponsor and make a conscious decision about whether or not to work with them.

Oftentimes, in-kind sponsors will be offering to provide something that is essential to your event. This could include catering for an in-person event, or perhaps the production of event swag, or even credits to host your event website or servers. These types of in-kind sponsorships can help to lower your overall event budget. While they may not provide money directly, they are eliminating costs.

It is up to you to evaluate whether or not this is worth it. We recommend looking at it in terms of cost-benefit for you as organizers and for your hackers. You can also feel empowered to go back to potential in-kind sponsors with counteroffers that your team might be more comfortable with.

As a thought experiment, ask yourself if you would be willing to trade the flagship sponsorship of your event to a catering company in exchange for a free meal that would have otherwise cost you $5000. What about five free meals? What if they only want a logo on the back of your t-shirt, and not the flagship-level branding? Each event is different, and you will have to ask this question about any in-kind sponsor who comes your way.

If you expect a high volume of in-kind sponsors, you could consider developing in-kind sponsorship packages as part of your prospectus, or directly tying the value of their contribution to the existing value of one of your sponsorship packages. In the example above, perhaps you already have a $5000 sponsorship tier that you can offer to them instead of the flagship. Keep in mind, though, that the needs of a catering or t-shirt company might be very different than that of a recruiter or developer evangelist. You may need to modify your packages to fit their needs.

Our final recommendation is not to devalue your event sponsorships to please in-kind sponsors. Money has a specific, and quantifiable value for your event. You can directly use it to make your event better and improve the hacker experience. Be cautious of in-kind sponsors who seem to be overvaluing their contributions beyond what you might realistically spend on that budget line-item if you were not to accept their sponsorship.

Consider the following scenario. Perhaps there is a blog hosting company who has a free tier. In their free tier, the company logo is at the bottom of your blog. A competing blog hosting company comes to offer you an in-kind sponsorship of a superpowered blog with no company branding on it in exchange for the Gold Tier sponsorship at your event which includes a booth (or virtual speaking slot) and logo on your t-shirt and event website. It is not a clear win/lose scenario to choose between these two vendors, but you must ask yourself how valuable each of these things is to your event. If it is very important to you that your blog does not have external company branding on it, you might deem this a good deal. If you don't care about that type of branding, but you have a limited number of booths/speaking slots available at your event, maybe this is not a good deal.

We hope this is helpful, and if you ever have questions about how to evaluate in-kind sponsorship offers feel free to reach out to league@mlh.io for further advice!

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