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?
    • Fundraising announcements

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

MLH Tips

  • 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.