This is a guest post by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM—Director of Marketing at Treasure Island Wines. Treasure Island Wines operates a winery and tasting room on the former US Naval Base on Treasure Island, San Francisco (check out their upcoming Wines + Valentines event).

Lou has previously written about taking smart event risks and generating more revenue with smaller events. Today she covers in-kind donations and sponsorships. Here are her 7 steps to donation redemption.

Dear Wine Shop” the email began. “My boss told me to get beer sponsors for our upcoming event…” As charmingly ill-advised as this intro is, had I read further, I am sure I would have discovered at lea­st half a dozen additional reasons to delete the email. But truth is, I shut down at “Dear Wine Shop.” For starters, this unfortunate inquiry was sent to a winery, not a wine shop, and we don’t make or sell beer (winemakers consume enormous quantities of it but we keep this on the down-low). Surprisingly, this request emanated from one of San Francisco’s most prestigious event venues. I get at least 3–5 similarly imprudent requests a week. If you are having any difficulty securing or re-signing in kind donations or sponsorship, the following recommendations could make a difference:


Regardless of how high profile your organization or event is, never expect a response from an “en masse” mailing. Decision-makers are unlikely to read—let alone consider—an inquiry unless: 1. You address the request personally (takes seconds to obtain on website or LinkedIn) 2. You have made an effort to show that you know the basics of the business, brand, or overall promotional “gestalt” (i.e., the company is sustainable and will only market locally) 3. You articulate briefly and precisely why (cannot emphasize this enough) an association with your event and/or organization would elevate the business. Instant credibility killers: “fabulous marketing opportunity,” “exposure” or “our great cause.”


Include a “gives & gets” list or a sponsor benefits document of some kind, or at least summarize this neatly in an email. This list should detail everything expected of us (the “gives”) such as quantity, value, time commitment, and everything you intend to deliver (the “gets”) such as signage, web presence…our logo seared into the foie gras?


Half the requests I get don’t list the name or date of the event or indicate non/for profit status, and two-thirds of the requests don’t share attendance expectations or size of reach, including mailing lists, Twitter, and Facebook. We need accurate demographics, statistics and PR channels. If this is an inaugural event, summarize (realistically) your minimum expectations for the event plus influencers:  VIPS? Media/press coverage? Special performers? It is also impressive to include the event history and fundraising success.


I listened to a voicemail recently detailing with great passion “A fundraiser for human trafficking.”   Although common sense should prevail…they never did determine whether they were for or against it!


  • Bullet info; be brief.


Show some ingenuity. For example, by nature urban artisan wineries do not (and should not) have lots of wine to give away—but we do have special events and winemaker experiences that can be bundled into hot, high-priced ticket items for your auctions or door prizes. This approach can translate to other industries.


Once we agree to sponsor or in-kind donate, please follow through on everything you promise. Meet all deadlines (promo value is highly perishable), and don’t mangle logos on your web pages or print microscopic images on your signage. Let us know with as much warning and precision when and where to show up (if we are needed on site), and make it effortless to retrieve or receive donated product. And after the event—in addition to a thank-you—send a concise report of the event metrics/analytics.

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