How to ask for sponsorship money – and get it! (Part 1 of 3)

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Fundraising is an essential component of solar car racing and other not-for-profit organisations. A team may have the best technical design, an experienced team and a winning strategy, but without adequate funds these ideas can only ever remain on paper. Sponsorships are a key way of obtaining these funds, but how do you go about it?

This is a three part series by Anthony Prior, our team Treasurer. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!

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Obtaining sponsorship is hard.

Identifying, reaching and persuading the right person in an organisation to support your team is a challenge faced by all teams. This article intends to provide fundraising strategies and approaches that, from Clenergy TeamArrow’s experience, were found to be successful when raising money from external sponsors.

Clenergy TeamArrow (CTA) is a fully independent solar car team and is entirely reliant upon external funds raised by its sponsorship arm. CTA is not a university team (although we have a close affiliation with Queensland University of Technology (QUT)) and so all money and resources needed to fund the development of the car and operation of the team are raised through sponsorship agreements.
Raising funds and resources consists of two main types:

  • Cash donations – actual currency deposited into the bank which may be used for general, or specific purposes, depending upon the sponsorship agreement, and
  • In-Kind donations – any type of consideration which a supporting company may provide which is not cash; such as components, parts, tools, material, technical support, space, or advice.

Both types are vitally important. When you can get the exact part/component from a sponsor, that is fantastic, but often there are elements for which you simply cannot get in-kind sponsorships and that is when raising cold-hard cash is vitally important.

YOUR STORY

Before your team can go out into the world asking for money, you must first figure out who you are as a team.

What is your brand?

Who are you? What is your team about? What makes you unique? What are your values? Why are you doing this? What is your story? Why can you be trusted with a sponsor’s money? Why should they support you?

The answers to these questions define your brand. Your brand is who you are, your teams identity, how you represent yourself to the world. It defines what makes you unique and why people should support you. Your brand will have a profound impact on what sponsors will find attractive in your team. It is important that the answers to these questions are consistent and self-reinforcing.

Your brand must be carefully defined, constructed, and defended at all costs. It is the one thing that makes you unique and that cannot be copied by other teams. A strong brand brings credibility – companies will trust you with their money, and will feel confident in associating their own brand with you.

Brands can and should change with time as your team grows. TeamArrow started out as a group of Queensland individuals and businesses who wanted to build a solar car and enter into the World Solar Challenge. We defined ourselves as a Queensland team, a bunch of battlers with grit and determination wanting to show to the world what Queenslanders could do. As such we targeted and landed iconic Queensland brands such as RACQ, QUT, Tritium, and Thiess.

Following our success in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge and 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, we rebranded ourselves as “Australia’s Premier Solar Car Racing Team” and expanded to key national and international sponsors, attracting a naming rights sponsor to become Clenergy TeamArrow for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in 2015.

WHAT IS IN FOR THEM?

The key consideration when seeking to obtain a sponsorship agreement from a potential sponsor is to not first ask what the sponsor can provide for you but:

“What is in it for them?”

It is very tempting to seek out organisations which provide the exact widget you require or who seem to be an easy target to obtain money, but it is essential to first ask what value the organisation can receive from supporting your team. Once it is clear there is value for them, benefits for your team will flow from this.

Each potential sponsor has unique requirements and so each approach must be tailored to suit. Boiler plate/form letters will be quickly identified and discarded.

Some of the benefits that a solar car team can offer to organisations may include:

  • The opportunity to showcase a company’s abilities and products
  • Exposure of their brand in the media
  • Alignment to internal initiatives and values, or external messaging (ie Excellence, Innovation, Teamwork)
  • Desire to be seen by the community as supporting green initiatives and innovation.
  • Access to contacts within other businesses in the industry
  • Access to the best students – the first opportunity at identifying and hiring the smartest students
  • Providing their products for use by the team, so students may become early adopters of technology and use and advocate the product through their professional career
  • Rights to create media or use of your images that can be used to promote their own brand and products.

Simply defining how big a sticker on the car will be for a set amount of money will not be enough (for most companies). They will require a tangible benefits that will flow from their investment. And it is an investment from which they will expect a return.

Organisations can be, and should be, acting in their own self-interest when entering into a sponsorship agreement. Keep this in mind and your approaches will be more successful.

Now you have a pitch, its time to form a Strategy!

On The Road and Settled in

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On Sunday we had a clear run out of Darwin with one of the best and smoothest challenge departures yet. We even managed to strategically overtake the overall pole position holder and maintain first place for a good half hour.

Since then, we have been overtaken by a number of strong international teams which have opted for an aggressive early strategy. Instead, we have decided to maintain our carefully planned and tested strategy which will hopefully give us a competitive advantage further down the track.

We had Jason our newest driver in the car on the afternoon of the first day. He tackled his first road train with ease and is well on his way to being a seasoned veteran.

By the end of the day, we finished in 8th place in our category and as the first Australian team in any of the classes. We are very happy with our progress, with the car handling better than 2013 and the team operating fantastically. Although we finished the first day in the same spot we stopped 2 years ago, we did so considerably earlier and in an overall better position.

Our second day started earlier than expected after a preventative service of the car late on the first night led to a last minute rush in the early hours of the morning to solve a number of small potential problems with which could have severely impacted our racing outcome. This included designing and 3D printing a critical part from scratch around 1:30 am in the morning. Thanks to some fantastic teamwork the new part was mounted on the car and tested by just over 2 am.

After a brief sleep for the Mechanical team, the car was charged and the fleet left at 8am on the dot. Thanks to the preventative work done by the Mechanical team, the car performed phenomenally well, even with high winds in several directions. Some members of the team say that the day was boring, but that’s exactly the way we want it. No panic, no drama… nice and smooth.

We are currently predicting some worsening of the weather as we head down towards Alice Springs. In anticipation of this, our strategy team is working strongly to determine the best way for Arrow1-GT to continue her southward journey.

We have currently setup camp just past the Barrow Creek control stop. This is roughly 2 hours ahead of our last attempt at the World Solar Challenge. Our team has eaten and the tents are up. With a quick tyre change underway to ensure we are in peak condition, we are looking forward to passing the halfway point of Alice Springs tomorrow morning.

The World Solar Challenge website has an online GPS tracker setup where you can follow us along our route.http://www.worldsolarchallenge.org/dashboard/map

A quick peak of this link tonight showed that we are only 2 hours behind the leaders, with two teams not that far in front, and two not far behind. We still believe we are in the mix despite the less than optimal conditions predicted over the next few days.

With work still to be done, it is best we get back to it. There’s still 1500 Kms to go!

We’ve Arrived in Darwin

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So we’re here. Finally setup in Darwin getting ready for the challenge. Most of the hardwork is done, with only a few little last minute things to finish off before we start the challenge on Sunday.

But, first things first – on Saturday we unpacked our trailer into our new pit bay at Hidden Valley race track. This is our home for the next week as we prepare for scrutineering and qualifications. Very quickly we marked our territory with Boxing Kangaroos and Aussie Flags.

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With our equipment from home all setup, we were able to work on the finishing touches for the car and setup our support vehicles. Some of the team members have also taken the opportunity to talk to the other teams – Australian and International alike. With three Aussie teams in a row at the pits, we’ve been able to make friends with the newest Australian Team – Adelaide University and catch up with our old friends Sunswift from UNSW. Across the paddock we have caught up with Western Sydney University and SA Tafe, the other Australian Competitors.

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Our race team this year has both experienced solar racers and those that are racing for the first team. The enthusiasm of the newer team members reminds those that have experienced this before what its all about. Tanya, our camp manager, has been out making friends with many other teams and can’t stop talking about the other cars and the ways other teams have tackled the same problems as us. Alex, from our mechanical team, has a plan to get a photo with every car whilst he’s here in Darwin.

On Sunday we were out on the track ensuring all the systems of Arrow1-GT are operating well. Jason, our newest driver, enjoyed driving around the Hidden Valley track and looks forward to an opportunity to beat Chris’s track record.

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With scrutineering starting today many of the other teams are hard at work on last minute tasks. We too have a few small things to fix with our indicators flashing too quickly and our brake lights not working as they should.

Over the next few days we will be testing on track, preparing our food supplies for the race and doing mock strategy drives out of Darwin. The first time racers in our team are looking forward to camping under the stars next week. Until then, we have scrutineering to pass, preparation for Saturday’s dynamic scruitineering, camping preparations to finish and finalisations for strategy.