Sep 21, 2009 at 07:48 PM
written by Gail Bower

Jump-Start Your Networking

Several readers of my quarterly e-newsletter, called BowerPower Papers, submitted questions that they were wondering about during this challenging economic year, as I wrote my guidebook, How to Jump-start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times. The book answers these questions – and more – and I'm sharing the answers here (sometimes with more detail) in case they clear up something you're wondering about, too.

Q: On sponsor recruitment, are there specific tips for finding and getting involved in the right industry groups or finding other networking opportunities? From Pam Weisz, Director of Corporate Sponsorship, Pro Bono Net, Inc.

A: First, you have to be clear which industries you’re targeting and how those industries work. Always research thoroughly.

Then, you want to be where the decision makers from these companies go, either physically or virtually. These places may be industry trade associations, trade publications, charities, chambers of commerce, business or economic summits or conferences, and online communities.

I also recommend Beth Brodovsky's blog, Mingle, as a source for tips and ideas on networking. Not only does she have great ideas and is fearless in her own networking, but she also references other writers and bloggers who have good things to say.

Here are 10 tips from my book on uncovering networking opportunities:

Networking. Boost your networking activities right now to meet new people with the decision-making authority to invest in your sponsorship program. Here are ten sources to expand your network:

1. Ask your current sponsors. Who else can they refer to you?

2. Check with your media partners, especially through their advertising sales staff. These folks know who’s advertising. How can you make it worthwhile to them to ask for an introduction? For example, could you offer an incentive or an expanded media buy if their client signs on?

3. Check with retail partners, who know about new products, which manufacturers have co-op budgets to spend, and which are more promotionally minded than others. Who can they help you bring to the table? Retail partners benefit from increased traffic and sales resulting from the sponsorship effort.

4. Reach out to your board and circle of influence. Who do your board members know? Who among your staff members’ connections might be appropriate sponsors? Follow these network links until you get to the right person.

5. Do you know who the right person is, but don’t know how to reach them? Enter the name in LinkedIn and see who in your network knows them. Make the connection, but not electronically. Pick up the phone. Human contact is always best. Use other social networks to conduct research in similar ways.

6. Attend and support business and fundraising events in your community. You’ll meet a new world of business contacts, hear about what’s happening in your region or town, and make connections in an appropriate and social setting.

7. Are you trying to branch out to a new industry sector? Follow the industry. Attend their business meetings and conferences, regionally and nationally, to meet prospective sponsors. Ask questions to learn what is important.

8. Take an active role on professional committees or boards that allow you to get to know new people, especially corporate leaders.

9. Volunteer in other settings, such as neighborhood or charitable events.

10. Be bold and contact someone mentioned in the local or regional media who seems appropriate for your opportunity. The more personal you can make this connection, however, the better and easier.

This article is an excerpt from Gail Bower’s new guidebook, entitled How to Jump-start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times. To order the book, visit

Gail Bower is President of Bower & Co. Consulting LLC, a firm that assists nonprofit organizations and event/festival producers with dramatically raising their visibility, revenue, and impact. Gail Bower is a professional consultant, writer, and speaker, with nearly 25 years of experience managing some of the country’s most important events, festivals, and sponsorships and implementing marketing programs for clients. Her blog is and you can see all of Gail's past posts here.