By Rohit Mehta, for DoGood Fundraising Solutions

When starting your new project or event, the key to getting the right sponsor to align with your cause is to build a successful long-term relationship. This article will explain the steps you need to take to build this type of relationship, and to obtain the right sponsor.

So you’ve decided to start a new initiative, congratulations. Now you need to secure funding! A strong way to secure support that will grow along with your initiative is by obtaining sponsorship.

Before you start booking a venue, take the time to understand the companies which you, your team, and your organization currently do business with. Ask yourselves these three key questions:

1) Who are your strongest relationships at the moment? When you think about your current friends, family members, and the people you do business with, who stands out? Think of these as your best avenues for support. Remember that not everyone will feel the same way you do.

2) Who has supported you in the past? These will be your biggest cheerleaders. Your past supporters could include the people who were there during your successes and failures. They took time to meet with you when you were struggling, to encourage you, and to celebrate your successes. These relationships are worth their weight in gold.

3) Who follows you on social media? Interesting to note that everyone who follows you does so for a particular reason. Do you notice any patterns? Chances are that people are liking, following, and re-tweeting posts related to particular causes or events. Pay attention, because these individuals are likely to help promote and support your first event.

Once you have brainstormed a list, begin connecting these individuals to businesses. Do they work at a bank, an airline, or a tech startup? You can be assured that by having a conversation about your cause or event, you will peak the interest of these people.

Next, you need to qualify your prospective list of sponsors, to determine which one best aligns with your cause. For instance, the a charity run may choose to partner with a company that sells clothing and running accessories; a charity hair drive may partner with a company which sells haircare products, and a food drive may choose to partner with a leading soup manufacturer.

Once you’ve determined which companies strongly align to your cause, reach out to your contacts. This can be done through messaging personal connections through social media (LinkedIN, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook), or even picking up the phone. It’s important to start with your strongest connections, which are often personal, and move down the list towards your weakest links.

Once you have discussed the idea with your contact, ask for their help in setting up a pitch with the company in mind. You will need to create a presentation which indicates how the company’s participation in your initiative will benefit this brand, their sales, and ultimately – their profits.

The importance of clearly indicating benefits for the company cannot be understated, as they will base their participation on a relationship which is beneficial to them. Many companies will engage in charitable initiatives with the goal of driving their own sales and strengthening their own brand.

Once an agreement is reached and a contract is signed, it’s crucial to keep the sponsor updated on any changes or news related to the initiative. They should be invited to all public events or activities, and all interactions should be documented through photos, and on social media.

Finally, and most importantly, you must thank the sponsor following the event. A great way to do this is to provide a personal hand-written letter of thanks. If your event generated media impressions (print or social media), you should clearly share this with your sponsor. If the event was a fundraising initiative, be sure to clearly indicate how much funds were raised, and thank them for making it possible.

Follow these steps, and you will surely have long-standing sponsors which will support the growth, and ultimately the success, of your initiatives.