Dear Design Doctor
I am a third year student and we are looking for funding for our degree show. Who should we ask for sponsorship?
The answer to this real life question is provided by Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust:
‘Graduate shows are such an exciting part of being a student!
Getting ready for the show, planning what you will exhibit, getting sponsorship and promoting yourself are crucial parts of educating you how to make it as a professional creative soletrader or freelancer once you leave those college doors behind you.
Think about your graduate show like this to really get the most out of it, and to prepare you for the future.
When you are looking for sponsorship the first thing to think about is:
Why would somebody be interested in sponsoring us?
Really think from your potential sponsor’s point of view.
What’s in it for them?
What would you be able to offer them in return?
Brainstorm a couple of ideas.
A potential sponsor could be an alumni of your course and happy to give something back in support e.g. helping to promote the event through their professional networks, through business mentoring some of the students, being involved with a fundraising event, providing a work placement or giving a financial donation.
A potential sponsor could be a local café who get a lot of business from the students and tutors, and in return for displaying their promotional material or a logo on your stand or in the student newspaper they are happy to give a discount on the catering, give financially or provide a prize for a fundraiser.
A potential sponsor could be a parent of one of the graduates and run a local or creative business, and they are happy to give a financial donation in return for their logo on the degree show’s invite or banner.
You will need to find an emotional link between potential sponsors and you or your course because it will be much easier to ask for and get money.
Have a brainstorm who has a relationship with the course or the students, and what could they contribute. Be creative but specific. You are far more likely to get support or a response if you give them some specific ideas of how they can help.
Secondly: how much money do you (really!) need?
Would it be money only or would it be products (e.g. paint or wood for building stands, printing invites or catering). It’s far easier to get donations of products than money.
Make a list of the products of what you really need, and the money that you need.
What can you borrow?
What can you get second hand?
Be creative, a great stand for your degree show doesn’t need to cost that much money.
How much will each of the students be contributing? This could be financially, but also in terms of fundraising activity.
People are much more likely to contribute if they see that the students or their parents are excited and are contributing themselves too.
Make a budget with a list of the products and the money you will need, and how you will split this money.
How would you spend your money if you only would get 50% of your fundraising target?
Create a visual of what your degree show will look like so that people can see what they are contributing to.
Are you able to offer ‘sponsoring packages’ e.g. if they give £50 their name will be on the invite, if they give £250 their name/logo will be on the banner. Again people are more likely to give money if they know what they will get in return.
It is a really good motivational tool for yourselves and (potential) contributors to know what the total target is, and to visually see how much has been raised already. Again, much more likely to get extra cash if you are very close to your target then if you are working towards an impossible target.
And finally: Get creative with your fundraising
There are so many different ways to get money!
Organise a catwalk or selling exhibition with work by students; have fundraising activities at university; design logos or websites for local businesses in return for a fee that gets donated to the good cause – be enterprising!
And don’t hesitate to use Kickstarter or other fundraising software to support your campaign. I have seen some great exhibition projects recently on there that were very exciting to contribute to.
What did you do to get sponsorship for your event or degree show? Let us know in the comments box below.