Sponsorships should be long-term relationships, so it’s important to strategize and ask poignant questions before shouting from the rooftop for sponsors. Get with your team, pool resources and address books, and plan ahead. It’s always a good time to look for sponsors and be specific about what you’d like from them and what you plan to provide in return.

Follow the tips below to determine how you can make the most out of sponsorships:

Use Your Existing Network

Your people are your best advocates; board members, volunteers, and staff are great places to start when it comes to securing reliable donors for your upcoming event. Personal emails always work best, so encourage your team to send direct notes to their friends, family, and coworkers. It’s a good idea to craft a template to get people started and remind them to follow up a few times if they don’t hear back. More results are derived from asking a direct person compared to reaching out to a general email address or phone number.

Do Your Research

Step up to the plate ready to bat. You want to hit the pitch, not strike out wasting time reaching out to corporations that will never get back to you. Be strategic about to whom you reach out. Do they have a history of supporting charity events? Do you have any personal connections to employees at the company? It’s also important to get an idea of how a company budgets and when its fiscal year is. Planning a year in advance is more likely to elicit success, because your organization can get on the list of organizations it will give to the following year.

Research organizations like yours in different markets, and then identify which companies and organizations are sponsoring their events. This will often provide new insights into who is sponsoring and how they’re being recognized. This is a great way to put new sponsors on your radar.

It’s also important to know how these companies want to be recognized. Do they want more media exposure, or do they want a moment to speak at the event about how their work aligns with the mission of your organization?

Customize Your Offerings

Secure more sponsorships by giving corporations multiple sponsorship options. This allows your organization to bring in smaller sponsorships. The more a company gives, the more exposure it should get along the way and at the event itself.

You can also customize sponsorship offerings by packaging tables, auction items, and cocktail hours. For example, “Tonight’s VIP happy hour is brought to us by Tito’s Vodka and Deloitte.” An organization similar to Make-A-Wish might specifically target airlines, because more than 70 percent of the wishes it grants require air travel. Some organizations have entertainment and tech sponsors, which helps them better align their pitches with the work and mission of the companies to which they’re soliciting.

Manage Sponsor Relations

Relationships are the foundation of a nonprofit’s success, because of the communal nature that brings people together for a common cause. You can nurture relationships with sponsors by inviting them to volunteer, join you at community events, participate in quarterly meetings, and keep them in the loop with post-event follow-ups and financial reporting. Don’t forget to give their employees the opportunity to support your organization. A food drive, clothing drive, or donation campaign could go a long way in adding to your bottom line and even identifying some new volunteers and donors.

You want sponsors to stay engaged and feel connected to your work, so they feel like they’re a part of the family instead of – as a parent might say – an ATM machine.