During my work with more than 350 Startup Weekend events in the Middle East and Africa, I have realized that it is always down to those 6 common mistakes why some community and startup events fail to raise money. Here are the most common mistakes, and what can do you do about it:
1) Setting A High Budget
SOLUTION: If you are planning to raise $10K, ask yourself, can you revise your plan to accomplish the same with $7K? Most of the time, organizers ask for arbitrary round numbers like $10K or $15K instead of the actual amount of money needed to achieve specific milestones.
Think about what can you cut. Work to re-budget. Spend a little bit less on marketing. Cancel your fancy T-shirt and video producing.
Be creative how you can spend the money productively. Spend time polishing your budget forecast, so that you can confidently tell sponsors why you are only looking for $7K, and why you know, you can achieve high quality with less capital.
2) Not Having The Sponsorships Mentality
SOLUTION: Put yourself in the sponsor’s shoes, try to understand what the company needs (Job To Be Done) by supporting your event. Are they looking for marketing exposure, engaging with entrepreneurs, hiring people, etc.?
Raising sponsorships will take more meetings, and more time with every company, especially for first-time events. Be prepared, and ask what the steps are, how long the process will take, and what to expect.
Also, be aware that many sponsors will pass, so it is essential to have of list of more companies to approach, this doesn’t mean you need to talk to every company out there. You can only get sponsorship from a qualified company— who is interested in your space and has the resources required.
Check out our Techstars Startup Weekend Sponsorship Deck
3) Relying on Cash Sponsorship Only
SOLUTION: There is a real possibility that you won’t be able to raise any sponsorship from companies or will raise a lot less than you expected
When your fundraising is not going well, it is time to pause and rethink your strategy, try to come back to sponsor with alternative options to provide in-kind sponsorship or provide the food to the event in return of sponsoring (many companies have discounts with food providers so what would cost you $3,000 can cost them $2,000) in this way you can get what you want with less money for them. Win-win.
Also, It’s important to differentiate between partners vs. sponsors. By changing the language to partners vs. sponsors, it makes them feel more connected to the success of the event. A sponsor writes a check; a partner is more likely to contribute human and financial capital
Reach out to some partners with this example in mind “We understand that you’re not in a place to be a cash sponsor, but would you be interested in offering 5 hours of your company’s services to the winning team as part of the prize package. Engaging with your law firm would help the top team(s) continue their momentum beyond the weekend. By being the partner, we’ll happily give you exposure on our website and during the event.”
The important thing is to have a clear plan. What can you do with no or little capital? Come up with a plan, discuss it, get feedback, and then go back and execute on it.
4) Failed To Follow-up With Sponsors
SOLUTION: Decision-Making process will take a lot of time for the company to decide whether to sponsor or not. Therefore, if you can, find out how far in advance that the company prefers to be pitched. At the very least, allow for a four to six month for the arrangements to be made.
Give the company some time to check your offer and if you didn’t hear back after 7-10 business days, maybe you should follow-up. Most follow-ups are better than no follow-up at all but keep it short and straightforward especially if you’re on third and final follow-up. There’s a fine line between persistent and annoying. If you haven’t received a response at this point, it’s probably best to move on to another opportunity.
5) Not Setting The Right Ticket Price
SOLUTION: Selling tickets will not only support you with extra cash, but it’s also liberating. When you sell tickets, you no longer depend so much on sponsorship. Events that start selling tickets are more attractive to sponsors, it is less risky, and it is clear that the organizing team is very responsible.
The key here is to set good ticket pricing, chances are, your attendees have some events to choose from—so how much do their other options cost? Check out your local listings to see what else is happening in your area around the time of your event and research past ticket prices for similar events. Put yourself in event-goers shoes, and ask how your headliner, your venue, or your host city measure up to the competition.
6) Failing To Understand The Customers Needs
SOLUTION: Before organizing an event, you must spend more time interviewing your customers (attendees) and understand their needs to attend the event. This can help you decide on the event themes, number of attendees expected, prizes, etc.
Another thought if you already start the planning to host a pre-event bootcamp, this is will give you the opportunity to meet your customer and market your event.