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SQL Saturday Advice - Work with Sponsors

The hardest thing, I think, for most new organizers of a SQL Saturday is the fundraising. A few years ago I heard Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, give his 5 rules for being a good salesman.

Number one is ask for the money. He couldn’t remember the other four :)

I think that’s a fine set of rules, but for many people, it’s really hard to ask for money. Surprisingly they are scared to do it. Maybe not surprisingly since I find it hard as well. It’s not though, as I’ve learned over the year, but I still feel trepidation that I’m asking for more than I’m giving at times.

I caught a great blog from one half of the Midnight DBA, Jen McCown (Blog|Twitter) on SQL Saturday sponsorships. It’s a great read, and there’s another good one from Ryan Adams. Sponsorship is important to a degree because there are some costs with a SQL Saturday. You might get free space, but often have to pay insurance. There’s lunch, though you can charge people. There’s signage, badges, other incidentals, but they still cost money and your significant other might not be thrilled with you paying out of pocket.

I don’t think it’s hard to get some sponsors, and I know that my company, Red Gate, is usually happy to help out some, PASS gives a little, a few other vendors will likely chip in. There are two keys that I’ve seen from talking with people.

  1. Communicate often and clearly
  2. Negotiate and be willing to take less (and give less).

You might think if you don’t get a response that your email was clear and that someone just doesn’t want to sponsor you. I will tell you that if you send 10, I bet that 7 of them aren’t clear to the receiver, or they aren’t read. 2 or 3 people might need to think about it and then will forget it. That means maybe one positive response from your email.

What do you do?

Send more emails. Send them repeatedly. Not botheringly-often like every day, but every week to ten days repeat them. Try new sponsors, try making a call or setting up a 10 minute meeting to talk about it. Use clear materials like Jen lists, and then be willing to work with them. Someone might not want to sponsor you for $1000, but they might be willing to do $200. If that’s the case, offer less. Be willing to shift slightly on your rate card, and negotiate with them. Ryan has good advice for being sure you deliver on your promises, keep them happy, and have them sponsor you again.

And have fun with it. It’s not the end of the world if someone walks away, and there are usually lots of sponsors to choose from. You don’t need a huge budget, and I’d plan for a small one. You can add things in easier than taking them away.

The Voice of the DBA

Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by Jason Brimhall on 23 July 2010

Good advice.  I find this useful in prepping to head down the road to organize a SQLSat in LV.

Posted by John Magnabosco on 24 July 2010

I would add that if you plan on having a recurring sponsorship need, you will want to establish a good relationship with the sponsor. Spend some time getting to know the point persons. Have a lunch with them where asking for money is not the primary discussion. Seek ways where you might be able to help the sponsor with their needs.

Posted by Steve Jones on 24 July 2010

Good advice, John. I know a lot of chapter leaders and organizers don't do this regularly, and don't look beyond a single event.

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