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Finding Sponsors

Freelance Camp Santa Cruz 2008 was exceptional, emotionally charged and a total win for our local community. The amount of interaction and support that came out of that event had a direct impact on the rebirth of the freelance / tech community that is rapidly growing in Santa Cruz today. It was a catalyst. If you are involved in the local community, or wish you were, I cannot imagine a more powerful way to get involved. No bar camp in your town yet? Grab some people and start one.

Off the wings of that event, I received an email from a freelancer in Texas who wanted to run his own freelance bar camp and so was born freelancecamp San Antonio. I still see blog posts appearing about it 2 months after it happened. In the pipeline: Freelance camp Miami 2009, Houston 2009 and Santa Cruz 2009 (Go sign up). I am starting a small series of posts on tips and tricks I have picked up running this event. I will probably also post these to the new website once we finish the wordpress mu build (anyone want to lend me a hand?).

Finding Sponsors: A quick idea list

First figure out how much you need and what kind of money you are comfortable asking for. It cost me just over 3k to run the event last year with a free venue (Thank you Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History) and 150 attendees. That covered breakfast, lunch, t-shirts, internet, a phat after party (Thank you local Heineken distributor for sponsoring and throwing down beer) and a pile of office supplies. I was asking for $250 per sponsor either in cash or in kind. We ended up with 17 sponsors in order to get the event accomplished.

This year, I expect to have more attendees and really don’t have the time to hunt down 15+ sponsors, so I asked for $500 per sponsor and will keep the number smaller. In order to cover the cost of the event, we have decided to charge $25 per person. So I knew that I was looking for 6-10 sponsors this year.

First things first. I only have one sponsor per business vertical. I found that increased value in their eyes and really helped sponsors make a commitment. This was the #1 concern sponsors expressed aside from the legitimacy of the event. So, where should you begin to look for sponsors.

First, ask your friends, your coworkers, your twitter pals, on facebook etc. Tell people you are looking for sponsors. They will most likely send you a bunch of leads. when you ask, make sure you keep it short, but clearly explain the event in a few sentences and what a sponsor looks like should they spot one in the wild. Once you have exhausted the personal connections list and you hit the pavement at a jog, think local.

Start by visiting your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and talk to them. They can be incredibly helpful. They might be a sponsor and if not, can connect you with numerous business owners. If you need someone from the SBDC to vouch for the event, I can ask my local SBDC director to email them. Even if you don’t plan to run a freelance camp and just want some help, the SBDC kick some serious butt. I’m talking free HR consulting, free bookkeeping support and education, business planning, marketing consulting and more. They exist (thank you well spent government programs) to make sure we are succeeding.

Go talk to your city and your county. The City of Santa Cruz is one of our sponsors as it wants to support any activities that drive business and are a viable solution to the current economic times.

Approach local service providers who support small businesses: lawyer, accountant, bank, ISP, insurance, payroll specialists, investment/retirement, web service firms, print shops etc.

Hit up any local services firm and startups that use freelancers and want to meet more / be seen positively in the industry.

Check out any local institution that has small business owners as benefactors: museum, design center, coworking centers, coffee shops.

Set a meeting with any educational organization such as jr college or local university that wants to help their students transition into business ownership or has a business education department.

Think of large companies that service freelancers and email them. You never ever know. I have a meeting tomorrow (which came from an email sent into the ether) with the folks from (fingers crossed) to see if they will sponsor. I am in discussions with Sugar CRM, Automattic, Freelance Switch, Adobe among others (fingers triple crossed).

And so there you go folks.

Attend Freelance Camp Santa Cruz 2009!

I’d like to sincerely thank the current Sponsors of Freelance Camp 2009 (August 15).

City of Santa Cruz
Baskin and Grant LLP
Lighthouse Bank
Nextspace Coworking and Innovation Center
Agency Santa Cruz
Shane & Peter Inc.