So you want to throw a hackathon? You’re going to need to fundraise. This guide will get you from zero to sending your first emails to sponsors in no time. If you have any tips of your own, we’d love to hear them in the comments below.

0. Setup

Create a google spreadsheet right now. Add all of the tech companies you can think of to the spreadsheet.

Now go to the Official Hackathon Schedule, open all of the hackathons you find there in separate tabs, and add every single company from their sponsor lists into your spreadsheet.

Woohoo! Hopefully you have 100+ solid leads already.

Pro-tip. Most of these companies are going to say “no” to you. Every hackathon out there uses this strategy and, while your event might be awesome, a majority of these companies don’t have the bandwidth or resources to sponsor every hackathon that emails them.

1. Make a list of other companies

If most of the companies we identified during setup are going to say “no”, how do you identify the companies that will sponsor your event?

There are several effective strategies you can use, here are some of our favorites. As you come across companies, make sure you enter them into the spreadsheet we created earlier.

Pro-tip. Your hackathon is most likely to be funded by companies that are looking for developers but no one else has reached out to yet.

Leverage your network.

  1. Shoot a message to every developer you know (right now!) and tell them about what you’re doing (you’re going to want to do this anyway). You should ask for a list of companies that they have either worked at in the past or are connected to somehow.
  2. If you know any faculty members at your school, you should reach out to them as well. Many have good relationships with companies in industry that they can leverage to help you out.

Pro-tip. As you’re talking to people in your network, you should find out if they are comfortable introducing you do the people at the companies they’ve shared with you. An introduction from a trusted friend or colleague carries a lot of weight.

Local companies.

Local companies are way more likely to sponsor your hackathon and aren’t usually bombarded by sponsorship requests (unlike the initial group we identified during setup). Make sure to reach out to every company you can find in your area. You may even want to just show up at their offices.

Pro-tip. Reach out to your career services department and ask for the list of companies that typically sponsors / attends your engineering or computer science career fair.

Follow Fundraising Announcements.

50,000 startups raised $250k+ in funding in the past year. Most of them aren’t getting reached out to at all. Do some research and find these startups on angellistcrunchbase, or techcrunch.

2. Mine for Contact Info

Download rapportive now. You’ll thank us later: http://rapportive.com/

Make sure you’re reaching out to real people (not a general info email). At most companies, the generic email gets ignored because it’s constantly bombarded with spam. You don’t want to associate your event with that.

Pro-tip. Most founders respond to emails sent to foundersname@companyname.com right away. You already have the company name. All you’re missing is the founders name. Crunchbase.com makes it really easy to find this. Just type in the company’s name.

 

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There are tons of great blog posts about how to do this effectively. Here are some examples.

3. Compose your Email

We’re going to need an intro email to send to the people we’re reaching out to. The email should contain just enough information to get them interested in the event (where it is, when it is, how many students you’re expecting, etc), a hook, and the ask.

The key thing you’re shooting for here is a phone call or meeting with someone who makes decisions about event sponsorships.

Here’s an example:

Hey [Name],

I’m reaching out because I’m the organizer of a student run programming competition at [Hosting University] called [Event Name] ([Event Url]). On the weekend of [Event Date], more than [# of Attendees] of the most talented student developers are going to gather together to build things like mobile apps, websites, and hardware devices to show off their skills.

I’d love the opportunity to tell you more about the event and see how we can work together to get [Company Name] out in front of some of the top developers in the world. What does your calendar look like for a brief chat next week?

Thanks!

[Your Name] Organizer, [Event Name] [Your Phone Number]

Keep your emails short. If it’s longer than a paragraph or two, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Pro-tip. Note that we’re not attaching a sponsorship prospectus at this point. We’ll talk about that more in our next post, make sure you sign up to get updates about it here.

4. Send your First Email

Now that you have a list of people at companies that you want to reach out to and an email template, it’s time to send your first emails.

Pro-tip. Don’t send emails to everyone on your list at once, especially if you haven’t done this kind of pitching before. You get much better at it over time and it’s often prudent to start with low risk companies first to help you get into a rhythm before you go after more important companies.

Pro-tip. If you or one of the people on your team already knows someone on this list personally, you should always go through the existing connections first instead of cold emailing someone else at the company. An intro from someone internal goes a long way.

You should track who you’ve sent emails to and the status of each lead. You could do this in the spreadsheet we create or a tool like Trello or relateIQ.

What happens next?

Congratulations, you’ve sent your first sponsorship emails! Now we play the waiting game. Hopefully some of the sponsors you reached out to will want to setup phone calls or meetings.

We’ll be writing another two posts on what to do once you have a potential sponsor on the phone and how to optimize this whole process. Subscribe to our mailing list to get the next two posts when they come out!

Have tips of your own on sending out sponsorship inquiries? Leave them in the comments below!

Happy Hacking,

Dave & Swift