This is the third post of a four-part series about planning and running an edcamp unconference. You can read the first post, Introduction to edcamp and Taking Care of the "Big Stuff" first if you missed them.
Sponsorship is Not a Necessity
As I explained in my first post of the series, the edcamp unconference model is based on the BarCamp unconference model. BarCamps started as ad-hoc gatherings of computer programmers. Staying true to the model, edcamps are not for profit. Any money raised is used solely to put on the event. As BarCamps are almost always free, sponsorship helps defray costs of a venue and amenities. If, however, you hold an edcamp in a free venue, then you can pretty much put the whole thing on for the cost of Dunkin Donuts coffee and donuts, name tags and markers.
Develop a Press Release
That said, it's rare that we get anything for free in life, and conference tee-shirts are always nice to have. In order for your event to appeal to sponsors, you need to have an "elevator pitch." It also helps if your event appears in the local newspaper or on a local website. The best kind of elevator pitch is a concise and attention-grabbing press release. There is a sample press release on the edcamp wiki. You can circulate this press release to local schools, newspaper and education organizations to get the word out. A sponsor is more likely to support something that has been established as a "real" event. You can also follow in the footsteps of EdCamp NYC and create a flyer.
Contact Potential Sponsors
The best place to start is with companies with whom you already have a relationship. Contact the Web 2.0 site that you use with your students, contact a company that already works with your school, contact the sponsors of other edcamps by searching through the list on the edcamp wiki of the numerous edcamps that have popped up all over the country. When you contact a potential sponsor, make sure to attach the press release or include a brief description of the event while explaining why sponsorship would benefit the sponsor.
Sponsorship does not have to be money. If you need breakfast for your attendees, explain to a potential sponsor that you need breakfast or lunch for your attendees. You might also approach a local business to provide the food and beverages.
Sponsors can also provide raffle prizes and other items like door prizes.
Prioritize Your Spending
When the edcamp Philly organizers were pulling together our event, we had to decide which expenses were vital to ensure that the day actually happened. First, we had to pay our event insurance for our venue, then came the catering for breakfast. After that, we decided that if we had any money left that we would spend it on tee-shirts. We were lucky that some sponsors came to us late in the game and we were able to get the tee-shirts, but we were more than willing to go without.
Handling the Money
If you find that you will need monetary sponsorship, it is important that you find a way to collect money without it going into one person's bank account. You can use a PayPal button on your website and use PayPal to send payments, or you can even open up a business account through which you can collect funds and write checks. Other things to consider:
- edcamps should never have just one sponsor or it will cloud the event's "unconference" model.
- Make it clear to sponsors that there will be no "exhibit hall" and no tables should be reserved for sponsor displays.
- Accept any donation, no matter how small!
- Try to avoid sponsors with political ties or groups with political agendas.
- It is OK to politely decline sponsorship if you are not comfortable with using a particular sponsor.
Check back soon for the final post in the series, Do All of the "Little Things."