1. Save yourself a lot of time: cold calling / spam emailing does not work. Use your personal network to help you get in touch with the person who holds the purse strings in the company you’re interested in.
  2. Don’t have a chip on your shoulder if your Daddy is not a director at Google. Most people have no useful connections or contacts when they begin. Do interesting stuff, make yourself more interesting, think laterally, ask widely. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Sad, but true. Get out there, do stuff, meet people.
  3. What’s in it for the sponsor? You’re trying to persuade somebody to pay you to go away and do the most fun thing you have ever done. What’s in it for them?!
  4. Why should anyone care? You need to be so, so clear about this. I get many emails from white, male, middle class young guys who are planning to do something cool but vague like “cycle round the world for charity.” It’s woolly, it’s been done before, it’s not exciting. Be unique (without selling out or becoming a silly gimmick. Integrity is worth more than sponsorship!)
  5. Be able to get someone excited about your trip very quickly. Master your elevator pitch. Pay money to get a professional-looking 1-page summary of your plan (in both portrait [print] and landscape [digital – PDF and URL]). This is your bait: its aim is to secure a face to face meeting, nothing more.
  6. Put yourself in a sponsor’s shoes. Answer these questions in a crisp, factual way in your mind before they ask them of you: why do you need so much money? What if you fail / die? Why should we support you rather than someone else? What’s in it for us?
  7. Think small, think local. Target local businesses, local media. Build your reputation up from the bottom.
  8. Getting sponsored kit is relatively achievable and realistic. Getting cash is much harder. Be aware of that.
  9. Publicity is the oxygen for sponsors: get up on the rooftops (Page 1 of Google) and start hollerin’! What can you offer them?
  10. Take a big map to any meetings you secure: it never fails to impress!
  11.  Do you really need sponsorship? Rather than all the stress, slog, disappointment and loss of self-respect that goes into chasing sponsors, would you not be better off just staying in your job for a bit longer and saving up your own money?

What else would you suggest? Please pop your ideas in the comments below…

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