By Peter Hum
January 2008
Published on the MonRoi website

In 2007, the organizers of the Canadian Open and Canadian Youth Chess Championships in Ottawa raised more than $90,000 in cash and many invaluable in-kind donations from sponsors and donors to stage the two events.

We had no other choice — we lacked the government support that some of our predecessors in other cities enjoyed. Fortunately, we secured support from telecommunications giant TELUS (far and away our biggest sponsor), Magmic Games (an Ottawa company that makes gaming software — including chess — for mobile devices including RIM’s Blackberry), Hill & Knowlton Canada, The Ottawa Citizen, The Ottawa Marriott, ATFCAN (which had a special interest in sponsoring Indian GMs at the Open), OZ Optics (which felt the same way about Turkish players), Bell Canada and several embassies. Major Canadian banks and law firms also made tax-deductible donations.

“How did you do it?” you ask. Q + A-style, here is a summary of our sponsorship drive:


The organizers must convince the sponsors (and donors — more about them later) that their money supports a worthy, accountable, and even prestigious cause that ideally attracts much attention from chess and even mainstream audiences. Regarding sponsors in particular, organizers must show that the sponsorships will be duly recognized and publicized, through event promotions, advertising and media outreach.


The short answer is, “as many as possible.” (We did approach many companies that turned us down. But we still learned nonetheless from our interactions, and in the future, those companies could be approached again.)

The more nuanced answer is a) companies whose executives are acquainted personally or professionally with the organizers; b) companies that are directly connected to chess; c) companies that have chess-friendly executives or employees; and d) companies who may be receptive to the well-made case that supporting a high-profile chess event is in their interest.

Making use of personal and professional relationships with potential sponsors is the quickest and often most productive route to take in the quest for support. We were fortunate in that several of our organizers had access to many Canadian corporate leaders.

That said, we had notable successes at the ground level, with other organizers querying their bank branches and insurers, and finding support. In the past, makers of chess clocks and software have supported events, and we found that Ottawa’s Magmic Games, which makes gaming software for mobile devices such as the RIM BlackBerry, was a natural fit as a sponsor for our events — once it was made aware of what the Canadian chess community was up to. We also found support from one Ottawa executive who played chess, and had several Ottawa chessplayers query within their own companies to see if support was available — it’s great if there’s a champion for your cause within the company. Finally, for companies that we “cold-called” and for companies that we were acquainted with, we prepared kits detailing why supporting either the Canadian Open or the CYCC or both was worth their consideration. We believe that, in particular, the kits — or rather the case it made — had some sway in our negotiations with the Canadian Open’s venue.


The most experienced and successful fund-raiser on our committee stresses: “In securing corporate sponsorships and donations, the person who makes the ask, or introduces the person who will make the ask, is pretty well just as important as what the cause/use of funds is. In addition to having a worthy cause and great materials, a lot of thought should go into thinking through who might know whom in a target company, and how personal/professional relationships can be used in order to access time with key decision makers. This is non-profit fund-raising 101 for virtually every meaningful charity in the country. In fact, for donations, this is the single most important factor. It is maybe a little, but only a little, less so for sponsors, depending on how compelling the ‘promotional benefits’ of sponsorship are.”

He adds: “It makes a big difference if those doing the fund-raising are personally committing funds to the cause themselves. This is as simple as: ‘if you (or your company) are not financially supporting the cause/event, why should my company support it?’ … This can’t be over-emphasized.” In fact, several members of the Ottawa organizing group opened their wallets for the cause.

In the case of cold calls, they often went through community relations officials at companies. These initial contacts and queries were followed by detailed packages usually sent by e-mail, but sometimes as hard copy. In other cases, generic online sponsorship forms were filled out. (Googling will discover such forms for companies such as WestJet, Lenovo, Dell and others, as well as descriptions of the sponsorship guidelines for the company.)

Here is the full article on MonRoi.

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