Sponsorship Philosophy

Posted on January 18, 2019

This blog is by ELGL’s cofounder and executive director Kirsten Wyatt.

Ticket sales for #ELGL19 are booming thanks to a loaded, topical agenda that’s been carefully curated by the event planning team for ELGL’s annual conference in Durham, North Carolina on May 15, 16, and 17. We’ve assembled the brightest minds to speak at the conference. #ELGL19 is an amazing opportunity to connect with like-minded local government professionals from across the nation.

There’s another cool fact in the conference registration process that deserves some recognition and focus: tickets to #ELGL19 are just $250.

If you compare this cost to other local government conferences, you might think I’ve made a typo or left off a zero, but the decision to offer affordable conferencing costs is actually a very deliberate decision made by ELGL leadership.

Here’s the backstory:

When ELGL was a brand new organization, and we were hosting our very first conference (#ELGL13), we had put together a similarly relevant and topical agenda that was unlike other local government events – big-tent, big-picture, and open to anyone to attend.

And as we talked through pricing the tickets, we had lengthy discussions about how unfair and ironic it was that opportunities to grow knowledge and connections typically came with hefty price tags that were tough to pay out of pocket, and that organizations often saved professional development dollars for more senior positions or for topic-specific training.

We decided that ELGL events would be different – that we’d charge cost for the events, so anyone could afford to attend, even if their employer didn’t cover the conference fee. It is important to us that ELGL content is accessible and that we “float all boats” by leveling who gets content. With ELGL, it’s not only your boss who can come back from a conference with that great idea… you can too.

Since our first event in 2013, we’ve hosted five annual conferences (#ELGL13, #ELGL14, #ELGL15, #ELGL17, and #ELGL18) and thirteen popup conferences (five in 2016, four in 2017, and four in 2018). We’ve maintained our values about affordability at every conference because our experience has taught us that we don’t have to charge a lot to run great events.  

How do we do it? We rely on our event sponsors to subsidize ticket prices so they’re affordable to anyone at any stage of their career. If you’ve been to an ELGL conference before, you know that we don’t do vendor halls.

Our philosophy is that no one likes them and they reinforce an “us versus them” mindset about working with our private sector members. There’s nothing more awkward than standing across a table in an overlit hall, trying to explain your local government’s  needs when you really just want the little squeezy stress ball to take home to your kid or a mini chocolate bar to get you through the afternoon conference sessions.

And so, ELGL sells sponsorship packages that promise to our event partners the chance for real, authentic connections with our event attendees. We build into those packages the chance to talk about their products and services using ELGL.org, the GovLove podcast, and other meetups during our events. We never sell conference speaking spots, and we never sell our membership list.

Now that I’ve explained ELGL’s philosophy on ticket pricing and sponsorship, please consider my call to action:

Companies that are in a position to sponsor local government conferences are hit from every angle for their limited marketing dollars: from state associations, to regional groups, to other professional associations. Companies are weighing the value of their sponsorship investment carefully.

If you value ELGL and our events, take a minute to support our event sponsors. Recognize that their investment in ELGL is meaningful and impactful.

Here’s how you can do this:

  1. Tell. Tell our sponsors that your knowledge of their expertise and service comes from your affiliation with ELGL. Let them know that you see them because they are affiliated with ELGL.
  2. Engage. Sign up for a demo with our sponsors to learn more about their products and services. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and engage with them as they grow their knowledge and experience about working with local government.
  3. Hang. You’ll meet many of them at #ELGL19 and when you do, remember that ELGL believes that we’re all in this together: the trickiest local government problems aren’t solved solely by people with a local government employer. We need everyone to work together and it doesn’t matter if they work for a local gov, private company, or major foundation. Invite them to have coffee or a meal with you in Durham.
  4. Invest. When you find a great solution through your ELGL network, invest in it. Use your ELGL connections to not just find other people who have the same jobs and challenges as you, but also to find the solutions and products that make your local government stronger.

Here’s the list of #ELGL19 sponsors (and this will continue to grow). Take a minute to reach out and connect with these great organizations:

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