It's that time of year when visions of gift-giving dance in one's head. No doubt, you're now running to the mall or searching online — at the last minute — for that perfect present.
It's the same for many businesses. They're evaluating what's left in their charitable funds or marketing budgets this year, and planning how to allocate the money they've set aside in the new year for that perfect cause or marketing opportunity.
Businesses often look for events that share a common goal or purpose and enable their organization to gain visibility and build goodwill within the community they serve. Last May's inaugural Gaithersburg Book Festival turned out to be just such an opportunity — and more.
"Verizon was a sponsor of the 2010 Gaithersburg Book Festival for a number of reasons," said Briana Gowing, who works in external affairs with Verizon Maryland. "Gaithersburg is a very important community for our company, and we appreciate the support we've gotten from the Mayor and City Council over the years."
But more importantly, perhaps, is that one of the Verizon Foundation's signature philanthropies is literacy. We look for ways to increase interest in reading. The book festival allowed us to show our support for the city and foster the goals of our foundation," she added
For Holy Cross Hospital, the 2010 book festival was an ideal forum in which to meet with area residents to discuss the services it offers, and bring awareness to community needs.
"We look for opportunities to build relationships and believed the festival would be a good investment," said Eileen Cahill, vice president of government and community relations at Holy Cross.
"We used our presence there as an opportunity to showcase our health center for the uninsured in Gaithersburg, which is in the same neighborhood where the festival took place, and provide some basic health information and screenings. And we used it as a forum to bring awareness to the need for a new upcounty hospital. We felt our sponsorship dollars were well spent and we got a lot out of our participation."
Holy Cross and Verizon are just two examples of the dozens of local companies, charitable organizations, groups and individuals that provided cash sponsorships to the 2010 book festival. These sponsorships, combined with in-kind donations like marketing, technical support, activities and giveaways, were the reason the Gaithersburg Book Festival was able to achieve the remarkable success it did in just its first year.
"For some, a sponsorship is not even necessarily about marketing. It's about helping the city be able to provide an extraordinary cultural opportunity for residents," said Jud Ashman, who serves on the Gaithersburg City Council and chairs the Book Festival Planning Committee.
"But a sponsorship is also a terrific opportunity to get your organization out in front of thousands of the best-read, best-educated decision makers in the region."
While the book festival is organized by the City of Gaithersburg, with special support coming from the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee, it is made possible only by an enormous amount of volunteer time and the financial support of generous sponsors. In fact, the entire event budget of upwards of $40,000 needs to be funded through donations and community support.
Planning is well under way to make the 2011 Gaithersburg Book Festival (May 21, 2011) even more successful than last year's event, but to do that, the festival needs the financial support of those in and around the Gaithersburg area.
"Based on the feedback we've gotten from our inaugural event, and some of the great authors we already have signed up for 2011, we believe the Gaithersburg Book Festival is going to grow into one of the region's biggest and best cultural events," Ashman said.
"And our sponsor levels are built to fit all budgets and give any business or individual the chance to be a part of it."
Book Festival organizers would love to talk more with those companies or individuals interested in helping the City of Gaithersburg share the gift of the written word and promote literacy — while gaining visibility and building goodwill within the community.
Gail Norris is a communications and public relations consultant and the co-chair of the Public Relations Committee for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.