2010Q3 Reports: Sponsorship Chairs

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Christy Doran and Srinivas B.

The sponsorship effort for 2009-2010 was reasonably successful compared to the preceding year. For the NAACL 2010 conference, we raised over $30,000 from a range of small and large companies. Given the economic times, this is a noteworthy amount.

Here are a few points to improve the efficiency of raising money for future conferences:

  • There should be a single point of contact in the committee who will be responsible for each organization we approach to solicit sponsorship. (Compile and update the list of donors.)
  • There should be a local organization member as part of the committee, given that there are usually companies local to the conference who might be better targeted by local organizers.
  • The committee members should approach the organizations well ahead of time, perhaps even the fall of preceding year, since organizational budgets are decided during fall of previous year.
  • Besides corporations, it might be meaningful for research institutions to show off their research in a "Show and Tell" like set up. This event might attract additional funds to support a conference.
  • Clear guidelines need to be established as to how sponsor materials will be presented (logo, write up etc.) on the conference web site.
  • Only two sponsors subscribed to the "combo" packs. Sponsors preferred to sponsor conferences in their business regions, this year. Is there a way to make these more attractive to sponsors?

Local Sponsorship (ACL)

Mats Wirén and Hercules Dalianis

The Sponsorship Booklet for 2010 became available by early November 2009. The local sponsorship chairs approached funding agencies, organizations and companies within Sweden roughly during the period December 2009--April 2010.

Our strategy was to concentrate on a small number of funding applications (which if successful would yield large amounts of funding) and on trying to recruit companies where we had some kind of connection (direct or indirect), rather than sending out general information about sponsoring opportunities to all organizations with a potential interest in language technology.

We submitted two applications to funding agencies (the Swedish Research Council and the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation). Both of these have special budgets for supporting scientific conferences, though it was not self-evident that a large international conference such as ACL -- which essentially sets its conference fees to make a surplus -- would be a suitable candidate for funding. Both applications were successful, however, each providing funding well above the Platinum level. Platinum-level support was also obtained from Uppsala University and Gold-level support from the Swedish National Graduate School of Language Technology.

The hit rate for companies within Sweden was not as good -- only a handfull were recruited (ranging from Silver to Local Student Fellowship Sponsor). Unsurprisingly, personal contacts seem to have been a crucial (and limiting) factor for success in this case.

Here are some items that might be worthwhile considering for the future:

  • It would be good if the Sponsorship Booklet was available at the moment when information about sponsoring is published on the conference website. In our case, we were approached by a company already in September (Textkernel, through the e-mail address sponsorship@acl2010.org which had then been published), but had to put them on hold until the booklet was out.
  • It would facilitate communication among the persons involved in sponsoring if the ACL wiki could be used for documenting progress and responsibilites. It was sometimes hard (for everyone, we think) to follow what was happening and understand the division of labour just by using e-mail.
  • The timing of preparing applications to funding agencies turned out to be quite delicate. On the one hand, both agencies requested detailed conference budgets to motivate why funding was needed. On the other hand, in order for the funding to affect conference fees, decisions from the funding agencies had to be obtained before the conference budget was finalized. Furthermore, different agencies process applications at different speeds (in our case, one month and three months, respectively). Thanks to terrific help from Priscilla and Joakim, we were able to get detailed information about the tentative budget, which allowed us to create coherent calculations in time.
  • One of the funding agencies demanded that if the conference leave a surplus, this would have to be refunded to the agency afterwards. The way to handle this was to have the agency provide the funding to the local organizer (Akademikonferens), rather than to ACL directly.