Tips on adding sponsorship to your revenue base in addition to donations

OK, you are a non-profit group or charity. You’ve done well on your donations campaigns but you’ve heard sponsorship is on the rise in Canada. You’d like a piece of the pie but while you understand philanthropy, you are uneasy about sponsorship and how to construct a successful sponsorship approach.
The architecture of a good sponsorship program can be broken down into 4 pillars or processes you must do to prepare to be successful –and it takes time.

The first task begins with the concept of understanding what your non-profit can offer to a business that, in turn, might like to support you. It’s really a question of understanding your assets –what you bring to the sponsorship table, what and who you can deliver. While you can make a guess at the naming rights and values within your organization –mailing lists, demographics, your annual gala, your highest profile events, your building, etc. –a better way is to have them evaluated by an outside sponsorship firm. In this way, your sponsorship program assets reflect real world values and your sponsor can be assured the investments asked for are at market value. There are firms in Canada, like ours, that do this kind of thing. It’s taking inventory on what have you really got to sell or negotiate fee rights around.

Once you have a feel for your properties’ assets you can begin the process of prospecting who might be interested in those assets. Who is being aggressive in their community investments? Who might be interested in the audiences you attract? In constructing sponsorship programs, you soon learn the days of gold, silver and bronze packages are on the way out. Sponsors have very specific needs. They might be building their brand, attracting new staff or keeping the existing ones but many times they are looking for action, events, ways of getting out and doing something in the community and you have to know whether they are interested in what you have to offer. We suggest the “discovery session “approach. As well as internet searches and market intelligence that you can gather on a company, you need to talk to the company about their specific goals, audiences, needs. Only an in-person interview, where you are listening and taking notes, not pitching your products, will suffice for this “discovery”. Finding the right person to talk to isn’t easy but you can get that meeting if you assure them you are not going to ask for money, you are just there to find out more about their company.

In the end, you may find you are not a good fit, so move on to the next corporation on your list. You will find out what drives company sponsorship needs when you do, you can approach them with a proposal. Don’t guess, find out what gets them excited or “where it hurts”. Maybe you can help.

Armed with a true valued representation of what you can offer, knowledge of the company needs and some creative thinking you are ready to put together the third pillar of building your program –a customized proposal meant only for the eyes of “ABC” corporation. This details what you can deliver as a non-profit, probably through bundling a number of your “assets”, to form a powerful argument for investment, how much this investment will cost over one, two or three years and what the details of this investment look like –logos, signs, co-advertising, sampling opportunities, etc. Hold nothing back, this is the contract you want signed and you’re organization is going to have to “sell it “well. This is also the blueprint proposal you can use for other sponsorship asks in the future with modifications that are specific to the company you are chasing.

Once your target corporation decides pro or con on your proposal you have more “building” work to do. If it’s no, look for some feedback as to what you could have done better or differently. This will help you learn more about business decision making. Most groups don’t ask why and you should. Maybe it’s timing, maybe the company needed longer to consider things, maybe it’s just not a good fit.

If the answer is “yes” you are on your way to building a relationship with this organization. Remember both parties are “investing” in this –you have agreed to deliver something for the money the corporation is investing in you and in turn, you need to make sure you understand what the corporation wants to accomplish. When it’s done right, it’s a win/win.

Your last pillar has to do with the delivery mechanism, the event itself, and the all important follow up. So many times a company invests in an event, the non-profit says thank you and everyone goes their separate ways. For a one time thing, maybe that’s OK but if you want sponsors to return, or develop a lasting relationship, you need to deliver a “fulfillment” report to your sponsor –in writing –no more than a month after the sponsorship. This report outlines what you agreed to do and how well you did deliver, both the good and the bad. If something got missed, own up to it, say you’re sorry and offer a solution for next year. If you over-delivered point out that fact, maybe a bump in support is justified. Add pictures, testimonials, survey information. You can take use fulfillment report to request a meeting and make the business case for renewal next year.
With these four pillars in place your sponsorship program is on sound footings.
Submitted by Brent Barootes, President and CEO of the Partnership Group–Sponsorship Specialists™ out of Calgary, Alberta –