Every business has heard the pitch from an association pitching their cause. It goes something like this… “For $1000, you can be a Gold Sponsor and have your logo in tattooed onto the forehead of the staff member of your choice.” A bit exaggerated, but the exchange generally includes a standard set of categories and a standard set of benefits for selection.
Gone are the days (if they existed) of money coming into an association simply for logo placement. Sponsors now want to share their voice and have their expertise appreciated by the association. A true partnership approach and fundraising strategy includes goals of both the association and the business sponsors.
Collaboration takes a little longer, and requires more thought, but the results can be much more rewarding for both the association and the business.
Step 1: Discuss Goals and Objectives
The desired outcome of initial discussions would be the identification of areas of alignment that are ripe for a support opportunity. Usually the association has a few outlined started with associated costs as a starting point for mutual discussion.
Essentially, the common ground between the association and the business must be established and clarity created around synergies and differences to drive a partnership strategy that is relevant and productive.
Step 2: Define the ROI
Perhaps the hardest piece of the puzzle for many sponsorships is defining what the return on investment (ROI) means to the business and measuring it. The definition of ROI will change from business to business and project to project. Jointly defining the ROI at the beginning of a project is crucial for success.
When the ROI is something already measured, such as numbers of attendees at an event, it is easy to report to a sponsor. However, when the ROI is vague, such as a donation to the operations of an association, a report of the overall successes of the association might be sufficient, or a creative metric established jointly.
The association has an ROI as well. Additional income to the association should bring more, and higher quality, services to the members or advance the mission. Sponsorships offset registration rates, provide speakers, and/or increased food and beverage, or advance the cause of the association. Each of these ways strengthens the overall membership value proposition.
Step 3: Align Resources
Regardless of the degree of sophistication of a partnership and fundraising strategy, it is important for the association to have dedicated staff to ensure reliable, high-quality customer service to the business sponsors. Ideally, the business will have a point person or team that works with the association to design the sponsorship package and to fulfill the deliverables.
Step 4: Communicate Early and Often
While it takes time, communications with strategic sponsors are an essential aspect of sponsorship sales. The business/association team should learn each other’s preferred modes of communication and discuss how to best meet each other’s information needs. The most effective communication is the direct and personal; avoid vague letters or emails to many recipients. Make sure that all parties understand the steps involved in the project, know their roles, and are prepared for the outcomes: no surprises.
Step 5: Tell the World
The obvious step of executing the project to perfection is skipped for this brief update. If you followed the first steps, the likelihood of success is very high. End strong by making sure the association’s members, donors, and benefactors know about the project, it’s success, and that it was made possible by a generous donation from our business sponsor.
Send press releases to local media to share your successes. Make sure the customers of the business know about the project and it’s success. That is how the association finds it next business sponsor and the business finds it’s next customer.