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8 Founding Principles of Sponsorship Success

12 February 2015 at 8:59 am
Lina Caneva
Taken from her new book, '8 Founding Principles of Sponsorship Success', sponsorship expert Abby Clemence shares her eight tips for creating a foolproof sponsorship approach.

Lina Caneva | 12 February 2015 at 8:59 am


8 Founding Principles of Sponsorship Success
12 February 2015 at 8:59 am

Taken from her new book, '8 Founding Principles of Sponsorship Success', sponsorship expert Abby Clemence shares her eight tips for creating a foolproof sponsorship approach.

There are many reasons that companies and brands may decide not to invest in sponsorship opportunities, including:

  • bad timing – you missed their budgeting cycle;
  • misalignment of target markets – are your supporters their customers?;
  • the approach and proposal were too generic;
  • no clear opportunities for how the company or brand can participate;
  • no measurability or opportunity for return on investment;
  • untried and untested opportunities, techniques or benefits; and worst of all
  • unmaintained relationships.

What if there were proven methods that you could incorporate into your sponsorship approach that would give you the opportunity to exponentially improve your chance of success?

Let’s look at eight tips to improve your sponsorship approach and make your ideal sponsor excited about partnering with you.

1.     Research that Rocks

There are some things in this world that cannot be overstated.  In the world of sponsorship, the importance of creating a relationship with a company or brand before you send them a proposal is one of those things.  When you decide that you are ready to seek and engage corporate partners, there are key things that you’ll need to know about a company before you can decide whether the alignment is right.  

Just needing the money is not enough!  Speaking with a company before you send them a proposal will elevate you into the minority of NFP organisations seeking sponsorship. Taking the time to be curious about what a company might be hoping to achieve by partnering and asking what sponsors want should be the norm, not the exception.   

There are some key things to discover that will make your approach to a company have a much greater chance of success.  Some helpful questions to ask might be:

  • Have they ever partnered with a non-profit organisation before?
  • Who else are they currently sponsoring?
  • Best timing of proposal – 43 per cent of companies organise their budgets between September-November each year.
  • The best person to speak with about sponsorship.
  • Whether or not they’re even interested in what you have to offer.

2.    It’s not a ‘levels’ playing field

Generic packages (bronze, silver and gold) are more about your convenience than your sponsor’s.  These packages were creative and interesting a decade ago, but over the years they have been done to death.

Being flexible is paramount – a win -win outcome will be best achieved from knowing inside and out all of the communication channels you currently use to communicate with your supporters and then being prepared to listen to your sponsor’s desired outcomes and find the best mix of options that suits everyone.

3.     How to make a so-so proposal look amazing

Using the right images can immediately engage your reader, and more importantly it may mean that your proposal is the one that gets picked to be read, over all the others.  There are many websites that provide great images.  

You will usually have to pay to use them, but the benefit is that if they are relevant to your mission and audience, then you can use them again and again in your own marketing collateral.  The more professional your organisation looks, the more investment you can command.  It’s an easy equation.

You only have one chance to make a first impression, so do everything you can to be looking your best!

4.    Invitations that can’t be refused

When you invite a company to partner with you, there are two aspects that are non-negotiable to cover if you want to progress to the next stage of meeting with a company or brand to discuss moving forward.  First, be sure to show the company you understand what they are looking for; and secondly, position your organisation or event as the best way to help them get what they want.

Your invitation to prospective partners must strongly convey the message ‘we understand what you are looking for and we can help you become more successful by partnering with us.’  The more you incorporate the points that you’ve discussed with your potential partner, the more they’ll be excited about the prospect of working with you.

5.    Being a ‘good cause’ won’t get you sponsored

What’s in it for me? That’s the first thing that runs through a potential sponsor’s mind as they scrutinize your sponsorship proposal.  How will this make our company/brand more successful?  How can we sell more products and services as a result of this partnership?  What is the likely ROI that we can expect?

As much as people may align with your mission and deeply believe in what you do for your community, sponsorship decisions will not be based on anything emotive or immeasurable.  You’ll need to include brief details about all the ways you can leverage access to the people you serve – your members, audience, industry or community.

6.    Sell yourself

Your organisation is a valuable marketing partner to a potential sponsor.  The unique thing about partnering with the non-profit sector is that your community or members are not mandated to be aligned with your organisation.  They stick with you because they trust you and value the information, advocacy, voice, education, support that you give them.

Many companies do not understand this concept right away and so it is your job to educate a potential sponsor about the powerful position you’re in to help them access a market they’re not currently doing business with.  Your alignment will give them much better ‘cut through’ when they interact with your audience.  

‘Going it alone’ and trying to reach your members without you would be considered spam by your community.  Aligning with your brand, suddenly gives a potential partner an invitation to meet the family.

7.     It’s not what you know…

In any proposal, sponsors like to see who they will be dealing with.

When you’re asking a company to invest in you, don’t assume they’ll immediately have heard of your organisation.  It’s important to provide a page that highlights the key people a company can expect to deal with.Remember to include your CEO – other CEOs, Managing Directors and General Managers will want to deal with someone of like-title.

8.    The price is right

Sponsorship in the Not for Profit sector is the cheapest form of marketing for the right companies, combined with the fact that partnering with your organisation can put a potential partner in front of its ideal target market can be a compelling argument for companies if you get the pricing right.

Rather than focusing on what a partnership will cost you to service, or how much you will spend getting your event up and running, consider instead:  what would accessing their ideal target market to sell more products be worth to a sponsor?  That will get you closer the amount you need and give you a better chance of creating a partnership based on shared values, rather than you giving away everything for nothing in return.

When you are seeking a company or brand to invest their time and money in partnering with you, make sure you do everything you can to put your best foot forward to create successful and happy relationship long into the future.  

By including these eight steps in your approach, you are immediately differentiating yourselves from the millions of other charities, events and associations out there also looking for sponsorship investment.

About the Author: Abby Clemence is the Managing Director of Infinity Sponsorship, a Queensland-based national consultancy.  Download her free sponsorship-readiness checklist.


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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