As I headed out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday, the phone rang. It was the CEO of a large company with a $10,000 event sponsorship for one of our clients. What a great way to start a holiday! I knew our clients were excited about the sponsorship but also the new corporate relationship. There are MANY nonprofit organizations that would do a back flip for that phone call and are, perhaps, wondering why this particular group received the call.
In this case, here are the answers: (1) Alignment of the corporate cause with the nonprofit impact; (2) Nonprofit has a strong reputation and brand; (3) Nonprofit CEO is present in community – met company CEO previously; (4) Nonprofit has a strong online presence; (5) Technology infrastructure in place to provide sponsor with recognition of event sponsorship
What elements do companies look for with their event sponsorships?
Alignment of corporate goals with nonprofit impact or program.
- Companies focus on causes that reflect an element of their product, employee base or community (typically something that the company recognizes it depends on for the future).
- Meets corporate social responsibility goals through employee volunteer or engagement with your cause
- Supports employees: (1) Company employees are involved with your cause and the company wants to encourage/support them. (2) Your programs benefit company employees and/or their families.
- Expands customer base: Nonprofit event guests, board members or program recipients may be potential customers for the company. Generating awareness among a strong, prospect group is valuable and measurable.
Note: Listening and research will help you understand the company goals.
- Seek information about previous sponsorships (are you a good fit?)
- Explore if you or your organization have any personal relationships with the company
- Does the company have an application timeline? Follow it.
- Do not ask at the last minute. If last minute, invite corporate guests to your event to cultivate for next year.
Strong nonprofit (or event) brand and reputation
- Through sponsorships, companies seek to align your brand with theirs. Strength of brand, reputation and awareness matter. A LOT.
- Your events can strengthen your brand image and expand awareness.
- Organizational brand should be considered with everything you do especially board recruitment, event committees, staffing and the people who tell your story.
- If you anticipate anything negative impacting your image, notify your sponsors at once and be transparent about the circumstances if you want to retain the relationship.
Compelling Case Statement
- The sponsorship information must be compelling and thoughtfully produced.
- Establish your organization as a thought leader on the problem, demonstrate results and importance in the community
- Outline sponsorship expectations (note: we love sponsorship agreements which clearly outline the relationship)
- Use numbers! Measuring your outcomes as an organization, measuring the impact of your events, providing data about sponsorship exposure etc are imperative. Company’s understand numbers and your ability to measure and demonstrate impact are essential.
- Strengthen your authority by including an endorsement letter from a recognized person or mutual relationship
Build the relationship
- Corporate sponsorships are relationships too.
- Establish a strong personal connection between a board member or staff and the corporate decision maker.
- Maintain the relationship with excellent communication, mutual support and transparency.
- Establish the appropriate communication channels early (i.e. who should one email for the logo, who should be copied etc.)
- Do not take the corporate sponsor for granted.
Next Article: 5 Tips to Rock Your Corporate Sponsor Meeting