The great news is that for those able to attract and retain sponsors and partners the rewards are so much more than just dollars and pounds.
When approaching potential sponsors and partners, many organisations just see the dollar and pound signs and miss out on the bigger opportunity that sponsors and partners provide.
Let’s explore these opportunities:
1. Goods and services in kind (contra or value-in-kind)
Organisations require various products and services which, if they don’t get in kind, they will have to pay for themselves. Examples include media, computers, AV equipment, IT support, accounting, recruitment, legal services, strategic planning, telecommunications, printing, office space, food and beverage, freight, accommodation and travel. While it is easier to obtain contra than cash, it has an equal impact on the bottom line; without contra you would have to pay for the goods and services anyway. Contra is budget-relieving.
For some organisations contra can have a major impact on the commercial viability of a program. For example, if an art gallery in Australia hosts a major European art exhibition, to secure an airline partner to transport the art from Europe to Australia can mean the difference in financial terms of the exhibition going ahead or not. In a similar way, securing a media partner for the exhibition can ensure a comprehensive marketing campaign that delivers the required ticket sales and sponsorship revenue.
I recommend that you ask your finance manager for a list of expenditure items and identify items that you could turn into a contra deal.
2. Revenue generation opportunities
Companies can also provide the ability to generate revenue for the sponsored organisation in addition to the amount agreed in the sponsorship contract. This could include a cause-related marketing campaign where a percentage of product sales is provided to the sponsored organisation.
For example, a cancer charity receiving funds from the sale of bottled water and an energy company donating funds to an environmental organisation each time someone switches to their gas or electricity supply or chooses paperless bills. It also includes where a sponsor facilitates additional donations from the public through social media.
3. Enhanced awareness and understanding of your organisation or program
Companies can help to drive awareness and understanding of organisations and their activities through their external and internal communication channels. External channels include customer statements, annual reports, social media, in-branch promotion and brand advertising. Internal channels include intranet, staff newsletters and in-house media (when I worked at the Commonwealth Bank we communicated sponsorships to staff through an in-house TV channel). The channels can be used to communicate stories and offers.
The benefit to the sponsored organisation of having their message delivered through the sponsor’s communication channels is both the media value and the brand endorsement.
4. Audiences, supporters, donors and patrons
Companies can help to generate audiences, supporters, donors and patrons among their employees and through their own networks of customers, clients, supporters and shareholders. For example, corporate teams participating in a sponsored fun run and promoting special offers such as exclusive ticket offers around your activities to their customers. Workplace giving programs can also be easily set up.
5. Volunteers at events
Companies can provide volunteers at programs and events: a win, win, win situation. The company is seen as enabling the staff to participate; the employees feel good about the company for letting them participate and for supporting the sponsored organisation; and the sponsored organisation obtains people to help at no cost or in some cases charge the company per employee enrolled in the program.
6. Table sales
The way to sell tables to events is not to sell them yourself but to sell other people on the benefit of selling them for you. Approach a ‘sponsorship champion’ within your partner organisation to facilitate table sales within their business. Ask the champion to approach their business units, agencies and suppliers.
Companies provide credibility for your organisation. If you approach a potential sponsor and you already have two blue chip companies on board as sponsors, this will give you credibility and your prospects comfort, as the evaluation of your organisation has already been undertaken and their risk is reduced. If you don’t yet have any sponsors, talk instead about the credible programs delivered and the credibility of the people on your board and your ambassadors.
Sponsors can share their expertise with you. Some examples include a sponsor supplying technology and knowhow to deliver social media messages in real time on screens at fundraising events held across a country on the same night. This creates a shared national audience experience and the ability to promote sponsor messages simultaneously in all locations. Another example is a sponsor with expertise in financial investments assisting a charity to invest its funds and secure a better rate of return. Or a gym developing a tailored fitness program for a social enterprise agency to help the agency deliver on their mission of providing health and fitness to people with learning difficulties.
9. Reinforcing your desired brand positioning
Companies can reinforce your desired image. For example, partnering with a progressive company might position you as a progressive organisation.
Don’t get stuck on the dollars. Too many proposals only ask for cash. Many of the things that a company can provide you with won’t cost them money, but are of an enormous benefit to you. It’s worth remembering that if a company is only providing money, then it is very easy for them to turn off the flow of cash and get out of the relationship.
If you are tied to the company in a number of ways and they have told everyone how great their sponsorship with you is, it will be harder for them to exit.
Note: If you are asking for additional elements in lieu of cash, such as contra or a commitment to promote the sponsorship, ensure that they form part of the agreement and make sure to report contra received in your financial reports.
If you would like to be more effective at securing these things you might be interested in attending How to Attract & Retain Sponsors and Partners on May 29-30.
If you can’t make the workshop, my book on the topic is available here
If you would like to review your organisation’s approach to attracting and retaining sponsors and partners, more details can be found here.