Saying YES to Corporate Sponsorship: 3 Questions to Ask Before Taking the Plunge

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I was recently invited to be a classroom guest in Pace University’s Encore Transition Program, a program with the goal to “help people prepare for the right encore career at the right time and satisfy a growing desire to add purpose to their life.” I was asked by a colleague to provide insights into how digital media­­—and specifically social media—could assist in their job search.

These were for-profit professionals looking to enter the nonprofit world. Skilled and experienced, they sought guidance as to how to seek out opportunities and apply their skills in a new environment. This got me thinking about the many nonprofit fundraising professionals who have begun dipping their toe into the deep end of the money pool: corporate sponsorship. They, too, are looking for ways to apply their skills and experiences in a different way. To these folks I say, don’t dip your toe into sponsorship. Rather, DIVE IN!

In February I presented a webinar for Foundation Center called “Sponsorship for Nonprofits: Putting a Price Tag on What You Do.” Among the many comments I received, this one stuck with me as I juxtaposed my webinar with my talk at Pace: “Michael made me think of it from a corporate mindset versus a nonprofit mindset. That change in mentality made it much clearer for me to map out a strategy for seeking corporate sponsorship.”  RIGHT!

Perhaps the most critical aspect to successful corporate partnerships is that nonprofit fundraising professionals need to understand the business goals of potential sponsors, and whether their particular nonprofit can support these goals. How would you know? A good indicator is whether you can answer “Yes” to the following three questions:

  1. Can my organization deliver customers that the sponsor wants to reach?
  2. Do I have tangible benefits that will enable the sponsor to reach my audience?
  3. Can I package my assets into a proposal that is priced right for the sponsor?

“Customer reach.” “Tangible benefits.” “Package assets.” Where’s the mention of my organization’s mission statement, or the fact that we list funders in our annual report? Yes, well that’s a discussion with a corporation’s foundation. If you want sponsorship dollars, it’s time to make the transition from fundraiser to salesperson. Time to take the knowledge you have of organizational content, combine it with your experiences building relationships, and re-apply that knowledge and experience to corporate marketing departments.

Why? Well, perhaps this stat will motivate you to take the plunge: According to the IEG Property Sector Spending Report, in 2014, sponsors were projected to have spent over $925 million on the arts alone. Still at the edge of the sponsorship pool? C’mon in, the water’s fine!

Join Michael for his encore presentation of “Sponsorship for Nonprofits: Putting a Price Tag on What You Do” on Wednesday, July 29, 2:00-3:00 pm ET. The webinar will address corporate mindset, putting a value on nonprofits’ assets, and building sponsor proposals. Ideal for those just starting to consider sponsorships, the webinar offers practical advice and case studies that participants can use as both motivation and as models for replication.

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Michael C. Savino is a marketing and communications professional with more than 25 years of experience working for and with nonprofit organizations and public attractions.