Nonprofits look to board members to tap their connections for corporate sponsorships. Some board members may feel at a loss here. How, they may wonder, should we be engaging potential corporate sponsors?
The key is to ensure your board members know that sponsorship is not just a gift from a benefactor. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. A board member offers something of value by inviting a sponsor in.
Whether a nonprofit receives help with ongoing expenses, or financial backing for one event, the corporate sponsor gets low-cost exposure for its brand. This extends not only to the community, but the employees within the organization.
Aware corporations consider your “ask” their asset. This is because people like to support conscientious businesses. Other factors being equal, almost 90% of people would switch to a brand that supports a good cause. Additionally, there are internal employee retention benefits. Especially with the socially-conscious Millennial workforce, employees show more loyalty to an employer who exhibits community involvement.
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A corporate event sponsorship gets noticed by event attendees and volunteers, plus everyone who sees the event campaign. With today’s image-sharing platforms, the ripples are much wider. If your organization has social media influence, let sponsors know they’ll get that social credibility boost too.
Perhaps your cause or event appeals to environmentalists. Entrepreneurs. Patrons of the arts. Movers and shakers. Families with young kids. Civic-minded vendors. Your board members should imagine how your base will overlap with a corporation’s community of potential customers. If you’re hosting a family festival, for example, consider the multitude of educational organizations, service providers, restaurants, grocery stores, and product outlets that serve families.
Encourage the board to think about connections and support broadly. A board member’s local pub might not seem likely as a kid-friendly event corporate sponsorhip. But if the pub makes its own root beer, that’s collaboration material. A designer can offer to create your marketing collateral. A printer can have the work done. A restaurant can donate a venue. In-kind donations should not be overlooked as a valuable contribution.
A board member who dislikes the idea of soliciting an acquaintance can ask for the company’s events planner, or solicit silent auction donations. Asking a person they probably don’t know personally is an easy way to practice the ask.
It typically feels most natural to begin looking for sponsors among local businesses. While local businesses may have smaller marketing budgets than a national company, where is also much less red tape to get a “yes.” It is often as simple as a phone call or conversation at lunch between a board member and business owner. It’s always a good idea to have at least small events on the horizon, so as these casual conversations come up, board members always have something to tell contacts about.
However, if a board member is the local agent of a larger company, that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a rewarding feeling for the board member to bring a big name aboard. Ask your executive director to prepare some simple one-pagers about the nonprofit mission and general corporate sponsorship information. It’s helpful to have basic information available quickly for sharing up the corporate ladder.
Companies both small and large offer forms to record the details of nonprofit donation requests. Have a checklist for following up after submitting these requests. Often, follow-up is the only the difference between your nonprofit and another that wins a company’s support.
The board should be prepared to explain the sponsorship benefits of an initiative or event. Sponsorship levels with creative names and clearly outlined benefits will inspire a business to stretch to a higher amount. Salute current donors by displaying their logos on your website—letting potential donors know they’ll be acknowledged. Have a webpage explaining what sponsors receive, such as their logos in the event guide, signs, banners, and exhibitors’ tables, or media releases announcing sponsors.
When a business becomes a sponsor, send a letter of thanks. Include a description of what each party will do. Any time a donation comes in, send another letter of thanks. Send your sponsors news updates in the run-up to your events. Highlight their backing on social media and your website. Further, show sponsors even more value by including an extra few tickets to the event, if practical. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to entertain clients or reward employees.
Report back on the good that was done after the event sponsorship concludes. One impactful way to do this is to express the sponsorship in terms of the mission. Naturally, companies love to hear, “With your $1,000 sponsorship, 100 kittens were vaccinated” or some similar example of value. Present blog or newsletter entries with photos showing vendors and backers. Then, watch your circles expand. As businesses encounter images from your successful event, they just might save space on their marketing budget for your organization next year.
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