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Nonprofit Sponsorship: A Key Ingredient to Your Fundraising Recipe

October 31, 2015

Spices jpgOne of my leisure activities is grilling and smoking. For me, it all starts with the rub — a combination of ingredients I apply to beef, pork, poultry, or fish. Salt and pepper, garlic powder, paprika, brown sugar, and chili powder are all staples in my homemade rubs. I rarely use prepared rubs, as I like to experiment and discover for myself what works.

The same goes for my awareness-building campaigns: a bit of this, a pinch of that, a scoop of something else.

In past years, we used to call this the "media mix." Today, with the emergence (dominance?) of digital media, we've redefined this mix as multi- or cross-channel marketing. But at its core is what I have for many years described as a multi-arrow approach to marketing predicated on the idea that no single arrow hits the target every time. Rather, a mix of media/channels almost always is the right recipe if you hope to raise awareness and, ultimately, funds.

In the space where I spent about twenty years of my career — marketing and public relations for small and mid-size nonprofits — the organizations I typically worked with often had limited resources. So these multi-arrow options frequently were limited. Some options were eliminated early on, while others didn't even make the initial list of options. One such option frequently ignored was sponsorship.

Sponsorship as a Marketing Tool

While social media, advertising, promotions, and the like are on the short list of awareness-building channels, sponsorship usually isn't. This is because nonprofit organizations look at sponsorship almost always as an extension of fundraising: as a means to generate revenue. But there's the other side of sponsorship, the side that can expand an organization's reach to their audiences through:

  • Branded exposure
  • Third-party promotional opportunities
  • Leveraging partnerships to attract fundraising
  • Venue sampling and activation

If you want to build a sponsorship program, you should consider sponsoring someone else's program or event. That's right, spend some money -- or at least think about it. Why? Well, it's been my experience that most fundraising professionals just don't grasp the concept that sponsorship is about making deals rather than accepting donations. So by looking at sponsorship from the viewpoint of a funder, you not only gain opportunities for exposure from the sponsorship, you begin to appreciate the deliverables, the benefits that a sponsor will want from your sponsorship pitch.

How Well Are You Positioned to Pitch a Sponsor?

So you want to put together a sponsor proposal? Great! Now, try answering these questions:

  • What does your user study say about your audience? You have conducted a survey, right? Because a sponsor will want to know who they will be reaching if they accept your sponsorship proposal.
  • How much exposure does your marketing plan generate? You have a marketing plan to support the sponsorship, don't you? The sponsor will want to see your organization's commitment.
  • Are you adding a sponsor's logo to your advertising, e-blasts, banners, and more? Please tell me you have these lined up for your sponsor — they're the basic benefits every sponsor will expect to receive.

If your nonprofit has a full- or part-time marketing pro on staff, these questions have probably already been answered — hopefully to the satisfaction of your sponsor. But if you're a professional fundraiser, grant writer, or executive director juggling numerous responsibilities and sponsorship is just one of the many balls you have in the air, understanding the role that sponsorship plays in your organization's overall marketing/promotional efforts is critical.

Think of it this way: sponsorship is an ingredient every nonprofit should have in its spice rack.

Join me on Tuesday, November 10, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET, when I will be conducting a webinar for Foundation Center entitled "How To Market Your Nonprofit To Corporate Sponsors." In it, participants will learn how to build their sponsorship programs by utilizing marketing strategies and efforts (audience research, advertising, special events, promotions, and publicity) designed to strengthen their proposals.

Headshot_michael_savinoMichael C. Savino is a marketing and communications professional with more than twenty-five years of experience working for and with nonprofit organizations and public attractions. He currently serves as the director of marketing at Resorts World Casino New York City, where he leads media buying, creative, sponsorship, and social media efforts and oversees the casino’s Digital AV Department. 

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