How to Build Better Sponsorships

I’ve spent the last several weeks working with several new clients on sponsorships and partnerships. In this role, I’m responsible for helping my clients better understand the value they bring to their potential sponsors. After several interesting conversations with both the nonprofits and their partners I discovered that most of them really don’t understand the value proposition of nonprofits.  I don’t think this is particularly unusual for most organizations.  Many companies get involved in nonprofit sponsorships not because the ROI but because they care about the cause.  This is a problem because it can lead to a low renewal rate among sponsors. They get involved for the love of the cause but in challenging economic times they cut back on sponsorship dollars.

The solution is help partner organizations objectively measure the impact of their involvement. Both the nonprofit and the sponsor are serving the same market.  By providing objective, measurable data about your audience helps sponsors justify and renew sponsorship arrangements from a business point of view as well as humanitarian. 

It would probably be helpful to share some of the critical elements your partners need to know to get a better ROI on sponsorship partnerships. It also allows them to be better informed on what level of partnership makes sense given their marketing objectives.  The biggest mistake most nonprofits make is by not identifying and assessing their audience. 

Who’s in your audience?  I’ve known far too many nonprofits whose answer to this question is, “Everyone!”  If you haven’t done so yet, sit down and write as many characteristics of your audience as possible.  Are they old or young?  Are they primarily male or female?  What attracted them to your group?  What do they tell other people about your group? Do they bring other people to your activities?  Write down as many characteristics as possible, but be realistic.  No one believes everyone is your audience!

Who are your most engaged audience members? Every nonprofit has a subgroup of highly engaged and active members.  These are the people that volunteer countless hours to a project, raise more money, or donations than anyone else.  What are the characteristics of those highly engaged members?  How much do you know about them?  Try to quantify the traits and what they have in common.  If you know what a highly engaged member looks like, you can recruit others from your engaged audience.

Who are your engaged audience members? An engaged audience member is one that likes or believes in your cause, has donated money or time, or has joined in some of your activities.  What are the characteristics of these audience members?  Try to quantify the traits and what they have in common.  If you know what an engaged member looks like, you can recruit others from your desired audience.

Who are your desired audience members? Desired audience members may have liked you on Facebook or retweeted you.  They share the qualities and characteristics of your engaged audience, they’re just not members, yet!  What kind of offer would they respond to?  How to you get them more engaged in your organization?

Why does this matter?  Keep in mind; partners are buying access to your audience with a sponsorship.  The better the information you know and provide about your audience, the more informed decision a partner can make about sponsoring your organization.  Many nonprofits make the mistake of defining their audiences too broadly.  Consequently, it’s difficult for a partner to get an appropriate match for their product or service.  When they don’t reach their marketing goals, they drop the sponsorship. 

The closer the audience matches between the nonprofit and the partner, the better the sponsorship arrangement works out for both parties.  Take the first steps today, and start writing down who is in your audience now, and who you’re looking for to join.  It will make finding partners much easier down the road.

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