Nonprofits can offset event costs, increase overall income, and rely less on endowments and grants by getting creative with corporate sponsorships.
Creative thinking and empathy are key to creating sustainable, mutually-beneficial relationships with corporate sponsors.
For example, I recently suggested that an environmental nonprofit client reach out to a local luxury vehicle dealership for first-time event sponsorship. As opposed to simply asking for money in exchange for brand awareness at the event, I suggested that it was up to the nonprofit to start the new relationship by bringing some creativity to the table.
There are many ways in which a nonprofit can help a business move towards its objectives. To create more engagement, and potentially help the dealership build a list of warm leads, I suggested that the nonprofit allow the dealership to exhibit its newest eco-friendly vehicle line-up at the event.
Taking this concept further, it’s a good idea to think about the consumers in attendance and how to get the most out of this collaboration. Perhaps a drawing where the winner(s) can “drive in eco-luxury for a day”? If the dealership leveraged the contest well, it could create short-form video content to promote their alignment with a core value of this new demographic—environmental consciousness.
By targeting contest participants (and others in the applicable geographic area) with video ads, they could easily extend the life of the sponsorship and return on their investment.
As a non-profit, think of your work not as attaining corporate sponsorship, but creating strong, strategic partnerships. Like any partnership, the benefits should be reciprocal.
Don’t focus on getting as much money out of your sponsor as possible; Focus on offering as much value as possible.
A not-for-profit designation doesn’t mean the only value your organization brings to the table is a tax deduction. You can attract significant sponsorship deals and major gifts by understanding how you can add tremendous value a business by marketing their product and services to your audience—so long as they align with your organization’s core values.
Corporations are used to being asked for money—and they’re used to saying no. It’s the role of the development office to make your nonprofit stand apart (and increase the size of contributions) by getting creative and opening with how you can help the sponsor.
Remember Why Businesses Should Sponsor Your Non-profit
Keep in mind these three key points when considering a potential partnership:
1. All other things being equal, people prefer to work with a company that supports a good cause. Being associated with your charity can help a business attract more customers, who are increasingly conscious politically and environmentally.
2. Consumers are more willing to try new products and services, even if they have never heard of them before, when they are associated with a cause they have heard of or associate with. When a business wants to reach a new demographic or launch a new product or service, an association with your charity can help them build trust with their consumers.
3. Half of consumers have said that they would pay more for goods and services if the companies providing them gave back to society.
Working with your nonprofit, therefore, a business can move toward its objectives in a number of ways simultaneously. Being associated with a cause is good for business.
How to Nurture a Relationship with a Corporate Sponsor
Move beyond the uncertainty of a one-off contribution in favor of a two-way relationship with your corporate sponsors. Like most relationships, it will take some work to keep the partnership delivering.
You need to keep the sponsor accountable so that they live up to their promises. And you need to keep your sponsor interested in the arrangement by providing good value consistently. Focus on the following areas:
Brand visibility – working with a non-profit offers businesses the opportunity to build brand recognition and increase sales. Put yourself in their shoes to help you come up with ideas.
At the minimum, offer to put their logo and branding on your marketing material. This means flyers, posters, t-shirts, social media, email campaigns, and print. Wherever you are reaching out to people about your nonprofit, consider how the sponsor could benefit, too. Identify why your target audience is relevant to the potential sponsor.
Offering creative input and approval – Branding is equal parts science and art. Having this control is very valuable and not all non-profits will think to offer this.
Make sure that your sponsors sign off on any use of their logo. Ensuring that a business can maintain control of its brand by approving your marketing material will allay concerns and make them more likely to work with you. If you are willing to allow them to get involved in the creation of any material featuring their logo, this may also be a bonus.
Giving recognition – Make sure to acknowledge and thank your sponsors. You can let them know in advance that they will receive:
• mentions in speeches, meetings, and press interviews
• thanks via social media (and a link to their website)
• photographic opportunities at specifically arranged media events, such as a tour of your organization
• an ad in their industry publication thanking them for their generous support
• VIP tickets to events
Demonstrating your value – Help your sponsor work out the dollar value of working with you, by providing them with data. Let them know what marketing material featured their logo and the number of impressions, opens, clicks, and/or likes they received. They can combine your metrics with theirs to determine ROI, such as a campaign’s effect on sales, new leads, or traffic.
Ongoing communication – Don’t let it look like you’ve taken the money and are running. Stay in touch with your sponsors. Keep everyone on the same page regarding what you should be delivering, deliver it, and let them know when you have done so.
Stay in touch to not only maintain this relationship, but to build it. Continued or recurring sponsorship is good for your non-profit, in that it saves you time seeking (and converting) leads—and keeps the money flowing. And your excellent service is likely to encourage your existing sponsors to make larger gifts.