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Nonprofit Sponsorship: A Key Ingredient to Your Fundraising Recipe

Collection of herbs and spices

One of my leisure activities is grilling and smoking. For me, it all starts with the rub — a combination of ingredients that 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 find out 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-channel or cross-channel marketing. But at the core is what I have for many years described as a multi-arrow approach to marketing — that is, no one single arrow will hit the target every time. Rather, a mix of media and channels is the right recipe to raise awareness, and ultimately, to raise funds.

In the environment where I’ve spent about 20 years of my career — marketing and public relations for small and mid-size nonprofits — the organizations that I worked with often had limited resources, so these multi-arrow options were frequently limited. Some options were eliminated early on while others didn’t even make the initial list of options. One such marketing effort 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 some else’s program or event. That’s right, spend 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 business deals, rather than accepting philanthropic donations. So by looking at sponsorship from the viewpoint of a funder, you not only gain exposure opportunities from the sponsorship, but 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’ll be reaching if they accept your sponsorship pitch.
     
  • 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, eblasts, banners, and more? Please tell me that you have these lined up for your sponsors. These are the basic benefits that every sponsor will expect.

If your nonprofit has a full- or part-time marketing pro on staff, these questions have probably already been answered and hopefully to the satisfaction of your sponsor targets. 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, understand the role that sponsorship plays in your organization’s overall marketing/promotional efforts.

Sponsorship: It’s an ingredient that you should have in your organization’s spice rack.

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

Michael Savino

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. 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, as well as overseeing the casino’s Digital AV Department.

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