6 Tips for Quick Sponsorship Wins Right Now
Time is ticking and the tide is coming in. We’re knee deep into the fourth quarter of a year where individual giving is down and we’re counting more and more on corporate support to meet our budgets and goals. Here are the trends among nonprofits that are finishing the year off strong in landing corporate giving gifts during the last two months of the year.
1. Make It Personal
The golden rule in fundraising is “people give to people.” The problem is that too many nonprofits forget this rule when it comes to corporate sponsorships. Some nonprofits shine at lifting up their donors and empowering communities for the cause and others don’t believe in building a donor community, but easily build strong relationships with individuals inside a company.
The point is don’t forget that companies are made up of people. If you make a friend who has a seat at the decision-making table for your target corporation and turn them into a champion for your cause, you’ve got a huge advantage. I forged amazing personal relationships within pharmaceutical companies just by caring about the main point of contact and the advocacy leader.
Don’t talk to them like they’re the company. They are not. These are the people you need to lean on right now because they care about making the world a better place. A bond with them will help you navigate corporate regulations and discover with whom to talk, which might lead to a “yes” — even with only two months left in the year.
My own example: My family is blended. One time I took the time to share my experience and listen to a contact at a Fortune 100 about their family issue. Years later, they still give me a straight answer of what’s possible and let me know when partnership opportunities arise.
2. Get to the Point
Don’t get hung up on writing a capstone graduate work essay to make an ask to a corporation. This is still absolutely necessary when we’re dealing with family or corporate foundations but not when it comes to appealing to a company’s business unit.
If you’ve got their attention, write a letter that shares the problem, why you’re the solution, what your reach is and what’s the value proposition. Then close with a “thank you.” When I started doing business development, I’d write a six-page missive on why the company should support the cause and wonder why no one read it. I soon realized most sponsorship decision-makers — especially the ones who already know your cause — want a page-and-a-half or less.
My own example: After three years of sending long proposals to Amgen Oncology, my contact at the time told me, “No one wants to read all this. Just put it all in one page.” Moving to a workflow of sending short request letters and supporting materials as needed enabled me to make more asks and increase the acceptance rate.
3. Find ‘Lottery Ticket Money’
One company’s contact called it “lottery ticket money” when she would discover unspent marketing dollars in the waning weeks of the year. Oftentimes, these budgeted dollars aren’t reallocated the following year and sometimes the project has to be completed within the budgeting cycle.
It’s great when you have built relationships within corporations so they let you know when there’s funding left in the fourth quarter. However, always including an opportunity that is a program or an initiative that can be started and completed within two months will help. A couple of examples that could fit this timeline are digital and printed education materials, and surveys to your constituent base. Just make sure the program’s delivery team sets up the content ahead of time.
My own example: I’m always looking to do a survey to constituents, so I have the questions prewritten and ready to go. Find a sponsor with “lottery ticket money,” offer to let them add three questions to the survey and drop the whole survey into a template on a webpage to serve up, promote and collect data within a few weeks.
4. Offer Corporate Membership
If it’s not already in place, create a corporate membership program with a relatively low starting dollar figure to get new companies to come on board. This can also be another quick win for companies with “lottery ticket money.” Usually, the tangible benefits to corporate membership are online brand exposure aimed at your constituents, as well as access and thought partnership with your nonprofit’s leadership.
My own example: I started doing this one year by creating a membership page on the website and posting some sponsors that I knew were at their max capacity at year-end. Then I called and upsold other sponsors to get them to increase their annual sponsorship by a little bit, and called competing sponsors to do the same to keep up. It also helped to give a Dec. 31 deadline to commit for the following year.
5. Explain Your Reach
Too many nonprofits don’t explain their reach. If they do, they say they reach a certain amount of people and don’t explain it. Put together a document that outlines how many constituents your nonprofit reaches with as much demographic information as possible and how you communicate with them. It helps the internal champion within the company win over those decision-makers who are on the fence and it helps those with vision toward new opportunities to dream what’s possible when working with your cause.
My own example: Widely sharing the aggregate and de-identified demographic information with sponsors helped us vastly improve support for diversity, equity and inclusion programs to help more patients.
6. Provide Year-End Campaign Opportunities
Reach out to potential sponsors to take part in your GivingTuesday efforts or year-end campaigns. Offer marketing opportunities to present the campaign or match all individual contributions over a timeframe. When doing this, some companies are open to supporting in this way provided there’s tangible benefit and an absolute ceiling for commitment dollars over a certain time period.
My own example: I didn’t believe in this tactic for years until a smart staffer asked about it. We did a GivingTuesday campaign where we offered an existing sponsor the opportunity to be the presenting sponsor for no additional cost. As a result, multiple companies inquired how to be a sponsor on future campaigns while the original sponsor paid to be the premier GivingTuesday sponsor the next year.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Jamie Bearse is an award-winning nonprofit CEO and executive. Over the past 21 years, he’s helped lead and advance cancer causes through strategic planning, fundraising, retention and recruitment, and team and culture building. Currently, he’s the CEO and founder of Build a Better Nonprofit and lives outside of Boston with his family.