Board Member Engagement Increases Corporate Sponsorships
Nonprofit board members should always be looking for opportunities to help fundraise. To be sustainable, the nonprofit needs every member of the board involved in your development efforts. One excellent place to start is securing corporate sponsors.
This method of development does not come naturally to every board member. A nonprofit offers something of value to the sponsor through the partnership and should underscore this value. How? Let's take a look.
Master the 21st Century Ask
Remember, board members are generally successful business people, and they can use that background to their advantage when seeking corporate sponsorships. Using terminology relating to return on investment, long-term benefits and measurable impacts will work the best. They should target businesses that are also impacted by the organization’s mission. If your nonprofit helps improve employment opportunities for incarcerated populations, work for sponsorships with businesses that have hiring shortfalls or are also impacted by this problem. It will be harder for board members to be successful with companies that have no connection to your work.
Make a template for an email. Today, nonprofits often pitch to Millennials. For today's pitches, contacting the decision-maker by email is acceptable. (It's eco-friendly, too.) Have it ready in your board portal. Include key elements.
For example, start with some statistics about the pain points the sponsor has due to the problem your nonprofit addresses. State what your nonprofit strives to do. Give hard numbers about how many individuals your organization serves and what you project is possible with an investment of (X) from them.
Ask the decision-maker to get in touch. Then, keep in touch! Share not only your email, but the nonprofit's social media, website and blog. Offer them the chance to attend an event for free or simply take a tour of your operations.
Board members should set follow-up prompts on the calendar. In today's world, it's best to be gentle with follow-ups and not to overdo them. But board members should make a point of staying on the potential sponsor's radar. Engagement often makes the difference between a sponsorship that goes to your nonprofit—or to someone else.
Don’t Forget to Point Out the PR Benefits of Sponsorship
In the above example, the mutual benefit of financially backing for your nonprofit is crystal clear. You have presented how your organization helps solve a problem that affects their company, too. The value of sponsorship doesn’t end there. The corporate sponsor not only gets low-cost exposure in the community—that exposure comes from a good cause. The value in this can be quite high. The vast majority of customers will change brands to support a good cause. Additionally, socially-conscious Millennial employees are known to be more loyal to an employer who supports philanthropic causes.
Your board members should become adept at visualizing the overlap between your followers, and the potential sponsor's clientele and employees. Consider social media as an amplifier. If your nonprofit has an engaged social media following, let sponsors know they'll benefit from that social cred.
Giving Thanks Is One of the Most Powerful Ways to Increase Fundraising Success
Have a checklist for thanking donors and sponsors. Best practices include:
- Showing your sponsors' logos on your website. This announces to potential donors and sponsors that they, too, will be publicly appreciated.
- Creating a webpage outlining the exposure a sponsor receives at all tiers of giving.
- Keeping a template for media releases to announce new partnerships.
- Sending an email thanking the sponsor and, if applicable, outline the sponsor's role in an event or project.
- Thanking donors for each donation, containing the nonprofit's tax status and identification number. Handwritten notes from board members show extra attention.
- Inviting potential sponsors to events—even if they are not sponsors yet.
- Posting reports about the successes and good things that happened on account of a company's support. Send a copy to the company, and it might just be posted at the company's storefronts or offices for all to see.
Then, watch the ripples move outward. As competitors and colleagues of your corporate sponsors see their image gaining momentum, they will want to be part of the action, too. This success will also encourage your board members to try new avenues for sponsorship. In time, board engagement and corporate development becomes a cycle of successful development, and everyone benefits.
Jeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a nonprofit board management software provider. He is also the founder of two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree, as well as a board member of United Way Central Indiana and ProAct. Jeb is based in Indianapolis, Ind.
Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning and everything else that goes into running a board of directors.