Sponsorships are a great way to bring in nondues revenue to either your national association or one of its chapters. Here are five tips for creating a successful sponsorship program.
One of the main challenges that associations face is coming up with enough revenue to meet their bottom lines and fund their various programs and initiatives. Association chapters feel this challenge acutely, due to their limited scope and resources. “Many times, chapters are on their own to generate revenue,” said Ryan Felps, president of StarChapter.
A few years ago, the Dayton, Ohio, chapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF-Dayton), wasn’t having much luck selling individual sponsorships, according to Executive Director Sara McCatherine. The chapter would ask companies to consider sponsoring its meetings or awards shows on a one-off basis, but McCatherine said “people really didn’t bite.”
So, a couple of years ago, AAF-Dayton mixed things up and developed a sponsorship package that did find traction. Here are five lessons that they learned along the way.
Create an annual package. Instead of repeatedly coming back to companies and asking for sponsorship dollars for the chapter’s X, Y, and Z events, McCatherine recommends approaching them once a year with a package deal. When AAF-Dayton created and then presented its sponsorship package to companies, the group was able to pick up four big sponsorships that fueled its events throughout the year. “I think what they liked best was that we didn’t knock on their door a lot,” McCatherine said. “Once they signed up, they were done for the year.” But it appealed to McCatherine too, since she didn’t have to constantly think: “Now, who are we going to get to sponsor this? Who are we going to get to sponsor that?’” she said.
Make the package components appealing. AAF-Dayton created several different sponsorship packages and priced them at different points. Directed toward those who wanted to get in front of the advertising industry, the packages included perks like tickets to the chapter’s annual digital and social media meeting, as well as to its award show, and both print and online advertisements, among others. “If any of [the sponsors] want to come up with ideas for further promotion, we’ll work on that with them,” McCatherine said. “They’re showing their support for us, so we’re showing our support for them.”
Get the price right. When pricing the sponsorship packages, you have to make sure that all the hard costs are covered. McCatherine lists all of the hard costs out in an Excel spreadsheet, from the price of the meeting ticket to the printing costs for the sponsorship. For example, if those costs totaled $350, you might price the sponsorship package at $1,000. It’s important “to make sure we’re meeting the costs and realizing a profit, because profit—obviously, you have to have it. You can’t lose money on it,” she said.
Leverage your members to make the pitch. AAF-Dayton asked its members to speak with their own workplaces about these sponsorship packages, since those relationships were already established. And the pitch was as easy as this: “I have a great opportunity to promote our company, and here are the sponsorship packages. Why don’t we meet and have coffee about it?” McCatherine said, “And a lot of the times, they’d come back and say, ‘Yeah, that is a good idea.’”
Thank sponsors as the year ends. Remember that “thank you” goes a long way. “The important thing is following up with them as the year of their sponsorship is winding down, making sure that you let them know how much you appreciated their support of the organization,” McCatherine said. AAF-Dayton created thank-you presentations for its sponsors that also reminded them about what they got out of their sponsorships and what their money enabled AAF-Dayton to do, whether that was bringing in national-level speakers or putting on great networking events. And then, McCatherine said, “fingers crossed that they’ll renew.”
We’d love to hear about the sponsorship strategies or tricks of the trade that have worked for your chapter or association. Please leave your comments below.