A new survey reveals that associations are not collecting enough data about their sponsorship programs. By being more comprehensive, they can keep partners happy and maintain a steady stream of nondues revenue.
While associations are collecting data related to the revenue their corporate partnerships and sponsorships bring in, they often aren’t measuring crucial information that can help them improve their arrangements, keep corporate partners happy, and maintain a nondues revenue stream, according to a study by the Partnership Professionals Network.
“What is most important is to track the performance of all of it, so you can give value to partners,” said Dan Kowitz, a convener of PPN, a group devoted to improving corporate partnership and sponsorship programs at associations, nonprofits, and other charities.
PPN surveyed associations and nonprofits to find out what data they are collecting and how they’re using it. According to the survey [PDF], released in June, organizations primarily track revenue and payments received from partners and sponsors (100 percent) and whether the benefits promised to the sponsors were delivered (87 percent). Only about half tracked what their sponsors wanted or needed, and just 20 percent tracked who in their organization was responsible for delivering the sponsor’s benefits.
According to Kowitz, associations are missing the mark by primarily tracking money coming in. “They are using it for budgeting, instead of using it to have better, deeper conversations with their partners,” he said.
How to Track for Success
While tracking how much money the association brings in from a sponsorship is important, it is also necessary to track the effectiveness of the benefits that sponsors and partners are receiving.
“Instead of just saying the sign went up at the meeting, say, ‘Member, how did you feel about the sign? Did it make you remember the sponsor?” Kowitz said. “Let’s survey what’s going on, how are the benefits working, how do our partners feel, and where are there deficiencies. Then, let’s figure out how can we fill that.”
Kowitz, who manages PPN alongside Convener Bruce Rosenthal, said when associations look at the effectiveness of their sponsorships, they can stop unproductive practices and offer an alternate plan.
“If members are saying, ‘We didn’t see the sign’ or ‘We saw it, and it was kind of annoying,’ or ‘It was hanging too far over my head at the escalator,’ then maybe the sponsor didn’t have more booth traffic,” Kowitz said.
If an association gets feedback suggesting an approach isn’t working, Kowitz said it’s best to share that information with the sponsor, even if they loved the sign. “What you say is, ‘We’re happy that you liked the sign, but the endgame is that you want members to visit your booth. We have data that said members didn’t notice you, and we have a new idea,’” he said.
Continuing with the sign example, Kowitz suggested a way an association could pivot to a different approach that might bring the sponsor more notice.
“Experiences at annual meetings are much more important than signage,” Kowitz said. “Let’s say your annual meeting is lacking in [charging] stations in the relaxation areas. By being the partner who works with the association to better experiences and services, you’ll be much, much more memorable.”
But in order to make use of data like this, you need to have it. Kowitz said data for any event-related sponsorship should be collected onsite. If the sponsorship is ongoing, Kowitz recommends surveying members during at least two points during the sponsorship timeframe.
Kowitz acknowledged some people might think tracking data and creating new ideas requires a lot of extra time and work, but he asserts it’s not much more effort, if you look at the tradeoffs.
“If you’re not doing it right now, you’re spending way more hours than you need to keep sponsors who aren’t happy or to go find new sponsors,” he said.
How does your association track the effectiveness of your sponsorship and partnership programs? Please share in the comments.