How Should Associations Approach a Corporate Sponsorship Opportunity?

According to a new report from Classy, it’s important to focus on what a potential corporate sponsor can get out of a partnership just as much as how it can benefit your organization.

Whether it’s an event, an initiative, or a donor roll, corporate sponsors are often a key part of what allows associations and other nonprofits to fulfill their respective missions.

So how can you convince them to work with you? According to Classy, a fundraising software firm for nonprofits, it comes down to mutual back-scratching.

“Corporate sponsorships typically provide nonprofit organizations with financial support in exchange for the corporation’s brand exposure,” the company stated in its ‌The Nonprofit’s Guide to Pitching to Corporate Sponsors [registration], available in PDF and podcast. “Beyond this basic exchange, there are several additional benefits for each party in the relationship.”

Often, Classy says, the collaboration helps nonprofits increase marketing efforts, draws in new supporters, and boosts brand associations. For corporations, it helps increase brand perception and exposure, creates opportunities to take business back from competing brands, encourages consumers to pay more, and even boosts employee satisfaction.

There are lots of ways this can work, from in-kind donations to cause marketing approaches. But there is always room for pitfalls—Classy cites how the well-known breast cancer nonprofit Susan G. Komen partnered with the fast-food chain KFC, which ended up angering supporters of Komen. “An ill-fitted match could damage the public perception of your brand and have long-term negative repercussions.”

Perhaps that’s why nonprofits tend to take it slow when picking a brand for a partnership. Classy cites data that nonprofits can take between six and nine months to find the right partner and to negotiate a deal for $100,000. The process is often slow because of the amount of outreach required. The report finds it’s often a five-step process:

  1. Initial contact (over email or call)
  2. Pitch deck/value proposition
  3. An in-person or virtual meeting
  4. A specific proposal
  5. Following up

Many nonprofits are doing this kind of pitching for sponsorships at the same time, with a focus on the potential sponsor’s goals.

“The key to navigating interactions with your contacts at a company is to remember that you’re presenting them with a business opportunity,” the report states. “To sustain their attention, you need to create communications materials designed with their goals in mind.”

The report offers tips on things to keep in mind when building the pitch deck and presenting to the client.

The key, says the report, is nurturing: “Nurture your relationships with organizations aligned with your goals and values, and you will identify partners that have the potential to grow beyond one campaign or event.”

(Piotrekswat/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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