Looking for Sponsor Dollars? Try These Two Hot Areas

While corporate budgets for some types of sponsorship declined during the pandemic, funding to support diversity and sustainability programming has flourished, experts say. Associations can more easily find opportunities to partner with sponsors in these areas.

The economic downturn that came with the pandemic led some corporations to cut back budgets for areas they traditionally sponsored. However, two experts say funding for environmental issues and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has increased, and associations should look for chances to partner with sponsors there.

“We’re seeing corporations wanting to utilize the new budgets that they have and the new resources they’ve put into areas like DEI and sustainability,” said Lori Zoss Kraska, founder and chief principal of Growth Owl, LLC. “[They want] to find good ways to make a connection and get their brand and information out there that they’re doing these good works, as well as find some new opportunities to build content with associations and other types of partners.”

Kraska and Bruce Rosenthal, principal at Bruce Rosenthal Associates, spoke earlier this month at the webinar, “How Associations Can Tap a New Source of Non-Dues Revenue in Corporations.” They offered examples and advice on how associations can approach these funding sources.

A Look at One Example

Kraska offered an example of how groups can tap into these funds. She is working with a leadership organization in Ohio, whose members said one of their top issues was how to implement DEI at their organization. Knowing that the DEI officer for the Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball team was an expert on this topic, the organization secured him to speak at an event. After the Cavaliers learned their DEI officer was speaking to the leaders, the team chipped in to support the effort.

“So, what started as just a DEI day has now turned into a very high profile, almost VIP member experience, with the chief diversity officer of a NBA team who’s going to spend eight hours doing an immersive workshop with these executives,” Kraska said. “[It’s] an example of how something that came from the member level turned into an event that’s going to be bringing in nondues revenue because they are charging an extra fee to have people take part in this. We’re bringing in sponsorship revenue from an exclusive venture business-to-business sponsor who’s very interested in in being involved in DEI types of events. And we also have publicity support from the NBA team.”

While Kraska said opportunities don’t always align this perfectly, the example shows how associations can find that sweet spot between member needs, hot issues, and funding.

Tips and Pointers

For associations wanting to tap into this funding, Kraska and Rosenthal recommend starting with issues that are important to your members and current sponsors.

“You know, if the members don’t have recycling programs, if that’s not important, then don’t focus on that,” Rosenthal said. “But look for those connections between what some of your current sponsor companies are already doing … and ask, ‘Can you add on sponsorships in some of these new areas?’”

If your association comes up with a new idea related to these topics, it’s crucial to start with your current sponsors first. Kraska suggested the following approach: “Say, ‘We’re coming to you because you’ve been a wonderful sponsor with us for the past 10 years, and we’re doing something very new. It’s going to look very different, and before we decide to take this to anyone else, we would like you to see it first, and see if there might be a match here.”

After you’ve touched base with current sponsors on new ideas, reach out to potential new sponsors. Research companies you’re interested in, check out their sites, and read their annual reports.

Reaching out to these companies to talk about how your goals align with theirs is the best place to start. “All of their websites have a mission, vision, and values,” Kraska said. “What type of verbiage are they using that matches what you’re using with your members? It’s imperative to be able to communicate back the messages they’re putting out in the message you’re going to put out to get in contact with them.”

While some associations think they’re too small to get involved with big corporations, Kraska said many large companies have funding arms focused on hyperlocal activities. She also suggested looking at the biggest employer in your county or corporations headquartered in your state.

“That neighborly connection is also a great way to get in to have an initial conversation,” Kraska said.

(MicroStockHub/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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