Finding sponsors

Sponsorships can be lucrative for a not-for-profit organisation, but you should never just barrel in. Take a strategic, long-term view, and make sure you really understand what your sponsor wants out of the relationship.

A sponsorship is not about businesses being nice to a not-for-profit for the sake of being nice.

It should always be viewed a business relationship, one which should be mutually beneficial. For the not-for-profit, there should be a financial return (or the equivalent – free premises, products or exposure, for example).

For the business, there needs to be a commercial or reputational advantage.

When you make a pitch to a potential sponsor, you need to be able to show them that you can make a difference to their bottom line. If you know what your organisation has to offer, you’ll be better equipped to work out what sort of businesses to approach for sponsorship.

There are seven main things sponsors look for:

  1. To gain prestige
  2. To raise or improve their profile
  3. To reward themselves or their friends
  4. To gain access
  5. To avoid risks
  6. To sell their product
  7. To target their product
  8. To get free advertising

All of these help, in some way or other, to contribute to their financial bottom line.

Your strengths or weaknesses in the categories below should guide you to the sort of company which will be receptive to your advances.

OUR TIP: Don't worry, you don't have to score on all of these headings. One or two should be enough to bring in a potential sponsor.

Sponsors want prestige.

Are you able to offer a high-profile patron or celebrity supporter for the sponsor to be photographed or associated with? If you’re not able to supply a major national figure, what about any well-known local notable who would be a drawcard?

Sponsors want to improve their profile.

Most modern companies want to be seen as good corporate citizens – they want to leave potential customers with the impression that they’re a business they can feel good about transacting with. Could an association with your organisation help a business create the kind of public profile they want?

Sponsors want to reward themselves and their friends.

Think about the “special offers” you might be able to offer sponsors and their friends (including their staff and customers). Can you offer seats to your next ball/movie night, admission to your important games, specialist knowledge or training, or tickets to your upcoming concert or function?

Sponsors want to gain access.

Can you or your members open doors for a sponsor in any way? Do your events attract people at the top of the world of commerce or politics, national or local? Does your board contain any leading names in specialist areas? Do your opinions influence the direction of policy in your area? Do your staff serve on other government or committees that could be useful to a sponsor?

Sponsors want to avoid risks.

Can they be sure you're not going to embarrass them by collapsing in a cloud of scandal? Can they be sure that your message is not going to provoke a backlash? Can they be sure you're in this for the long haul and won't leave them in the lurch? Ensure that you have the correct risk management plans in place.

Sponsors want to sell their product.

Are you popular? Do you have a lot of members or supporters, or access to a larger (or different) audience than they do? Will your supporters be influenced by your recommendation? Try to prove to a sponsor that your followers and supporters are a suitable target audience for their product.

Sponsors want to target their product.

Are you focused or work in a single sector of the community? Are you identified with a particular age group or geographic area? If so, then you should know the businesses that have their markets in those areas, or are relevant in these sectors.

Sponsors want to get free advertising.

Do you feature in the media often? Have you got any guaranteed celebrities or even near-celebrities to pull media to your events? Is your media team or PR department able to work the system to get bonus coverage? All of these things are valuable and quantifiable.

Now you’ve worked out what you have to offer, it’s time to work out which businesses might want what you have.

List your offerings, then start making some matches.

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