Expert advice from Maureen Carlson, of Good Scout, a social good consultancy that helps brands take smart, impactful and sustainable leaps in how they do greater good
When it comes to local events, what benefits are most attractive to potential sponsors?
Each sponsor and their needs at a local event vary from event to event and from brand to brand. It really is a conversation with your sponsors to see what parts of your sponsorship packages they find the most valuable and then customizing a package for them that meets those needs. In general though corporate sponsors tell us they are interested in experiential interaction with their products. So not just logo exposure, but how do the participants interact on site with the corporate partner brand and products in a meaningful way.
Who should I be trying to sell sponsorship to — the marketing department, HR, the corporate foundation? What advice can you share on getting in to see decision makers?
At Good Scout we always say that if sponsorship is an afterthought to your organization it will never be more than an afterthought to the company you are pitching. So committing a person to do this proactively is really more important then which department they live in. In general we do see that most sponsorship recruitment falls in the development department and most sponsorship analysis lands in the marketing department. Use every contact you have at your fingertips to find a “warm” lead at a company. It is always better to have a introduction to decision makers than to cold call. So figure out who you know and then talk to them about who they know.S
How can I research a company before a meeting? What should I be looking for?
Websites like Hoovers can help identify information about the company and can go very deep depending on your membership level and investment. But a good place to start for free is to peruse the corporate PR and community giving areas on the corporate website. You can usually find out much or what you are looking for from reading press releases on the company over the last year. You are looking for information on what causes they partner with and why, what is happening in their industry sector that might make alignment with your event or organization appealing to them, how they measure success in their sponsorship relationships, etc.
What are the biggest mistakes you see nonprofits making when approaching potential corporate sponsors?
One mistake Good Scout sees often is the NPO focusing too much on the value of their cause and not enough time on the value of your sponsorship package in terms of tangible ROI. Another key mistake is not customizing package for the partner that meets their needs. Not everyone is going to see your tight sponsorship packages and be wowed by the assets you are providing, many will want to have a conversation about how to take those packages and customize them for maximum impact. Refusing to think outside the levels can be very detrimental.
How do I come up with sponsorship pricing? Should I have standard tiers such as bronze, silver and gold?
At Good Scout we believe your packages should be created in terms of levels and then used as a framework in outreach conversations with potential sponsors. In other words build your levels but be fully prepared to move around those levels to customize for the corporate sponsor. Also, we believe that your level prices has to be root in an actual metric or algorithm. Good Scout has a tool called CauseRate that evaluates metrics in both the tangible and intangible space to create definitive values for a nonprofit’s minimum guarantee threshold and for their individual event sponsorship levels.
What can we do to increase the chances that a corporate sponsor will come back year after year?
Stewardship. Stewardship. Stewarship. Make sure there is someone on your team working to ensure the sponsor’s experience with your event was excellent…that your team provided a wrap report clearly defining the value of aligning with your event and that creates an open line of communication to discuss what went well, what could be improved and how to capitalize on the partnership the following year.
I run an endurance fundraising program involving a few hundred participants. Is it worthwhile for me to try to sell corporate sponsorship?
Yes, make sure your packages have experiential value and that your corporate targets are appropriate based on your event (a right-fit, appeal to the same demographic, etc.) Aim for 25% of your income to come from sponsorship.