I was recently reminiscing with a friend about a campaign we worked on back in 2006. The program was focused on getting backpacks and school supplies to New York City's homeless children. I still remember the line in our solicitation letter that said "we hope you’ll consider being a good corporate citizen and supporting our program with a sponsorship". That sponsorship world has changed dramatically since I wrote that hopeful letter.
The days of companies simply wanting to be "good corporate citizens" are long gone. They've been replaced by strategic and value oriented partnerships with charities. Today's nonprofits need to articulate what they can offer a corporate sponsor that can help them grow their business, raise their profile in their industry and community AND help them do good. Organizations that can answer these three questions are the likely winners when it comes to securing sponsors:
What is your organization's Brand and Delivery Promise? Your organization needs to say what you intend to do and what you've actually done. If there's a gap, how are you narrowing it? If your organization's mission is to reduce gang violence by 25% and you've helped reduce it by 15%, how is that other 10% going to happen? What are the alternatives if that doesn't happen the way you planned? Remember back in the early 80's when Domino's promised 30 minute pizza delivery? They backed it up with a guarantee of free pizza if they didn't deliver on that promise. While the charitable community is tackling much bigger problems than late-night munchies, we need to demonstrate the same levels of accountability.
What makes your organization unique? Chances are, there's a charitable organization that does something similar to what you do. They could be wooing your prospective sponsor as you read this (yikes!) What makes your organization utterly one-of-a-kind? Is it knowledge, research, program, staff, leadership or something else entirely? Be able to share it quickly and clearly. And...
How Can Your Nonprofit Help A Sponsor Grow Their Business? All of the above matters if and only if, you can connect your mission based work with an opportunity to help your sponsor increase their visibility, and engage customers more deeply with their brand. Take the time to understand your prospective sponsor's business objectives and create a platform that addresses them in ways they can't themselves. For example, a granola bar company can talk about and even advertise their intention to educate the next generation about healthy food choices and exercise. That message is reinforced in a truly authentic way when they sponsor a charity running program for teens with both cash and in-kind donations of their product. Partnerships where both the charity and the sponsor move closer to their mission is the ultimate goal.
These are the questions that we, as nonprofits, need to be answering to ensure the future of our work and truly value oriented sponsorships. If I can help you and your charity to connect and secure more sponsorships, let me know. You can reach me at 917-733-8569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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