Often people tell me that sponsorship is the “gravy” on the gala. They feel that sponsorships are just asking your donor’s companies to give as well… or maybe they say, “we can get more money from the company than the donor.” Reality Check … that is wrong.
Sponsorships are about relationships. They are about understanding the business, their goals and then building the right customized program to specifically meet their needs. Throw away those stock packages and mailing lists. Treat sponsorship like a major gift on an annual campaign timeline! Let me explain….
Let’s look at the annual campaign. That is where your donors give on an annual basis or multiple times in a given year. It might be once a year at Christmas; or the annual ask from their alma mater… or it might be the direct mail appeal. But typically, this is a donor who gives at a lower level (say $100 per year) but keeps on giving. Many non-profits and charities generate a great deal of money through their annual campaigns. This is a great re-occurring revenue channel… but the “individual” gifts are not large.
Now let’s look at your major gift program. This is where possibly the annul gift donor has been further cultivated. Or perhaps it is a lead from a run or from research. But typically, this is a larger gift donor. You cultivate them. You learn all about them. Why are they interested in your organization? What linkage do they have to your charity? You determine how they want to help… you understand them and how much they want to give all before you make the ask. Then the ask for the major gift is made by the right person at the right time for the right amount. Then they make their donation. Usually this type of major gift takes a longer time to cultivate… perhaps six to nine months for a smaller organization, 18-24 months for a larger organization. It is built on a relationship of mutual understanding and respect. And once the major gift is made (be it stand alone or during some sort of campaign) it is usually a one-time gift or at least only once every five to 10 years.
So, what does this have to do with sponsorship? A lot. Most charities and non-profits treat sponsorship like annual gifts. They send out stock packages and give little value in return and get some sponsors. But when done right, sponsorship can yield major gift dollars ($25,000+) on an annual basis. When you treat your sponsorship prospect like a major gift prospect and undertake the relationship building and possibly take 18+ months to develop and proposal and close it then you will probably get a 5 or 10-year deal from that sponsorship. Hence you have an “annual campaign” timeline (money every year) for say 10 years at $25,000 per year. That is like the annual donor of $100 in your annual campaign and the $25,000 major gift donor who gives every 10 years to a sponsor who gives $25,000 annually!
The Reality Check is though… you have to put in the time and cultivate the prospect versus “pitching a package!"
Brent is one of Canada's leaders in sponsorship. With almost 30 years in the sponsorship industry as well as a career in the world of fund development he truly has the understanding of both philanthropy and sponsorship channels. Brent is the author of Canada's bestselling book on sponsorship Reality Check - Straight Talk about Sponsorship Marketing as well as he delivers 25+ speaking engagements a year at conferences and conventions.