Sponsorship professionals pay forward their conference insights

publication date: Jun 9, 2011
 | 
author/source: Lisa MacDonald
Last October, five Canadian charities received the Pay it Forward Bursary, a partnership program between The Sponsorship Report and Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy that allowed staff to attend Strategic Sponsorship Marketing: The Canadian Summit in Toronto. We followed up with the award winners to see the impact of the conference experience on their work. Here are some of their comments.

Patti Murphy, Ottawa Food Bank

The challenge:  There was no official sponsorship program at the food bank.

An "aha!" moment:  When discussing branding at the conference, the question was asked, "What's the personality of your organization?" I realized that even though I'd been a donor for 20 years, I didn't have a clear idea what OFB does in the community.

Key conference learning:  My background is in the corporate sector. I've been struggling to see things from a nonprofit perspective - I thought I needed to have all the answers before I walked through the door.

On paying it forward:  We're "all about food," but the conference allowed me to look at things (like the warehouse) in a different way. I'm reaching out to other staff members to partner and look at the potential of the whole organization.

Heather Simpson, Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation

Key conference learning:  The difference in the approach of grant writing (what your organization does) versus sponsorship (the marketing value of your cause).

Since the conference:  We've spent time developing a sponsorship strategy - we're very excited to be moving in a new direction.

Overall: A great conference with a lot of takeaways. I would recommend it to others.

Lynn Beavis, Richmond Art Gallery

The challenge:  I applied for the bursary at a time when BC funding for the arts was being cut. We needed to augment our ability to secure funds from other sources.

Key conference learning:  A huge amount! I had a general idea but didn't understand how to make requests more appealing to potential sponsors.

Next steps:  We've just finished grant season and are moving into sponsorship. What we've done in the past was very passive. This year will be different.

Claire Holloway Wadhwani, with Athletes for Africa at the time

The challenge:  Athletes for Africa is events-based and we were not successful at obtaining sponsorship. In attending the conference, I hoped for specific pointers on improving our sponsorship program, a "how-to" toolkit.

Constructive feedback:  Perhaps it was the sessions I was in, but they seemed to be speaking more to the corporate audience as opposed to a small nonprofit looking to engage in community partnerships. While there were take-aways from the presentations, it wasn't what I needed for my organization. 

On Pay It Forward:  I'm glad I went. The bursary gave me an opportunity to learn and try something that wouldn't normally have been in my budget.

On sponsorship:  As more companies start to take corporate social responsibility (CSR) more seriously, it creates opportunities for nonprofits but can also be limiting. It is possible that as companies focus more on CSR, the more rigid their guidelines will become - in sponsorship, as with grants and foundations, nonprofits will be pitching to a program rather than a partnership. Although ... it may make it easier for some of us, trying to fit our square selves into a round hole.

Hanan Chebib, Missing Children Society of Canada

The challenge: Managing relationships during a time of significant organizational change.

Key conference learning:  The fact that there was a mix of attendees, and that speakers were innovators in their own fields, allowed me to extract information that was beneficial for my organization. I liked that attendees were treated as capable human beings able to handle new concepts.

On paying it forward:  For me it means being an open book - and sharing your expertise on something. At the conference, that's what I received.

Details of Pay It Forward 2011 are available here.

This article is excerpted from Winning Together, a 52-page handbook on sponsorship from Hilborn. Download it at no charge from the left-hand column of this page.

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