Friday, July 17, 2009

Get a Policy Before You Chase Sponsor Dollars

How many times have I heard "We'll get a sponsor for that!" Often there seems to be a common belief that sponsors are like apples falling off a tree, just waiting to be thrown in a basket and taken home. We all know the pie is shrinking as people and organizations realize less from their investments. Now is a good time to be as intentional as possible about your sponsor program. Bob Crawshaw of Mainstreet Marketing (Australia) provides some global thinking on things an organization should do before going after sponsors.

Bob wrote me an email to tell me I could take the liberty of "americanizing" his spelling of certain words, but I prefer to leave it just as is because Nonprofit Conversation is now read in 65 countries and I am hoping we will have more international contributors to this blog! Bunnie

Get a Policy Before You Chase Sponsorship Dollars
by Bob Crawshaw, Maine Street Marketing

It’s tough times for not for profits and community groups everywhere are looking for revenue to keep the doors open and the lights on.

Australian groups are no exception. Many are facing increasingly tough times as people have second thoughts about where to spend their charity dollar – if in fact they have a spare dollar for a worthy cause.

Our PR agency in Australia’s national capital, Canberra, has provided free marketing support to 183 not for profits in the past five years. And we find a common reaction of groups with shrinking budgets is to say “let’s get a sponsor”. Across the not for profit sector the search is on for a large corporate to help fund something significant down to a small business to provide valuable in-kind support.

Since 2004 we have noticed very few medium sized not for profits and certainly most smaller ones lack a sponsorship policy. It seems the cupboard is bare when it comes to clear intent about their sponsorship ambitions.

Our workshops have always encouraged charities and community service organizations to set out a simple sponsorship policy to guide their efforts. Now the competition for the corporate cheque book is so fierce it is mandatory to have a sponsorship policy. It could be the one thing that separates fund raising success from failure.

The first step really belongs to your CEO and Board. They must set clear policy guidelines. They must also be right behind all sponsorship efforts and personally willing to devote their energies to the business of winning donors.

A sponsorship policy begins by clearly stating why your organisation wants outside funding and should explicitly state:

The types of large and small organisations to approach?
Which organisations to avoid, such as those associated with tobacco, alcohol, adult services, the arms trade and of course the environmental polluters.

What is the sponsorship property you are selling? Be crystal clear about what you’re offering.

How and where you will use the funds or services sponsorship brings in.

What benefits you plan to offer in return for sponsorship and are you willing to negotiate these?

Is there a budget to attract sponsorship, for example to travel to other cities to woo likely suitors?

Who in your organisation approves sponsorship arrangements?

Time limits on any sponsorship.

Who is responsible for servicing the sponsor and doing all the detailed work once the cheques are handed over?

I know that is a big list. But it’s better to think of these key issues now before your sponsorship marketing is in full swing.

Bob Crawshaw runs Maine Street Marketing.He began his communications career as the Australian Army's first Director of Public Affairs. He helps organizations with limited time and budgets get maximum community impact. Bob blogs PR at

1 comment:

  1. We are a very small NFP organisation run by peers all of whom are also volunteers- Volunteers with worlds of experience-- we are totally unfunded, have managed our growing organisation for people living with mental illness and disabilities for over 17 years.
    Incorporated for only 2 years.
    BUT the amount of policies, procedures- paperwork that we had never needed, never asked for inpast but what we find now we MUST have is incredible-- I sit as an advisor on many management committees and partly knew that becoming incorporated, asking for funding etc was going to mean paperwork-- something really NEW to us really- but everyone said I was making things too hard, and that I was over reacting- un necessarily-- gee they are now finding out the hard way- BUT so am I.
    While I had begun doing the most important policies- it seems like each one creates another--
    This article is proof and testimony to my own comments--
    We as small organisation-- just do not have the IT, Admin skills but more importantly we do not have the man power to do the paperwork, and be there for those in need that we care for on the ground-- qualified book keepers, accountants etc, are not easy to find- free of charge- and those who will do much cheaper than what they charge bigger organisations, do not look at us seriously- they also don,t want to take on showing others how.
    Nor do they offer services because they know we may have a box of receipts going back 6-12 months etc.
    Thank you for this article-- sadly will put many OFF.
    Sandy Taylor