Generating Sponsorship Income for your Association
Finding income sources for your association is essential for your organization to be able to exist and provide value to your membership. The two primary ways to create association income are sponsorship and membership dues revenue. Seeking sponsorship income offers associations a wealth of opportunity to infuse their organizations with revenue and more.
A sponsorship is when two parties enter into an agreement where one provides something in return for something else. The most common sponsorship includes one entity providing funding in exchange for promotion opportunities from an organization, but sponsorship doesn’t always include the exchange of money. Sponsorship partners can also donate products, services, media, or cross-promotion. Donor organizations, businesses, and other membership organizations all offer good sponsorship opportunities.
Why is Sponsorship Income Important?
The most obvious reason sponsorship income is beneficial is because it provides a source of non-dues revenue for associations. As you may have already noticed, supplemental dues and membership income are not enough to operate your organization. So, to do your important work, you have to have a source of non-dues revenue.
Sponsorship income also gives you more visibility, helps you build and expand strategic relationships, diversifies your funding sources, and adds the credibility of your sponsor partners to your association. In return, your sponsors get to show off their generosity, as well as increase brand awareness.
Tips for How to Increase Sponsorship
Once you decide to focus on bringing in sponsorship revenue, here are some important things to remember.
Know your target. Many companies and organizations provide sponsor money to do some good in their community and bolster name recognition. But these aren’t the only, or even always the primary, reason they do it. To pique their interest in providing you with sponsorship income, you have to know them to identify what will draw them in. What does their company value, and how can you use it to connect with them? What do you have in common – shared values, location, or mutual contacts? And of course, you want to make sure they are a partner you would be proud to have your name attached to.
Stress your value. Your members are your greatest asset when it comes to persuading potential sponsors to invest in you. What sponsors want in return for their support is to know it is going to get them in front of a large number of their target audiences. That is why you cannot ignore building your membership. While members may not be able to exclusively fund your operations, if you have no members, you have nothing to sell to your sponsors. Looking for ideas to increase membership? We can help with that too. You must be able to show potential partners the value they get for providing you with association revenue, and how they as sponsors can make money from it. In addition to membership information, you can leverage assets like social media following, email list size, and other notable sponsors to help entice them to join you.
Define sponsor benefits. Before you sell a sponsorship, you have to have a clear idea of what sponsorship revenue recognition you will be able to provide to your sponsoring partner. These often come in the form of branded banners and programs at events, logos on T-shirts, and promotion alongside the event or association itself. But don’t forget about digital opportunities as well – every email, paid social ad, web page, PowerPoint presentation, and Google ad is an opportunity to earn sponsorship income. You should consider creating varying levels of sponsorships as well. The more companies pay for sponsorships, the more they will expect to get out of them.
Don’t be afraid to think small. When seeking sponsorship income, it is easy to focus on how much money a sponsor gives – the higher the number, the better. But getting that huge sponsorship worth tens of thousands of dollars may not be achievable, especially if you are just starting out. Look for small-dollar ways for companies and organizations to contribute. Several small breakfast sponsorships can be easier to get and can quickly add up to what you would expect from a big-ticket presenting event sponsorship. Make sure you think small (and medium) with the businesses you target as well. It may not be worth the effort to go after huge multi-million dollar companies, even if they have a great track record of giving. Sponsorships can be particularly appealing to small and medium companies looking to promote their businesses, and they are probably going to be more responsive as well.
Gather feedback. Soliciting feedback on an event or the overall work of your association is imperative to helping your organization grow and thrive. It is critical to collect it from your sponsors as well. How did they feel about their experience? Did their sponsorship help them meet their objectives? Do they have suggestions for improvement? It is also good to offer them the feedback you receive from your members and/or event attendees. It will help them understand how their sponsorship landed with their key audiences as well as yours.
Focus on building relationships. Obtaining and retaining sponsor revenue cannot be a “one and done” thing. No one likes to feel like you only reach out to them when you want their money. Look at your sponsorship income process as developing a relationship, not as a financial transaction. Even if a sponsor is not able to financially support your initiatives all the time, they might be able to help you connect with others. Keep in touch with sponsor partners throughout the year with updates on your association. Invite them to events with no strings attached. Take every opportunity to thank them for their support.
A sponsorship income strategy isn’t just about building up your revenue coffers. It helps build long term relationships and lays the groundwork for a thriving organization. Membership and sponsorship work hand in hand to strengthen your efforts. Paradigm can help you cultivate both and ensure your foundation is solid while working to meet your organizational goals. Together, we’ll develop a sponsorship strategy that identifies who you are, your differentiators, and your value propositions – and communicate your strategy in a way that will resonate with your audience, and clearly set you apart from your competition. Please contact us today to get started.