The strategic purpose of corporate sponsorship fundraising is to activate corporate responsibility through meaningful value propositions. Corporate Sponsorship is a common choice for ESEs as the business will already have corporate partners. These may be supply chain partners, customers of the enterprise, or even impact investors. The work of corporate sponsorship is to obtain a philanthropic gift from the corporate or business partner in addition to other ways you may already be partnering.
You might consider corporate sponsorship as a priority strategy when:
- Your programming or business model naturally produces one of two opportunities: expanding public reach and/or mass volunteerism
- You’re willing to invest in the development of sponsorable assets
- You understand and accept the liabilities of corporate alignment
The following overview provides insight on how to conceptualize and operationalize the corporate sponsorship strategy.
Sponsorable Asset: The item or program that is assigned to the corporate sponsor’s brand. American Airlines offered airplane tails as sponsorable assets to Susan B. Komen. Tables at a gala, computer labs, workforce development instructors, cohorts of employees, and machines are all examples of sponsorable assets.
Prospecting for sponsors
There are three primary strategies in corporate sponsorship prospecting. Donor and customer base screenings, leveraging committed connectors, and lastly, hosting connector events to turn strangers into warm prospects. Each of the three methods will generate a list of names. The next step will be to determine if the corporate or business entity has capacity and propensity to provide sponsorship. This can be determined by searching for Corporate Social Responsibility information on the business website, determining if there is a foundation associated with the business, and/or asking directly if the business provides sponsorship.
Current donor/customer base
Our current donor or customer base is an obvious starting place in our search for new corporate sponsor prospects. The individuals within your current donor or customer base are also connected to corporate and business entities. Identifying the relationship between the individuals you are connected to and their corporate affiliations will result in a list of corporate sponsor prospects.
Cultivating relationships with a few select connectors is another source of prospects. For the purpose of prospecting, we’ll define a connector as an individual capable and willing to personally introduce to us 5 or more corporate sponsor prospects.
Current donors and board members make the best connectors. They trust you, they’re giving, and they want to help.
Lastly, connector events are a powerful prospecting tool in the back pocket of the corporate sponsor fundraiser. These are not fundraising events. The primary goal is to be introduced to 5 or more corporate sponsor prospects. Click here to view the connector event field guide.
Increasing the value of your portfolio
Sponsorship programs are generally a package of value-laden assets that, when leveraged on behalf of a sponsor, support the sponsor’s business goals. Thus, we must first understand the sponsor’s business goals. We offer meaningful value propositions to sponsors when they perceive them as valuable. We offer these through a benefits package at a variety of price points.
Sponsorship fulfills one or both of the following value propositions to our sponsors:
- Brand marketing and advancement
- Employee engagement and culture
Brand marketing and advancement means providing the sponsor with new audiences. They may be interested in your customer base. One of your benefits package offerings might provide the sponsor with access to your customer base in the form of logo placement in your retail location. Another benefits package offering might include recognition on your social media. Brand advancement is a critical component of the value you offer. You may also offer strong public relations for the sponsor’s brand when aligned with your social mission as an ESE.
Employee engagement is the second value proposition you offer through your benefits package. Many businesses look to your ESE to offer volunteer opportunities which will serve as a means to improve employee engagement or culture-building for the sponsor. Some popular employee engagement activities involve mock interviews, guest speaking on the topic of career pathways, or project-based work within a warehouse or retail location. If your ESE does not have volunteer opportunities, consider the increased weight that your brand advancement work must carry in order to provide strong value propositions.
Sponsorship programs are at their most valuable when offering fewer assets with higher values. This communicates that sponsorship of an asset is valuable to your organization and thus worth the price tag. When an ESE offers a long list of sponsorable assets, the sponsor may get the impression that you are simply creating sponsorable assets for the sake of “selling them.” That they don’t hold innate value.
Sponsorship pricing should be designed to attract first time sponsors and encourage meaningful increases in engagement over a 3-5 year period. An effective range of sponsorship levels begins at $5,000 and increases to $25,000 or $50,000 depending on the value you are able to attribute to the assets.
Communicating impact to sponsors
Corporate Sponsorship is considered the most transactional of all five fundraising strategies. In a sense, the sponsor is paying the nonprofit for marketing and employee engagement activities. If corporate sponsors are to continue to invest in your ESE year over year, it will be important to communicate the double bottom line of impact in your reporting. You must communicate the metrics of brand recognition and employee engagement activities, as well as the metrics of programmatic impact that their dollars contributed to. Just like any other philanthropic gift, a corporate sponsor’s gift will generate programmatic impact, which should be made explicit. Create an annual impact report for your sponsors that demonstrates each of these components of impact. This will support your retention rates.
Sponsorship of events
It is important to differentiate between an events fundraising strategy and a corporate sponsorship fundraising strategy. Often, events may offer sponsorable assets for a corporate sponsorship strategy. This may be a program event, like a graduation ceremony. It might be a 5K run. It might be a gala. Each of these events has a different priority, and corporate sponsorship is also taking place. It may be difficult to determine if the revenue raised at these events is registered under your event revenue goal or your corporate sponsorship revenue goal. If there are other means of generating revenue at these events, such as ticket sales or “asks,” that revenue should be registered under your event revenue. The sponsorship revenue should be tracked separately. The activities required to generate revenue will be different for ticket sales versus securing sponsorships. Thus, the revenue should be tracked separately. At the end of the day, your fundraising team needs to have clear visibility on the effectiveness of different fundraising activities in order to determine Return on Investment and Cost to Raise $1.
Managing the corporate sponsorship strategy
A sponsorship gift table provides a planning tool to determine upstream metrics that generate revenue downstream. For the purposes of corporate sponsorships, prospects would be businesses/corporations that you have qualified. Asks are the number of proposals you submit. The ratio of prospects to asks-to-gifts depends not only on the quality of your benefits packages and your organization’s reputation, but also your ability to ask the right organizations at the right time. It’s really difficult to prescribe a standard ratio, but you may track your ratios over time to measure your efficiency and accuracy with proposals.
|# of Gifts||Gift Amount||# of Prospects (2:1)||# of Asks||Total Giving|
In this example, the number of prospects is set at a 2 to 1 ratio. For every gift, we have to identify 2 prospects. This ratio could go up or down depending on a variety of factors, but 2:1 isn’t too out of the ordinary assuming that our identified prospects are not cold.
The number of asks is based on a 66% success rate, or 2/3. Therefore, if we need 8 gifts, we need to make 12 asks. If you’re doing good relational work, you are not going to have that many rejected proposals. Still, it is better to manage our expectations.
Operationalizing corporate sponsorships
The following milestones are necessary to fully operationalize a corporate sponsorship strategy:
|Milestone||EXAMPLE OF SUCCESS|
|Milestone||Example of Success|
|Build weekly portfolio management routines for corporate sponsorship efforts||A calendar of weekly/monthly event tasks and activities is created with assignments to all relevant team members; Development Director uses this calendar for one-on-one check ins with each staff member|
|Determine clear metrics for corporate sponsorship efforts by quarter||Use roadmap dashboard to determine metrics for corporate sponsorship progress; priority metrics include: prospects, proposals submitted, and touchpoints|
|Build a prospecting calendar that aligns with prospecting goals||Prospecting routines include scanning other organizations’ annual reports, other cold research, and requesting 3 connectors to make 3 introductions monthly. Prospecting calendar has goals associated with each action that add up to our total number of prospects identified by gift table (insert number).|
|Clarify the use of events for corporate sponsorship work. There will be no confusion on whether an event is for the purpose of fundraising or an asset for corporate sponsorship.||A calendar of events is scheduled that supports corporate sponsorship work. Events are clearly defined by their primary purpose.|
|Define touchpoints used at each stage of the giving cycle custom to your organization||Activities per stage of the giving cycle are outlined in our Corporate Sponsorship workflow document; program team provides feedback on stewardship activity options (thank you videos from the field); checklist is created for moving a donor out of each stage.|
|Document routines for using CRM for corporate sponsorship work||A protocol document is drafted, which includes guidelines for tracking Corporate Sponsorship data.|
|Build strong board engagement in introducing you to corporate partners||Board members are clear on the corporate sponsorship strategy, the number of prospective corporate sponsors needed, and their role in introductions.|
|Build clearly developed sponsorable assets||Sponsorable assets are identified, which may include event-related, program-related, and infrastructure-related assets.|
|Build a strong benefits package||A benefits package outlines the features and benefits of each sponsorship level. Strong case for support language is included.|
|Build strong volunteer/employee engagement opportunities||Corporate volunteer opportunities are developed and operationalized. Activities are designed to double as a new donor acquisition strategy.|
The most essential roles in operating a corporate sponsorship strategy are managing the sponsorship portfolio and project managing the fulfillment of benefits. This can be the same person, but there are two separate priorities within this role.
Corporate Sponsorship Manager: The Corporate Sponsorship Manager designs and implements strategies to attract and maintain corporate cash and in-kind gifts, and develops a reliable revenue stream for the organization. They will execute all aspects of the corporate sponsorship plan, including research and identification of prospects; cultivation and relationship management of the portfolio; and proposal development and solicitation. Success will include the ability to identify compelling engagement opportunities suited to both your organization and corporate objectives and synthesize those opportunities into strategic partnership plans.
Sponsorship Fulfillment Specialist: The Fulfillment Specialist is responsible for all deliverables related to your organization’s sponsorship programs and growing corporate relationships.
Click Here for Seed’s Job Description repository.
Additional Resources: Do you want to spend more time on this?
Seed is a community of professional fundraisers and nonprofit leaders who strengthen and scale culture-building institutions in the social sector. Seed’s consulting team has supported REDF’s portfolio since 2019.