Jun 29, 2022
As a nonprofit association, finding new sources of revenue can be a daunting task. Knowing where to start can be the biggest hurdle to locating and taking advantage of new revenue sources. Luckily, getting started with new revenue streams can be as easy as knowing where to look in your existing network for partnerships. One of the best ways to create new revenue streams and diversify your finances is through sponsorships.
Looking for partners and building long term relationships that benefit all parties can create a stable revenue stream for years to come. This is especially important as the world recovers from COVID and the global economy remains unpredictable. Ensuring that you can rely on revenue from multiple sources will become the difference between an association that survives and grows into the future and one that finds itself in choppy waters. To set your association up for success, it’s time to turn to nonprofit sponsorship.
What is Nonprofit Sponsorship?
Nonprofit sponsorship is a type of partnership between a nonprofit organization and a company with interests or work related to the nonprofit’s mission. Together, their strategic partnership can create opportunities that help both of them reach their goals.
Sponsorships can look different for every organization, but they fall into one of four categories:
Financial: Companies lend direct financial support to an association or a specific event or initiative they’re working on
In-kind: Sponsors to provide a specific product or service for an event
Media: Broad support of digital or media coverage of an association’s event, like outward promotion on social media or other digital platforms
Promotions: Companies provide branded materials to be distributed, like lanyards, water bottles, product trials, and more
The type of sponsorship you pursue depends on your goals, any upcoming events you may have, and what your corporate partners’ capabilities are.
Before you begin the search for a sponsor, you should spend some time understanding why you’re seeking a sponsorship and what your goals are. Associations that are good candidates for sponsorship have a clear idea of their mission and what they’re looking to achieve. Typically, associations who are focused on a niche area tend to find fruitful partnerships. If you have an upcoming event around diabetes research instead of a large medical conference where diabetes is the focus of one panel, you could easily find a medical partner who is similarly dedicated to issues around diabetes.
While overlaps in missions like this can help, ultimately sponsorships come down to relationships. If you have a strong relationship with someone in your network who isn’t necessarily aligned with your association, there may still be a fruitful partnership. Sponsorships are two-way streets, so starting with a strong relationship at the base will always be an advantage.
How to Get Funding for a Nonprofit Organization
While sponsorships are a great way to secure revenue for your organization, they’re not always the easiest way. The good news is that companies usually want to be involved with nonprofits, they just aren’t sure where they should put their money. The best thing you can do when looking for sponsors is to be thorough in your research and be prepared for the conversations you’ll be having.
Preparing Your Association
Before you can look for partners, you need to do some reflecting on your association. Think about what goals you’re trying to achieve, what your association can bring to the table, and how to make strategic partnerships. Take some time to consider:
Your reputation and name recognition: Are you well known in the industry or will you need to do some introductions and build trust?
Success stories to highlight: Can you share any good numbers or stories about your work?
Your day-to-day efforts: What are you doing 365 days a year to support the event or sponsorship opportunity you’re bringing to potential partners? What initiatives are you working on?
How you can impact a partner’s bottom line: Do you have data to share with a potential partner? Can you prove your value and what the potential ROI of being a sponsor could be?
Find Opportunities in Your Network
Start with your network and get a feel for who might have a budget for sponsorship, and how that budget might be set up. Sometimes a company’s marketing budget includes expenses related to partnerships, product showcases, and other events. Other times companies might not have a predetermined budget, but associations can sweeten the deal with discounted membership or event attendance for the sponsor’s employees.
It all comes down to knowing what kind of company you’re dealing with and how best to approach them. Research can be your biggest ally in the sponsor search.
When you’re ready to find a sponsor, do some research on your network. Between the people you know and your association’s combined network, there are lots of opportunities waiting to be seized. Some great places to start include:
Anyone who is or has been part of the association with corporate connections since they already support your organization's mission
Any associations who are already participating in events
Any meetings that companies are already participating in with opportunities to get them interested in your events
Find industry competitors and see how you can leverage corporate competition for partnerships
Research online with directories, searches, and networking
Talk to your association’s leadership, then leverage their networks
Designing a Successful Partnership
Tapping your network not only gives you an inside scoop on a company’s sponsorship prospects, but it can also help you leverage your relationship to build a partnership that works for both organizations. Oftentimes finding someone to reach out to is easy, but tailoring the approach can be difficult. When you use your network, you have a better understanding of the organization’s needs and goals to help you prepare the right approach.
Think about how a potential partner would like to be involved with your organization and what fits their goals. It’s good to approach potential sponsors with the idea of how a partnership can help both of you succeed. Having a partner-based mindset can help you design a successful sponsorship that benefits both parties and can be revisited for different events or opportunities.
While sponsorships tend to follow the four standard formulas mentioned above, there are plenty of opportunities to tailor partnerships as they make sense for your organizations. Building a sponsor partnership from an existing relationship can make that process smoother. You already have a working relationship, so finding ways to negotiate and create custom sponsorship opportunities will be easier.
Managing the Sponsorship Process
If you envision sponsorships becoming integral to your revenue strategy, creating a team dedicated to the sponsorship process will make internal alignment and organization easier. Sponsorship committees can look different for every association, but implementing one can help ensure that your organization stays on top of all your partnerships.
Once you create the committee, they can start using the research and network contacts you’ve been compiling to start picking companies to reach out to. When one committee organizes the search, it’s easier to ensure that you’re hitting the right mix of large and small companies with diverse missions and offerings. The greater the diversity of companies you partner with, the better your chances are of offering each partner a unique opportunity and reaching more people with your organization.
As you begin your outreach, a central committee can also help you manage your communication. When there are a few key contacts at your organization for partnership and sponsorship opportunities, it makes communication between you and external partners smoother. It can keep the lines of communication open and help you build relationships that are key to creating successful sponsor partnerships. Make sure that your committee is sharing any organizational updates and important news, as well as managing a fruitful professional relationship to keep partners up to date and engaged.
When you’re ready to revamp your associations finances, nonprofit sponsorship is a great place to look. While it can be a long and complex process, ultimately you get a corporate partner who can support your efforts for years to come if done right. To make the most of your sponsor partners, make sure that you keep the mutually beneficial relationship front and center of your interactions and you’ll have a reliable partner and revenue source for years to come.
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