Nov 07, 2023
Securing Event and Annual Corporate Sponsorships for Your Association
Your association is likely busy around the clock. From planning lively networking opportunities to hosting conferences, you’ve always got something on your plate. And these plans often come at a price, causing you to tap into revenue generated by membership dues and go through your budget quickly.
If you’re looking for a way to increase your cash flow and take your association experience to the next level, it’s worthwhile to diversify your revenue streams with a corporate sponsor.
A corporate sponsor can help fund your association’s events, including covering the costs of reserving a venue, booking catering, generating your marketing materials, and more. This is often done in exchange for free marketing to your members, such as including your sponsor’s name as part of your event name and in your marketing plan.
With some relationship-building, you can turn these short-term arrangements into long-term partnerships that benefit your association and its corporate partner for years to come. Let’s go over the basics of sponsorships and how you can secure an evergreen partnership for your association.
Once you review the basics, head over to the download page for our free Revenue Diversity and Sponsorship Planner. It was designed to help you future-proof your nonprofit’s finances with diverse revenue streams and sponsorship opportunities. The planner walks you through every step of strategizing, finding, securing, and retaining corporate sponsorships for events and other programs.
The Basics: Defining Event and Annual Sponsorships
Sponsorships can come in a variety of forms, from direct financial support to in-kind donations like items for your upcoming fundraising gala. All of these types of sponsorships fall under two main categories: event sponsorship and annual sponsorship. Here’s how the two differ:
Event sponsorship: Event sponsorships are exclusive to the conferences, workshops, networking opportunities, and other events that your association hosts. A corporate partner might cover all or part of your event expenses, like the cost of the necessary equipment. A company might also donate part of its own space for your event, saving you money that would otherwise be used to reserve a venue.
Annual sponsorship: An annual sponsorship is just what the name suggests. Unlike event sponsorships, annual sponsors offer year-round (ideally unrestricted) support that can go towards all of your association’s initiatives in addition to your events, including educational programs, training sessions, scholarships, costs associated with acquiring new members, and more.
Sponsors can help you step up your overall member experience, allowing you to show the value of belonging to your organization and boost retention rates. Let’s explore how you can find a corporate partner to sponsor your organization and create a lasting relationship.
How to Secure a Corporate Partner
Finding the right corporate partner for your association is key to the sustainability of your relationship. Begin your search for a corporate sponsor by using these best practices:
Ask for references from your association’s well-connected members. You more than likely have members working at businesses that would be interested in partnering with your association, or your members might know someone who can connect you with a prospective partner. You can also have members facilitate introductions with the company’s staff so you can get to know them better and determine if they would be a good fit for your association.
Research local businesses with similar values, interests, and visions for the future. For instance, let’s say you’re a medical association that aims to connect medical professionals with professional learning opportunities. You might partner with a pharmaceutical company because of its shared objective of promoting advancements in healthcare. This will help you come across as more authentic and committed to your mission to your members, while also broadening your reach to employees or customers of that business who might be interested in membership.
Write a corporate partnership proposal once you’ve brainstormed a list of prospective partners that summarizes the type of support you’re seeking, how this will advance your goals, and the value you can provide to your partner. Rather than asking for an annual sponsorship off the bat, it may be easier to get your partner to say “yes” by asking for their support at your next auction, for example. Make your ask as specific as possible, such as requesting a certain dollar amount to reserve a venue, so your partner knows exactly what’s being asked of them and can determine if they have the capacity to meet it.
Keep in mind that the more detail you provide in your corporate partnership proposal, the better. After all, this is your opportunity to pitch your association and prove your value in being a worthy partner. For example, if your association and your prospective partner have a similar target audience, you might highlight your member demographics and explain how marketing their business at your event will help gain them new customers.
How to Retain Your Corporate Partner
Once you’ve set up a partnership with a corporate sponsor, you need to do everything possible to create a productive, mutually beneficial relationship so you can retain their support beyond your event. Leverage these tips to turn an event sponsor into an annual sponsor that you can count on:
Highlight key event metrics: Let your partner know how your event performed and how their funds made a difference. For example, if you recently hosted your annual conference and received financial support to cover the entire event’s expenses, you should report on key data points like the number of people in attendance, total event revenue raised through tickets, and qualitative highlights like members’ event feedback. You’ll also want to show how you’re meeting your end of the deal and actively providing value to your partner. For instance, you might highlight the total number of impressions on your social media posts that spotlighted your corporate partner, or your click-through rate on your “About Our Sponsor” page on your website.
Show appreciation: Just like it’s important to show member appreciation, you also need to express heartfelt gratitude to your corporate sponsor, but you don’t have to wait until your event concludes to do so! Shout out your corporate partner multiple times throughout your event’s programming and explain how their support made this possible. Not only does this show your appreciation, but it also helps to bring more visibility to your partner, allowing them to potentially grow their customer base. After your event, send a thank-you note and publicly acknowledge your sponsor across your digital marketing channels, including your email newsletter, social media, and website.
Develop a long-term partnership proposal: Now that you’ve demonstrated that your association is a worthy partner, you can ask your corporate sponsor if they would be interested in partnering with your organization year-round. As mentioned earlier, it’s important to be specific with your ask, so list out the various events and programs that would benefit from their financial assistance. Then, explain how you’ll step up your marketing efforts even further to help your corporate sponsor boost their sales and growth long-term.
You can also provide exclusive benefits to your corporate partner and their employees to make your partnership request even more enticing. For instance, you might offer their employees early registration or discounted entry to your events. You could also arrange exclusive training and workshops for their company to facilitate their staff’s professional development.
Think through what kinds of perks would most excite your sponsor and get them on board for an evergreen partnership.
A corporate sponsor can help you diversify your revenue streams and provide an enriching experience for members, from hosting large-scale events to offering intuitive workshops. As a result, you’ll be able to move members along their journey and prompt them to upgrade to higher membership tiers.
Remember that your corporate partnership shouldn’t be one-sided, so actively take steps to provide value to your sponsor and support them on their way to their goals, too.