If your organization works with corporate sponsors, you’ve probably put some thought into defining the different levels of sponsorship and what to include in each. Such perks can help lure new sponsors by offering a return on their investment beyond just a charitable contribution or can tempt existing sponsors to increase their donation.
If you’re hosting a walk-a-thon fundraiser, what benefits do “Silver-level” sponsors get in exchange for their sponsorship contribution? You might hang a banner with their name and logo on it at the event or recognize them from the podium. Higher-contributing “Gold-level” sponsors might get an ad in your newsletter or lend their name to one of the refreshment areas. These benefits provide sponsors advertising and branding opportunities that sweeten the pot a bit.
There’s an entire realm of perks you can offer to increase the value of your sponsorship packages. By thinking about ways to incorporate online resources into your packages, including websites, email and social media, you might find exciting new ways to draw sponsors and let your community know about the businesses that help make your programs possible.
Here are 11 examples, some common, some more unusual, to get you started when thinking about your next set of sponsorship packages.
* Online logo placement. Many corporate sponsors pay because they’re interested in showing they support the community or are aligned with your cause. The more places you can put their logo, the happier they are. Don’t rule out any online page or email, including your website’s homepage, the registration or sign-up page for what they’re sponsoring, online white papers or reports, your Facebook page or emails to your community.
You can create levels offering different logo placement options. For example, where on the page is it placed? Does it link to their website? Is there a description about what they do or just a logo?
* Online ads. To go even further, you could offer a graphic banner or box ad on your website or in your eNews. Ads don’t have to seem like obvious, blatant “advertising” unrelated to your cause. Consider those that show how excited sponsors are to be part of the event and how their missions overlap with yours.
* Visual branding. Designing such key communications as emails to your list, or a sign-up page, using a sponsor’s corporate colors, fonts and other branding elements can draw a strong connection between them and the event. If the nature of your website makes it difficult to incorporate someone else’s brand, consider creating a micro-site. It is simply a small, separate site just for the event.
* Naming rights. To take the idea of sponsor recognition to the logical extreme, think about the possibility of naming rights. This happens on a large scale all the time, look at college bowl games, or NASCAR races for examples. It can be effective on a small scale, too. Is there an online community, online auction, report or other communication piece you could name or re-name for a sponsor? For example, the “Colgate Minnesota Kids Dental Health Update,” could be part of your annual kids health campaign. If your sponsor is sufficiently enthusiastic, they might even fund a useful new online community-building piece.
* Employee perks. Many companies are seeking opportunities or perks to give their employees. You could provide online information or services for which you normally charge for, that the employer to give their employees, such as free online courses, reports or a newsletter. You might even provide conference calls with experts, or an online “salon” format that lets people speak with celebrities or others interested in your cause.
* Social media promotion. Don’t forget the possibility of using your social media channels to recognize your sponsors. You could include a commitment to write about your partnership. For example, you could agree to mention them in one blog post, twice on Facebook and four times on Twitter.
* Sponsor guest posting. If your organization has a blog, you could offer sponsors a guest post about something cause-related that overlaps with your mission. You could hold a contest to find the employee who’s most enthusiastic about your cause and then hand them the reins of your Twitter feed or Facebook page for a day.
* Videos and photos about the partnership. Multimedia can be a compelling way to recognize sponsors. Consider a photo with key staff members from your sponsor’s company, or a video interview. If they provide a branded banner or sign, you could use it for a backdrop. If you’re hosting a live event, take pictures of participants in front of it and post them on your Facebook page or with your event photos.
* Let them provide real-time information. More and more nonprofits are creating live webcasts or Twitter streams during conferences, speakers or galas. If this makes sense for you, it presents another opportunity for sponsorship or even naming rights. For example, American Express could provide the official, branded webcast of a compelling presentation given by an expert on your cause, or assign an employee to be the official-provider of live Tweets or blog posts.
* Introduce them to your list with an email. Consider introducing a large sponsor, or one particularly well aligned with your mission, in an email to your community. You could explain the things they offer that might be of benefit, or offer more general outreach on their behalf. Be careful with this technique, though. Make sure you’re not sending emails that are blatant advertisements without any value for your list members. You risk alienating the constituents who signed up to hear specifically about your cause.
* Offer opt-ins for information from your sponsor. If participants are registering for your event or publication or providing you with information online, offer them the opportunity to sign up for emails from your sponsor.
For instance, if you’re asking people to sign a petition to save your local theater, offer the chance to opt-in for a newsletter of art events published by the local paper. You would provide the sponsor with a list of names and email addresses from those who opted-in. Many companies are eager to build their email lists and compelling opt-ins can be an effective way to do it, making this an item for big-ticket sponsors.
It’s not likely that all of these methods will make sense for your organization, so pick and choose those that do, but be sure to weigh the fundraising potential of sponsorship against the risk of jeopardizing your relationship with the rest of your community.
* Seek a balance. Plastering every webpage and email with sponsors’ ads might raise money for your organization, but it’s also liable to diminish your credibility with constituents and other funders. With a little thought, you might discover opportunities to define online perks that raise sponsorship dollars, advance your cause, and maybe even provide some online activities you would not be able.
Laura S. Quinn is executive director of Idealware in Portland, Maine. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org