This week, I’m sharing a post that my good friend, Chris Baylis, at the Sponsorship Collective, wrote after I shared with him a conversation I had with one of the potential sponsors of one of my clients. While Chris’s article talks about sponsorship specifically, it also raises some interesting points that also applies to fundraising, including:

  • The importance of speaking your donor’s language when looking to build a relationship based upon mutually beneficial goals. If you are using jargon in your fundraising conversations, or talking a language that donors will not easily understand, then your donors are much less likely to follow along.
  • How fundraising is all about meeting your donors’ needs. It’s crucial that you know what inspires your donor, and encourages them want to get more involved.  And if you don’t know, make it your mission to find out.
  • Understand what it is you have to offer your donors. In this article, we talk about what you have to “sell” to your sponsors.  For donors, you are much more likely to be talking in terms of impact.  What kind of impact are you having through your work, and is it an impact that your donors really care about? How can you demonstrate that impact, through storytelling or otherwise, so that they feel that they can play a part in making a real difference in the world?

But for now, back to sponsorship, and how you can get your potential sponsors excited about what you have to offer!


From “No Thanks” to “Sign Me Up!”

A friend and colleague of mine recently told me a story.  The “I” in the story below is actually Mena Gainpaulsingh at Purposeful Fundraising.

I was in a meeting with the prospect of a client who had agreed to be interviewed by me in order to help my client develop their fundraising strategy. It’s very important to include your prospects in the process and this sponsor was happy to oblige.

When I say sponsor, I really mean prospect since this particular company hadn’t put any cash on the table but was close to the organization and their board of directors.

After 20 minutes of getting to know my prospect and his needs I asked him “why have you never sponsored this property?” Straight to the point! His reply? The typical “we have no money for sponsorship, purse strings are tight, limited ROI etc.”

So, I reframed the question and instead of calling it “sponsorship” I asked him “What if we could fill a room with your target market and your most desired customers? And what if you could invest some of your business development money to host them in a private VIP event, just you and them, chatting about their goals, getting to know them in a laid-back environment and then run a contest to get them to give you their contact information for a future cup of coffee?”

His reply?

“Well, that’s different! I have a budget for exactly that type of thing. If you could do something like that for me, I could approve $25,000 as a starting point by the end of the week.”

Mena shared this story with me as proof that a sponsor-centric approach to revenue generation is the best, maybe even the only, way to raise money.

Those of you who are in the sponsorship space know that the scenario Mena described above is a textbook activation idea for those who are trying to connect with high value business to business audiences.

When you call it “sponsorship” your prospect loses interest. When you describe a solution to your prospect’s chief problem and an opportunity to get in front of their target audience, they’re all ears.

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Sponsorship Sales is all About Them, Not You

What does this have to do with the most powerful sponsorship asset on the market today? Everything, of course.

In order to engage in sponsorship sales, you have to know everything there is to know about your audience, their needs, their problems, their goals, why they interact with you and why they care about the work you do.

Then you need to meet with the companies who care about that audience and rather than trying to sell “sponsorship” as your chief objective, your goal is to get to know your prospect’s needs, goals, target market, what they want to achieve and what drives them nuts.

Then, you simply offer your prospect access to your most valuable asset…your audience. But you offer it only in way that adds value to your audience (hint: it isn’t logo placement and signage!), in a way that adds value to your sponsor and in a way that adds value to your organization. This is how you build sponsorship relationships that last for years, that you can measure and that make your audience happy to be part of your event or your organization.


The Power of Audience Data in Sponsorship

Do you want to see your sponsor jump out of his chair and offer you money? Go to your next meeting with nothing in your hands, no sponsorship package or one pagers, and ask them about their goals, their target market and how they get new customers.

When the time is right to talk about your audience, you will know. If you don’t have your prospect’s target audience, don’t try to sell them a sponsorship package. Instead, ask them who in their network they think would have interest in your audience and turn a “no thanks” into a handful of referrals.


Chris Baylis is an expert in sponsorship valuation and sponsorship strategy. Chris works with brands and sponsorship properties to define their sponsorship goals, determine market value of their sponsorship assets and create strategies that work.

Chris is the Managing Director of The Sponsorship Collective, a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and international speaker and consultant on all things sponsorship marketing.

Originally posted on The Sponsorship Collective Inc. blog.

Related Articles:

Engaging your Board in Fundraising and Sponsorship

What to take to your first major gift meeting: Nothing!

Major Gift Fundraising: Have you earned the right to ask?

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