Sponsoring a Nonprofit Cause: The Tale of Two Partnerships

You’re so excited!  You’ve decided to partner with a nonprofit organization.  You’ve wanted to support this cause for so long.  You have all the right reasons, are committed, believe in the mission and are passionate about the cause; knowing you can make a difference.  But before you select the nonprofit organization, it’s important that you take the time to select a nonprofit organization that will work with you and with whom you can best work.  Don’t carry the load alone.

Let’s take a look at two scenarios. Think about your favorite cause. There are most likely multiple nonprofit organization which one-way or another support that cause.  Consider a few of these organizations.  Do you know anyone who works at these organizations?  Anyone who has sponsored the cause through these organizations?  Have you seen event promotions by any of these organizations?  If yes, think about which scenario each of those organizations are likely to fall.

The Tale of an Equal Partnership: A Real Success Story

You talk with the non-profit manager about your sponsorship idea and she is excited that you want to participate and sponsor an event. She arranges a meeting with key players and invites you to participate. The synergy between the two of you is great.  You work together to develop a marketing strategy and overall goals.  You promote the event and cause to your audiences.  You work hard to make sure all the details of the event are well coordinated, you network to increase attendance, and you promote the event through all of your channels.

The nonprofit manager is also working hard to promote the event.  She releases a press release about the event, giving your organization credit for sponsoring the event.  She is promoting the event to their non-profit audience via traditional and social media marketing. She personally invites key donors to the event.  On the day of the big event, the township manager attends, as do donors and various business leaders in the community.  Because she released the press release under the nonprofit, the media picked up on it and is there to write an article about the event.

At the end of the event, you find yourself posing for media pictures with the nonprofit manager.  You are presenting a large check to her organization, in an amount that exceeds your greatest expectation.  You met so many great people at the event, you are excited about a few new strategic alliances.  You are tired, you feel humbled by the generosity of the community, but you also feel a sense of pride of being able to make a difference in the community.  It wasn’t easy, but it was well worth the effort and you can’t wait to do it again…next year.

  The Tale of a Lop-Sided Partnership: A Real Letdown Story

You talk with the non-profit manager about your sponsorship idea and she agrees to let you sponsor an event on behalf of her organization.  You try to talk about a strategy, how you can cross promote the event and make it a great success.  She tells you that you can go ahead and handle the event as you see fit.  You feel a bit deflated, but then figure that this is good.  You can do whatever you please.  This autonomy will make the execution of the event easier.  You go about organizing all the details of the event.  You create promotional materials, market the event to your audiences, and you write a great press release and distribute it through your channels.

The day of the big event comes along.  You are excited and a bit fearful…will people come?  You’ve done a great job.  Many of your closest networking pals attend the event, along with some members of the community.  But a funny thing happens, you find yourself apologizing on behalf of the nonprofit.  The manager showed up, but did not stay for the whole event and none of her team even bothered to show.  You don’t see any key donors at the event.  You’ve been working on this for weeks, they must have a good reason for not participating.

The event is finally over.  You are relieved.  You’re tired, you feel disappointed.  You wonder if it was worth the effort.  You do feel good about mailing a meager check to the nonprofit, but wish you could have had more of an impact.  Two months later, you receive an impersonal thank you note from the nonprofit manager. You realize that you did a great thing for the community; you just weren’t appreciated by the nonprofit.  All the benefits were one sided.  You are a bit angry at yourself for being played the fool, but at the same time begin to get excited about trying again next year.  This time, you’ll work with an organization who will work with you.

The Nonprofit has More Leverage…and benefits from your sponsorship

This is important to remember. You can put out press releases and promote the event you are partnering with, but the reality is that the nonprofit organization has more leverage with their advertising.  The press will pick up on their press release before yours.  Their audience is already interested in the cause. If the nonprofit is not willing to help cross promote the event, walk away and find another partner.  You are working together.  Beware of any nonprofit organization that only wants to benefit from you.  You are not their advertising agency.

You Get to Benefit Too

That’s right!  Sponsoring an event should not be a one-way street.  You get to benefit too.  Have a large laminated check created ‘from’ your business.  After the event, use dry erase markers to write in the nonprofit’s name and the dollar amount.  Have pictures taken of you presenting the check to the nonprofit.  Incorporate the images into your newsletter.  Let your audiences know how you’ve helped.  Yes, you are promoting your business, but you are also promoting the cause that you so believe in.

More Ways You Can Become Involved in the Cause

Still feel like you’d like to do more for the cause?  Talk with the nonprofit manager as to how you can become an advocate for the cause.  Consider becoming a member of the board.  You can always find ways to continue to promote the cause.

Link to last month’s article:  Learn more about why to sponsor an event and ideas on types of events.

About the author: Autumn Edmiston is the CEO and owner of the Edmiston Group.  The Edmiston Group is a multifaceted Pittsburgh based marketing consulting firm providing senior level marketing management services to businesses and non-profit organizations on a short or long term basis.  Core areas of service are business development, marketing, strategic planning and public relations. The Edmiston Group has consistently delivered and implemented real-world, proven business marketing ideas and strategies for business growth.

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