Take the Fear out of Sponsorship

Despite the (seemingly endless) rain, we are actually getting ever closer to the summer and, in the part of the world where I live (just outside Edinburgh) the Season of Sponsorship!

Along with making a good case for support, sponsorship is the second most popular area that clients ask for help with.  But it doesn’t have to be daunting or particularly difficult – even in the current climate.  Just remember a few basic rules:

1. Sponsorship ISN’T Corporate Social Responsibility.  It’s a business transaction.  It’s not about philanthropy and, while there may be spin offs that allow the company and its employees to feel good about themselves, that isn’t the primary motivation for most companies to get involved.  Promotion, reaching new audiences, collaborating with your brand, providing employees with freebies or other opportunities – there are lots of reasons why companies get involved in sponsorship but they general all tend to come out of the marketing budget rather than that reserved for CSR.  Which leads me nicely onto rule number 2…

2. Remember to charge VAT!  If a company is getting benefits from their sponsorship, such as product placement, branding or free/discounted tickets, remember to charge VAT on top of the amount of money you need to raise because if you don’t, you’ll end up having to pay it and have less money than you need.

3. When researching potential sponsors, think about their marketing aims and objectives.  What do they do/sell?  Who are their likely target audiences?  Where do they tend to recruit their employees from – either type of employee or geographical location (or both) and does your audience/client group include their potential customers/employees?

4. And think about how you can help them to achieve these marketing objectives.  Perhaps they’re looking to open a new branch in your area and will need lots of bright young things to apply for jobs.  Or maybe you just happen to be putting on a performance/exhibition that will mesh in nicely with their current branding.  Whatever their objectives are, think creatively about how you can help them to meet them.

5. Find out who makes the decisions about sponsorship.  Just call their reception and ask – or perhaps contact organisations such as Arts and Business who have a wealth of information on potential sponsors.  Talk to other organisations/charities about their previous sponsors (within reason – they won’t want to give all their tips away!) and find out who the decision makers are.

6. Think about ‘icing on the cake’ items Don’t just consider branding and corporate hospitality but think about opportunities for their employees to get involved, for example.  Do you run training programmes that they could take part in or do you need volunteers to help you deliver services? Anything that can help to make you stand out from the other organisations approaching them for sponsorship – not to mention, to help them to reach even more of their objectives, can only be a good thing.

7. Look at the marketplace – and ‘borrow’ ideas that you like or could adapt to your organisation.  Don’t try to rip things off but use clever sponsorships, quirky branding opportunities, neat employee engagement programmes, as a starting point to brainstorm some ideas.

8. And of course, all the other usual fundraising rules apply too.  Who do you know?  Who does your Board know?  Who can put you in touch with the decision makers?

Sponsorship doesn’t have to be complicated – and quite often is lots of fun as it gives you endless opportunities to use your creativity.

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