Danna Olivo

  Danna Olivo


Entrepreneurship is all about selling a commodity that people want or need at a price they’re willing to pay. The experience the customer walks away with represents the true value that you bring to the table. It is what will keep them coming back and have them broadcasting that experience to all of their friends, family, and colleagues. Within the nonprofit sector, your sponsors or donors are your true customers. They are the ones contributing to your bottom line so that you are able to carry out your mission. Today, those sponsor dollars are harder to come by as the nonprofit sector grows and private giving decreases. More and more nonprofits are fighting for fewer dollars.

How do you ensure that you remain top of mind when sponsorship dollars are doled out annually? Building a sponsor base that continuously fuels your revenue engine involves more than facts and figures. It involves engaging the sponsor, not only in the successes, but also in the failures of your organization. Convince them that those failures led to strengthening your mission rather than weakening it. It’s about taking the time to understand your sponsors and what motivations lie behind their donations.

I have developed an anagram to help understand what it takes to ensure that your sponsors walk away with an incredible experience after choosing to support you. Amazingly enough, it spells SERVICE – because that’s what it’s all about.

Scalable – Deliver an awesome sponsor experience that scales as your company grows. Doing this requires that you know your sponsor. How do they make their giving decisions? Why would they donate to your organization over another? Remove any obstacles that could keep them from donating. Make sure that your entire support team understands their responsibility and role in the experience process, and that they have the information they need to fulfill those responsibilities.

Essential – Today, there is no shortage of tools available for gathering predictive data on sponsors. Just having the data is not enough, though. It needs to be applicable and customized, based on the sponsor’s needs and desires. What are their expectations? Where do they see their journey or partnership with you going? This requires that you get out from behind the predictive tools, and interact and listen.

Relatable – When you’re in a fund-raising mode, you need to listen in order to clearly understand what motivates the sponsor. You can only take steps to ask for the donation once you understand that your cause matches their need to give back. Trying to push an un-relatable cause onto a sponsor, just for the check, is surely going to result in that sponsor never giving again, or even contributing negatively to your cause among friends and influencers. Listen to the sponsor’s motivations before trying to push for a donation.

Valuable – Most people intuitively recognize the value of a great customer experience. The same goes for the sponsor experience. Causes that deliver value are ones that the sponsor will want to interact with, that they’ll become loyal to, and that they’ll recommend to their friends and family to join them in supporting. Rationales for focusing on sponsor experience tend to be driven mostly by facts and figures, but the problem with this is that the numbers can overshadow the heart of the cause. Giving provides emotional proceeds that transcend the metrics. It is important to tap into the emotional and psychological impact your organization has on the sponsor to truly create a valuable sponsor experience.

Involved – The sponsor experience involves a top-down approach, but it often falls to the lower-level representatives whose job is to find donor dollars. The biggest impact comes when you, the catalyst behind your cause, take the time and initiative to show that you care about the sponsor and the difference their donation means to your organization. There are several key components that can be implemented company-wide to ensure that the sponsor’s experience continues to feed your bottom line.

  • Listen to your support team. They are the ones who interact with the sponsors. They have first-hand insight and need to feel that their insight is received positively.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities. Clearly communicate the purpose of their role and what is expected of them to all team members.
  • Work as a team. It is critical that each person has a sense of belonging to the team and gets along with other members of the team. This helps in building bonding between the team members and instills a sense of ownership that helps in meeting giving goals.
  • Good leadership. A good leader is one who not only has a vision, but is also willing to listen to his/her team members for opinions and solutions. Trust between volunteers, employees, and leadership is important.
  • Incentives. Hard work of team members needs to be recognized. Recognition boosts morale and creates ownership, which drives giving dollars.

Credible – Trust is the backbone of credibility. Do what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it. Be consistent in your promises. Be transparent when communicating with sponsors. Build that relationship by creating a bubble of trust. Empower team members to do their jobs and create a synergistic environment. All of these contribute to the trust relationship and customer experience.

Expected – Deliver what is expected. This doesn’t stop with the metrics. It involves meeting ALL of the sponsor’s expectations.

  • Did you make them feel valued?
  • Did you treat them like they are important?
  • Did you anticipate their needs for giving?
  • Did you make it easy for them to engage?
  • Did you show that you care?
  • Did they feel loved?

It may sound simple enough, but charities rarely find it easy to take sponsor experience from strategy to execution. Many of them focus on the wrong experience dimensions or implement them in the wrong combination. A well-considered approach is critical. As a nonprofit business owner, if there are expectations that you cannot meet, it’s time to look at where you can get the help you need, whether through strategic partnering, training, or some other way to increase the value of your organization to compete for those donor dollars.

Danna Olivo, the “Business Birthing Specialist,” is a Business Growth Strategist and CEO of MarketAtomy, LLC. Her passion is working with small first-stage entrepreneurs to ensure that they start out on the right foot and stay on the path to financial freedom through understanding the intricacies involved in starting and running a successful business, keeping her clients accountable and on track to fulfilling their success goals. She is a public speaker and author of MarketAtomy: What To Expect When Expecting A Business and #1 Amazon Best Sellers Success From The Heart and Journey To The Stage. http://www.marketatomy.com/

This article is reprinted from Issue #10 of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!

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