Sponsorship for Non Profits – How Collaboration, Creativity, and Relationships Can Lead to YES
with Charmaine Hammond
Charmaine Hammond has worked with hundreds of nonprofit organizations (as a facilitator, speaker, and trainer), she was an executive director of a family crisis society, has her own charity, and now in her business Raise a Dream she helps nonprofits learn how collaboration and sponsorship revenue can help them thrive, and make a bigger impact in the world.
Like you, we’re on a mission to make a big impact in the world.
We’ve learned that through the power of collective influence, nonprofits are able to deepen their impact on the world. Through training, collaboration with partners, and services focused on sustainability, we help you reshape the way you operate your organization.
Questions Addressed in this Interview:
1) What is sponsorship and how can it help nonprofits?
2) What mistakes are nonprofits making and what could they do instead to stand out, be remembered, and get more yeses?
3) Can you share some case studies of how nonprofits have collaborated or/and secured sponsorship?
4) You said you have a 7 step model to help nonprofits, can you share what that is?
For more information on Raise a Dream go here http://www.raiseadream.com
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, it’s Hugh Ballou with The Nonprofit Exchange. This episode, we’re going to focus on sponsorships. This was a mystery to me before, but I have been studying them and I know enough about them to be dangerous. It’s a fine skill and understanding what a sponsor wants with their marketing money and how you work with them. My guest today has a whole business built around sponsorships. Her name is Charmaine Hammond. She is way out on the western side of Canada. Charmaine, welcome. Please take a minute to tell people about who you are and why you do what you do.
Charmaine Hammond: it’s so great to be here. I love talking about sponsorship. How I got into this is interesting. My first career was working in jails as a correctional officer. Collaboration was a very important skillset, part of how we kept each other safe and how we kept things on track in the jail system. When I left the jail system, I went back to school and got a Masters in conflict analysis and management and became a mediator. You can imagine resolving disputes in families, communities, organizations, nonprofits, collaboration was critical.
Then I took a job as a sponsorship decision-maker and had the ability to give away money through grants and sponsored programs. That gave me that experience of learning what goes into the thinking process of sponsors and granting organizations. How do they make their decisions? Then I had the opportunity to run a nonprofit. You can imagine how valuable that learning in the previous job was when I went into the nonprofit as an executive director. I discovered probably 75% of my job was finding money for the organizations. I was able to apply those skills.
Now in my business Raise a Dream, my business partner Rebecca and I help entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and service clubs raise their dream, launch their program, and make a bigger impact through the power of collaboration and sponsorship.
Hugh: Why do you do this? What’s your passion?
Charmaine: I get so jazzed when I see a group of people who might not ever otherwise come together for one reason: to make some kind of a difference, to get a project off the ground. You see the level of innovation and creativity that happens when a group of people with a big dream or an important mission come together to make a difference. I find it magical and exciting to watch. My learning is that together we can do so much more than as one individual or organization. From a nonprofit perspective, I have case study after case study of the incredible results that nonprofits and service clubs have been able to achieve through collaboration instead of competition and working independently. That electricity that happens when people work together is what jazzes me.
Hugh: You learned some things in the jail, particularly don’t let the inmates run the organization.
Charmaine: Yes. That is a very important lesson.
Hugh: I lived in Atlanta when Lester Maddox became mayor. He made a comment about our prisons, “We’d have better prisons if we had a better class of prisoner.” I served a big church. I said, “We’d have a better church if we had a better class of sinner.” We’re people in an organization focused on doing good. I just finished a stint as president of a board of a local nonprofit. When I came on, they said we had these corporate sponsors. I said, “Really?” I looked into it. What I found out is they weren’t sponsorships but corporate donations. It was out of their philanthropic budget. It was a company, so they thought it was a sponsorship. We have a fundraising banquet, and people sponsor a table. That’s not what we’re talking about here. For a lot of folks in the field, sponsorship is a gray term. Let’s define what it is first and what it’s not.
Charmaine: I love that you have talked about the philanthropic arm of where corporations and brands often donate to nonprofits. What we’re going to talk about today is that actual marketing relationship, where a company like your local pizza shop or the national bank in your community or anything in between, when they go into a sponsorship relationship that is not a pure donation where they are not looking for anything in return, sponsorship is that marketing relationship where a company is looking for something in return for their investing sponsorship dollars into your project.
What they’re often looking for, when I talk to sponsors, which I do every week, they are generally looking for return on investment or outcomes or integrations that support their marketing plan. That might be sales. It might be getting in front of a new audience. For example, if a company has a new product and they have always served a female audience and are now going into a children’s line, this is a new audience they are trying to get in front of. They are looking for a return on their investment. I recently interviewed a national company here in Canada, and they said, “When we contribute sponsorship dollars, we are looking for about double the return of investment to what we contribute. If we were to give an organization $10,000 of our sponsorship budget,” which comes out of their marketing line item, “we are looking through this relationship to be able to justify X type of return.”
What becomes critical in sponsorship is the relationship that you build with the brand, the company. It’s not them giving you a check and saying, “Have a great event.” They are looking to work with you in collaboration. My experience has been when you can really build an effective, sustainable relationship with that sponsor, they will often come on year after year and expand the ways in which they support your organization.
Hugh: You mentioned “brand.” I find a lot of nonprofits have a logo and don’t have a brand, but they think they do. It’s important to establish your brand and be well established in that brand so the corporate brand is well-represented with your brand. There could be a negative brand influence if your brand isn’t well-established or well-thought of. To be qualified to have that conversation, how do we establish our brand identity and brand promise so the company we’re talking to goes, “Oh yes, I’ve heard of you. Let’s talk.” How do we get to that point where we’re ready to have that conversation?
Charmaine: What an awesome question. There are so many ways that organizations can educate the world, their community, their clients, their partners about their brand. I know firsthand when sponsors are checking you out, for example, if you are trying to connect with a sponsor, and they are interested in setting up a call with you or meeting or discovery meeting, they will check you out. That happens to me all the time. They check all my brands.
LinkedIn is one of the places they will go. As an executive director, clergy, it’s important to have your personal LinkedIn page. Be very careful what you put on that. And also your professional page, your organization’s page.
Having a website that is understandable, that clearly communicates your audience, sponsors will typically say yes because you have an audience that they’re interested in getting in front of for either sales or marketing or promotion or deepening relationship. Your audience needs to be clear. One of the things I always say to nonprofit organizations is look at the pictures you’re putting up there. Think of the outcomes you’re trying to achieve. This will demonstrate to someone taking a first glance at your website who you are, what you do, and who you serve.
Your social media. Very important to have a consistent way of communicating with your following. One of the mistakes I see often in organizations where there isn’t a dedicated social media representative from the organization or a contractor, all the staff and volunteer and board are going on. The voice is different, and it’s confusing to go on a Facebook page with the voice changing. Jeepers, what’s going on? I don’t understand this brand. Your way of communicating has to be clear as well.
Hugh: A sponsor has very clear intentions. They’re checking you out. What is our due diligence before we have the conversation? How do we find out what their marketing budget is, what their marketing goals are, and who their audience is?
Charmaine: This is one of the biggest mistakes that nonprofits and entrepreneurs make. They will get the call and do no research, and they hop on the call unprepared. They don’t get a second call. The whole goal of call #1 is to get call #2. Sponsorship arrangements don’t get sorted out in a 30-minute call.
The research is critical. I will tell you that sponsors will deeply appreciate if they don’t say it to you and know when you have researched them. For example, when I was connecting with a big international company and I didn’t know who to contact, I used LinkedIn and found the sponsorship director. I sent a LinkedIn connection request and said, “I’m a big fan of your product. I was at an event where you were the sponsor, and I had the chance to talk to one of your colleagues in Canada.” I used that point of connection, which is 100% true. You have to be authentic in these. I used that recent point of connection in the connection request.
Once she accepted the connection request, the next communication, this is now leading up to getting the call, I went and looked at their web page. I don’t look at just the sponsorship page; I looked at their annual reports, their videos. Sometimes they have an investor report, showing the types of projects they have sponsored in the past.
I look at how they word things. Are there words the company uses over and over again? There is a company in Canada that is a coffee house. I love talking about this brand. Waves Coffee House. They use “connecting,” “connectedness,” “connection.” They describe a wave. In the description of a wave, they use the word “connection.” When I talk to them, I use the word “connection” somewhere. Who do they serve? What matters to them?
Then you go onto their social media and do the same thing. What are the types of people who are chiming in on this brand’s social? How do they communicate? What types of pictures are they posting? This will give you some information. You always want to have something to start a conversation with. “I saw you had a great press release on your website.” “Wow, I just saw in the news last week that you were hosting this event.” Show that you have researched them.
Hugh: When you send them a letter, make sure you spell their name right.
Charmaine: And don’t copy and paste and have the other sponsor’s name. I did that once ten years ago. It was horribly embarrassing. I share this with you because it’s all a learning journey. Here I am presenting a sponsorship proposal, and the sponsor who I had spent nine months with building a relationship with said, “Oh, how thoughtful of you.” I thought that was an odd response. She said, “You put our competitor’s name in the proposal.” Here I am, sliding my hands across the table to pull that document back.
Here is the important learning. I said to her, “I am so sorry. That was my error. I am going to take that proposal back, and I will clean that up. I am really sorry.” I wrote an email to her after the meeting. She said, “Charmaine, I want to set our next call. How you handled that blew my socks off, and it told me everything I need to know about working with you and your organization.” How you handle something shows what you’ll be like to work with. Mistakes happen. That only happened once, but mistakes happen. How you handle them shows what you’ll be like to be in relationship with.
Hugh: That is the key right there: relationship. So many people I’ve seen go to corporate donors or sponsors like it’s an ATM machine. Hand me money, goodbye. There is a relationship underneath either one of these. There is some due diligence to understand what this company’s goals and market are. Are you a good fit for this market? A symphony doesn’t necessarily want to market toys unless they are musical toys. There has to be an integrity of the brand fit. You’re selling tires. It’s not a symphony audience either. Everyone buys tires, but that is not what people want to read about in the symphony brochure.
We have public broadcasting here. PBS on Sunday nights has Masterpiece Theatre. Their clients are Viking Cruises. Their market is people who watch that kind of show who are a certain income level to buy that cruise. That is a match for their audience. I am sure that is a high-level sponsor, but they get a lot of good mileage to people who can book their trips. You don’t want to market to people who couldn’t buy your product.
Charmaine: That is another mistake people make. They will go through this list of who the big companies in our community are. I hear a lot from organizations, “Who has deep pockets?” We need to move beyond that money. We have to see that brand as an entity of people with values. What we want to do is exactly what you said. We want to make sure our values are in alignment with that company and that our projects and programs actually can help them. That’s why I love sponsorship. It’s a two-way relationship where you as the sponsor-seeker are helping that business at the same time as they are helping you. That is where that magic happens. You are right. You have to make sure there is value alignment, an interest in your audience, an interest for you in their audience. That is where that research becomes important.
We have a seven-stage model at Raise a Dream for identifying right up to fulfilling sponsorship commitments. The first steps are all about identifying the brand, researching the brand, and making that first connection. What typically happens is someone identified the brand or company they want sponsorship from and fire off a proposal. No relationship. No idea of what the company is looking for, what matters to them, what audience they want to get in front of.
I talked to one nonprofit who said they sent out 100 proposals this month. I said, “Wow, how many people do you have working in your fundraising department?” They said, “Me. I’m part-time.” I said, “Oh, so you sent out 100 proposals and didn’t meet with any of them?” She said, “Yeah.” I asked how many they got back. She said zero. If you think about it, that is like firing off a letter sand saying, “Our organization is the best thing since sliced bread. Do you want to give us $100,000?” Nobody says yes to that. You have to have the relationship before the ask.
Hugh: That was about you. They don’t want to know about you. They want you to know about them. That’s what they want to have the conversation about.
Charmaine: Yeah. That’s why they call it a discovery call. This is where you will be memorable to that sponsor. Sponsors tell me they get anywhere between 15 and upwards of 25 pitches a day. One sponsor I talked to said they are getting about 15-30 pitches each a day from people who want money, and there are 12 of them in that department. She said that she booked 4-5 hours of phone calls, and each phone call is a half hour. Then she has emails to respond to. This one sponsor is being asked a lot.
I asked, “Who gets the return call?” Tracy said, “The people who get the return call are the people who don’t say, ‘I have a great program, and you’d be a wonderful sponsor.’ How do you know that if we haven’t talked? The person who gets the return call says something like, ‘Hi, it’s Charmaine calling. I’m really interested in learning more about your company. I read a couple articles and saw you were sponsoring this project in your community. I would love to learn more about you. Do you have 15 minutes for a call?’” Those are the calls that get returned.
Hugh: Instead of saying, “Could you call me?” you have given them some context for what you specifically want to talk about. You have also done your homework. The likelihood is higher that you get that callback.
Charmaine: They are thinking, “Who is this person? They want to learn about me and the brand?” You will be memorable. I can guarantee you at some point in that conversation, the person you’re talking to will say, “Hugh, thanks so much for your interest and questions. You saw some synergy or some connection between our brand and what you’re working on. What are you working on? What prompted you to call?” The conversation will somehow go there because the sponsor is wanting to know where to go next. Is this a call that we book call #2? Or was this an informational call? Sometimes that’s all it is. Was it clear that there was no fit? That’s okay. You’ve still built a bit of a relationship.
Hugh: Let’s go back to relationship. I could go to XYZ company, do my due diligence, do that inquiry call, and ask for a short exploratory meeting to see if there is a win-win because I noticed this about your company, and we have an audience we think might be interested in your message. What is the difference in me doing that and me having you do that on my behalf? It would occur to me you do this all the time, and you have trusted relationships. It’s probably with a company, but a bigger company might use an ad agency. You know where to go for what size sponsorship and the rubrics and metrics of that. You know where to go to start. What is the advantage of me asking you to do this for me?
Charmaine: I love that question. We get asked that a lot. We get asked, “Raise a Dream, will you go get us sponsors?” We teach people how to do this. We mentor them through the process. We don’t help get you sponsors. Here’s why. At the end of the day, if Hugh is wanting to get something sponsored, the relationship is going to be with Hugh and his company and the sponsor. The best person to bridge that relationship is Hugh. There are times where we might get on a call with a sponsor and a client. What we do is teach those skills so you are prepared to do this work. We get a lot of calls from entrepreneurs and organizations who say, “We hired this ad agency. They made 100 calls, and we got nothing. We spent $30,000 and got zero.” I know people who used to do this in their former life. We dial for dollars. No relationship. Unless you find the right marketing company or ad agency that will take the time to build the relationship and actually follow what’s expected in the sponsorship world, a person selling off sponsorship could actually damage your brand.
I have a colleague of mine who had a long-term sponsor. For five years this sponsor had invested money into a number of his programs and projects and events. Every year without fail. He had always been managing that. Then he got too busy and hired a marketing company. He lost the sponsorship. They phoned them and didn’t mention that you had been working with us for five years. Nothing. Basically went to “Doing this again. Are you interested?” They thought it was different from the treatment they’d received every year. You need to do your due diligence. I am on sponsor calls all week long for projects. I am involved with my own projects and my clients’. The best relationship to build a relationship with a sponsor is you and your organization.
Hugh: Wait a minute. You actually do this for yourself?
Hugh: You don’t just teach it. You actually do it.
Charmaine: Yes, I am working on a movie project that is largely being funded by sponsorship. I am on those calls. I just confirmed three more calls this week. What’s really interesting for me is when we are working with our clients and I am writing blogs and articles on this topic, I am living through this. I did a blog by testing out these. Three questions on a sponsor that really got traction, so you should try them. We do this for our own projects all the time.
Hugh: You just slipped that in. I wanted to make sure you knew I was listening. Their website is RaiseADream.com. We encourage you to go there and check out the work Charmaine and Rebecca are doing. You have a really cool website. One of my colleagues was bragging on you one day. I reached out to you, and here we are.
Charmaine: The power of connection. Thank you, Lynn.
Hugh: Yes, Lynn Sanders.
Charmaine: She’s awesome.
Hugh: She’s a great referral partner and an overall caring individual who helps people write their story. *Sponsored by EZCard*
Charmaine, there is so much to know about sponsorships. We have a good relationship with a few other sponsors. There are these touchpoints that are important. With grants, we have to find a grant-maker that wants to see the kind of results we create. Donors have certain preferences for things. We need to understand what the donor wants to support with their time, talent, or money. Board members, volunteers, or general supporters who are celebrating. We want to stay in touch with them. Grants require us to report on the results of what we spent their money on. They are not ongoing, but we want donors to be ongoing.
Staying in touch with a sponsor. There is a protocol of relationship, but there is also a protocol of how we co-create the results they want to see. I have seen companies say, “We put $10,000” and forget it. We want to get it off our plate. I ran out of donor money, but I have some marketing money. They will put banners up and mention us in their emails. That is the end of it. The nonprofit doesn’t know how to talk about it. The sponsor knows something, but how to create the synergy of how that brand is represented through the work of the charity and how it creates a different result. Therefore, we have an ongoing relationship with a sponsor because it’s official. How do we define those moving parts and those results?
Charmaine: One strategy, and why we recommend not sending a generic proposal, is you want to customize whatever you co-create with them. You also don’t want to do generic packages because that shows no customization. To answer your question in terms of how we get there, we ask a lot of questions.
I was just on a sponsor call the other day. They went from having one person on the first call to two people to four on the call. That is a good sign where they are bringing in higher levels of decision-makers. My questions were, “Tell me more about your brand.” “When you think about the audiences you’re currently in front of, how do you get in front of them right now? How is that working for you?” “What are the audiences you’re looking to get in front of in 2021 and 2022? Why is that audience important to you?” “What are some of the marketing objectives you’ve flagged for the next couple of years?” “When you think about sponsorship arrangements and collaborations that have gone well for your company before, what made them go well? Give me an example of a stand-out time that you partnered with a company.” You are asking lots of who, what, where, when, why, and how questions to discover what matters to them, what’s important to them, and where there are synergies.
One of the questions I asked on that phone call is, “There are some incredible ideas and conversations happening on this call. I am curious from the four of you, where are you seeing the synergies? When you are looking on the project I am working on and the group I am working with, what synergies are popping up for you?” Hugh, I will tell you that 90% of what they created in that moment were things I would never have thought of. Because they knew what was important to their brand and they had enough information about this project, they actually took my idea that was this big and made it so much bigger.
They also said, “There are five other companies I think should be part of this conversation. We have deep relationships with them. I want to introduce this project to these five companies to see if we can’t expand the impact that we co-create together. They can talk with you about what they would be willing to contribute in sponsorship dollars.” That is the kind of magic that can happen if you focus on relationship. Co-creation is important. You don’t have to have all the answers. In fact, I don’t want to have all the answers because that would have squashed that big idea. I would have stayed here.
Hugh: It’s interesting. I write my goals and tell God what I’m going to do. It’s like hiring a marketing specialist for your nonprofit and then telling them how to do it. In our teaching of leadership at SynerVision, we teach leaders you do not have all the answers. What you do have is good questions, and you do have two ears and one mouth. There is a lot to learn by listening. Leaving a little silence after they talk, which is validating. There is the personal interaction piece that is so important that validates you care about their brand, not just their money.
Charmaine: That’s key. Now more than ever, sponsors, if we think about what’s going on in the world right now, sponsors, the events they used to get return on investment from like sports events, galas, concerts, they are not able to do that. Some of them have reallocated the money into keeping their businesses alive. Others have to reallocate it into other projects. The fall is a good time to talk to sponsors because many of them are doing their calendar planning for April 1, so you hit two budget cycles. Things often slow down in their world a little bit in November and December. Today, I’m sending out a lot of LinkedIn messages to hop on calls with people over the next three weeks because I want to get things moving before they get busy when they come back.
One thing I was thinking about while you were talking is sponsorship is like a puzzle. There is a tendency for many nonprofits and service clubs and charities to go to the sponsor when the puzzle is 97% done and there is three or four pieces missing. We have this whole puzzle completed, but we only have room for you to be here, here, or here. That often results in a no. If you can go to a sponsor instead and say, “Here’s what we’re working on. Here are the pieces we know for certain. Here are the areas we’ve made commitments to already. We want to create a bigger impact,” you’re going to them with a puzzle that isn’t fully completed, and there are lots of ways for them to say, “I wonder how if we did this,” or they might say, “Hmm, we might have dollars in our other pocket of funding to bring in this.”
I will give you an example. We hosted a huge community conference that started out as three hours and ended up being three days. I don’t know how that happened. But I was on the committee so I will take responsibility.
We had sponsors who came in as cash sponsors. Because we knew what all our needs were and opened up the conversation to ask, “How else can we better support you as a sponsor?” one of the sponsors said, “It’s important for us to have employee engagement. We have a retention issue at our company. If our employees were engaged in the projects we fund and support through sponsorship, this might make them feel a bigger part of the company.” I said, “Wow, we have incredible opportunities to engage your employees.” What ended up happening is they gave us 25 employees for three days to come to the event, help people park their cars, man the reception table, be greeters and runners. That saved us finding 25 volunteers for three full days.
The same sponsor also said, “What about if we in-kind lent our communications and public relations team to the project? We could write all your press releases. We will leverage our media contacts to get media there for you. We will arrange for media with the speakers. We can also design the posters and print them at our own in-house print shop. Do you need mail-outs? We could slip in card mailouts when we send out our monthly mail.” This sponsorship that was $25,000 cash turned into a $75,000 arrangement because of what else they brought to the table in-kind. Look at how committed they were to the event. They had their staff there, their employees’ partners and families.
Hugh: Those results happened through conversations and exploring possibilities. How do you raise awareness for the brand? I know people watch NASCAR races and count how many times Coca-Cola appears. Some metrics of eyeballs. What you’re talking about is how to create leads, quantifiable results. People go and buy their product. Sponsorships are not just for nonprofits.
Charmaine: My company has a lot of sponsorship. You have sponsorship as well in your foundation.
Hugh: There is a combination of cash and in-kind, which really helps both of us. That happens through exploring opportunities to further the combination of brands. I have worked for 10 years creating a solid brand. I haven’t even been on this journey, but I will be dialing you up to help leverage the brand with our audience to up the game we have.
You talked about your letter. I wish I could have seen your red face when you realized that. Let’s do a contrast. What are some really bad things besides that that nonprofit leaders do? You mentioned LinkedIn. So many people say, “I can help you with your SEO.” I already get 14,000 visitors. How many more do I need?
Charmaine: You don’t actually know anything about me and you tried to sell me.
Hugh: I don’t want that.
Charmaine: What if you’re not a fit with that company? What if there’s no value alignment?
Hugh: Give me a contrast. What are the worst things people do? Are there a couple things that really sizzle, bad and good?
Charmaine: Here’s one. I love saying this. Sponsors tell me that one of their frustrations, especially with nonprofits—entrepreneurs tend to be a little more comfortable with this, not much—one of the biggest mistakes is that nonprofits ask for too little. They value their assets, so to speak, how they can support the sponsor in too little of a value. I actually had a sponsor say to me during a community nonprofit organization I was working with. I sat on the board and was on the fundraising committee. The sponsor said to me, “Charmaine, we love what this organization is working on. We believe in your mission. You are going to make a big impact. But honestly, the work it would take me to give you $10,000 is far too much work. Had your ask been bigger, we could probably have made something work.” How do you keep the conversation going? I won’t take it as a no; I’ll take it as a, “Let’s have a conversation about this. Here’s how I came up with that, but I am thinking there are bigger ways you want to be involved. Can we open up the conversation and go there?” Don’t minimize the value of what you bring to the table. It might require us to get comfortable talking about our project in bigger dollar signs.
The other mistake a lot of nonprofits make is they knock on the door when they need money. There is no communication with the sponsor all year long. Then it’s like our event is in six months, so I better start knocking.
Charmaine: Important to keep that relationship going all year long.
Hugh: You have an event. You market it and champion their brand and products and services. It doesn’t stop there. People will still remember it later. There should be a residual from all of that that will bring ongoing value. What are some of the best-case scenarios? Give us another win-win story.
Charmaine: Another win-win story is I can recall working on a project. The sponsor, I think they had sponsored this project twice. They were a relatively new sponsor; it was not a long relationship. The executive director was the fundraiser. I thought this was brilliant. She scheduled monthly time on her calendar to reach out to sponsors. She did this in a variety of ways. In springtime, she sent little flower pots with forget-me-not seeds and said, “Thinking about you.” No ask. Nothing. Just sent them a gift. Getting closer to the event, she sent a photo in a frame from the last event they sponsored. They had all their volunteers and clients sign notes on the back of the frame saying, “Thank you. We appreciated your support last year.” No ask. No mention of the upcoming event. They just sent them that.
Another time, what I thought she was also doing was brilliant is she paid attention to the news. When she saw that company interviewed or put out a press release, she would leave a quick message for the sponsorship contact. “I saw the news report the other day. That’s fantastic. I loved how you were supporting this other organization and what you were doing on that project. Way to go. So proud to have been a partner with you.” Acknowledging their success as a company is a way of keeping the relationship going. There isn’t always something to talk about between this event and that event, but it’s important to keep the conversations going.
Doing things like asking to hop on a call for 15 minutes called an advice call. “We are starting to gear up for some of our projects, and I am looking to reach out to past partners and sponsors to get some feedback. We want to knock this thing out of the park.” You’re looking for advice and input.
Hugh: I’m thinking if you’re doing a local event and pitching a bunch of sponsors, they’re all talking about you together because they all know each other. I had a client in Germany a few years ago who was launching an international event in America, which I helped them book. Nobody would answer them because we don’t know what’s going on outside of our country. It was choirs competing, twice as many participants as the Olympics. The city needed to raise $10 million in sponsorship. They went to one international brand which got the first million. They called the next one and said, “We’re in. We need you to be in.” There is some energy with some major sponsor coming on board who has relationships with others. This was a home international event, which everyone is going to use toothpaste and soap. It was good for the brand. It was good for their home office. It was good for everybody. You know they’re talking about you, so how do you put it together and make it happen on a bigger scale?
Charmaine: This is a missing piece. When you can do what Hugh has just said, you will be remembered by sponsors. You can say to the sponsor, “Are there particular brands or companies that you find you’re often sponsoring events or projects that they are also sponsoring?” I will give you a sidebar here. For example, when I was working on a mental health month awareness community event, we were talking to a local realtor who was quite a successful company. Always start close to home when looking for sponsors. We looked at the local realtor, not the national office of that realty company. I had done my research, so I had noticed there were other events where she was sponsoring with the same insurance company, the same home staging company, and the same telecommunication company. I said, “I noticed there have been a lot of events where these four of you have been sponsors. Tell me more about that.” She said, “We are cross-referring agents for one another. The telecommunication company will only take events if two of the five are partners.” Wow, that’s great to know. These are questions you can ask. Are there companies they think you should be approaching? Are they companies they typically co-sponsor with? They will happily share that information.
Hugh: We have about eight minutes left. You mentioned a seven-step model to help nonprofits. Can you share what that is?
Charmaine: On our website, we have an e-book that is free you can download. It will walk you through that seven stage model. The first thing we’re doing is identifying what are the potential businesses and brands we’d like to build relationships with. Then we have to research them. From there, we have to connect. We have to do that outreach, which leads us to the discovery call. From that discovery call, we may or may not do a proposal. Interestingly enough, I don’t do a lot of proposals. We go with what we co-created and planned into a contract. We skip the proposal. Often there is a proposal that sometimes becomes the actual contract. After the contract is done, whether that is an informal agreement by email or a legal contract, whatever you and the sponsor decide on, then we have to fulfill on our agreement so we are delivering what we committed. Then there is recognition for the sponsor, making sure we wrap up that arrangement with them.
What is prevalent through the whole process of those seven steps is relationship and follow-up. They are key. But when you understand this model, you will meet sponsors when you’re pumping your gas, when you are at the grocery store. I have met sponsors on an airplane when we could travel. When you are aware of this model, you look at businesses and conversations very differently.
Hugh: I remember when we used to attend live conferences.
Charmaine: Back in the day.
Hugh: Back to your ask was too little. Sometimes our request may be too small because we haven’t factored in what we need to do for the sponsor to make sure someone is tracking where we highlight a sponsor. Maybe the sponsor will do that, but we need someone in the organization to make sure they know what’s going on and how to track results. How do you factor that in? Do you have some sort of way to figure out how much it will cost someone to make sure the sponsor gets eyeballs and results?
Charmaine: It’s a process of valuation where you are assigning value to the different assets you are going to provide to the sponsor. That will look different from project to project, from nonprofit to nonprofit. What you’re wanting to consider is what are some of your costs of maintaining that sponsorship fulfillment? For example, if you said you will do Facebook ads and print their logo on certain things, you have a cost to that. You have to look at the less tangibles. What is the value you are bringing to the sponsor by giving them presence at the event? Maybe the sponsor is introducing one of the virtual speakers on some webinar. You want to take time to assign value and identify all of the ways in which you can support the sponsor, all the assets you bring to the table.
But the best thing to do is ask them what would be meaningful for them. What do you need to see out of this sponsorship arrangement? How do you want to be recognized? I have heard this as recently as last week where a sponsor said, “Charmaine, our logo is all over the place, but we don’t look at that as having a dollar value attached to it because nobody knows what our logo means unless you go on our website.”
When I did our Million Acts of Kindness tour, I would talk about how millions of eyeballs will be on our motor home as it drives across North America. Three sponsors said, “That’s awesome, and it has zero value to us.” Nobody is sitting there driving their car looking at that RV in the next lane, saying, “I should look up that logo” and take a picture of it. No one is doing that. I asked them what would have value. One sponsor said, “What would have value? For you to provide our products as gifts to people along your tour.” “What would have value for us is me to be sponsoring events that we pay for and cover along your tour so my brand gets introduced to your community. That has value. The logo everywhere is something you should just do.”
Hugh: I went to the dentist this morning and got a packet of little goodies with a bunch of brands. It represents your brand.
Charmaine: It’s called sampling. Exactly.
Hugh: It’s not sponsorship, but it’s that kind of idea. Show us your books.
Charmaine: The first book was Chicken Soup for the Soul, which led to my first published book On Toby’s Terms. As you can see, nothing to do with sponsorship, everything to do with a dog. But this is how I began building sponsorship into my business. Everything we did from my book launch events to our kindness tours across North America were all sponsored. He inspired a children’s book and another children’s book I don’t have with me. These books. Most recently, a desktop guide for working better together. And our e-book on sponsorship.
Hugh: *Sponsored by SynerVision’s online community* What thought would you like to leave people with, Charmaine?
Charmaine: I would like to challenge everyone listening to this, whether you’re live today or on the replay, to take one action. That could be researching a sponsor, writing a list of brands you’d love to be in relationship with, getting clear about your audience. But one action. What often happens is people hear helpful information and don’t put it into motion. One month goes by. Three months go by. One year goes by. I want you to be able to step foot into building sponsorship into your revenue model because sponsors will be able to help you create a much bigger impact in your organization. They will bring some new partners to you. It has to happen by taking action. One little step today will start you walking on that sponsorship path.
Hugh: Good advice. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us today, Charmaine.