A highly successful sponsorship campaign is not a one-person endeavor. It requires leadership and coordination of a network of people–board members and others. The solicitation process needs to be managed so that multiple volunteers are not approaching the same prospect and those that solicit need to be properly trained, equipped, and empowered.
Rebecca H. Davis, PhD, CFRE recently joined us for a webinar in which she shared strategies, lessons learned, and tools for raising your sponsorship dollars to new heights.
In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here:
Steven: I’m the VP of marketing here in Bloomerang and I will be moderating today’s discussion. And before we begin I just want to let everyone know that I’m recording this presentation and I’ll be sending out the recording a little later on this afternoon, as well as Rebecca’s slide. So look for an email later from me if you want to review the content or maybe share with a friend or a co-worker. You’ll be able to do that. And during the presentation please don’t be afraid to chat in any questions or comments you have. We’re going to save some time at the end of the presentation for some Q&A. So don’t be shy, we’ll have some time, five or ten minutes for questions towards the end of the presentation.
And if this is your first webinar with us, welcome. Thanks for being here. We do these webinars just about every Thursday. We bring on a guest for an educational presentation and in addition to doing that Bloomerang also offers a really great donor management software program. So if you are in the market for that we’d love for you to check it out. You can learn more about that on our website and we’d love for you to do that. Just let me know if you have any questions there. So I want to go ahead and introduce our guest. She is Rebecca Davis, PhD, CFRE. Hey Rebecca, how is it going?
Rebecca: Great, I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for inviting me to participate in this. It’s a great opportunity.
Steven: Yeah, I’m glad you’re here too. I think we’ve been planning this since way back in November. So its fun for that date to be finally here. A lot of people registered. I know they’re interested in the topic. This is a topic that we get requested quite a bit. So it is great to have you. For those of you who don’t know Rebecca. Rebecca has more than 25 years of professional experience in academic and non-profit settings, in fundraising and event management, volunteer coordination and adult education and research and writing.
She is a graduate of the AFP, that is the Association of Fundraising Professionals Faculty Training Academy. Rebecca is a master trainer as well who has been a certified fundraiser executive, CFRE, since 2007. She has worked with lots of organization, the Alzheimer’s Association and National Down Syndrome Congress, The Children’s Center for Hope and Healing, all kinds of places. She has been a development director. She has been an ED and she has coordinated a lot of sponsorship campaigns. And that’s what she’s going to be talking to about today. So Rebecca, I’m not going to take any more time away from you. Why don’t you go ahead and get us started.
Rebecca: Sure, sure. Well I know a lot of you people in the fundraising profession have mixed feelings about social events but I’m one of those who happens just to love them. I enjoy participating in them and of course we all know that special events, one of the keys to making them successful is having a successful sponsorship campaign and having sponsorships really come in strong. That’s one of the ways we can make our special events successful.
So I want to talk today to you about how to lead a sponsorship campaign. I believe that one of the keys to a strong sponsorship campaign is to run it like a campaign, much like a capital campaign or an annual campaign by planning it tactically. Like a campaign, that one of the keys to that is to recruit a team and to organize your team and manage your team to provide leadership to your team. Now I have talked to you some foundation and corporate relation specialists in the fundraising profession, who believe that they personally should solicit all of their corporate partners, all of their sponsorship, they should be the one to get out and touch base with them. Every single year they should be the one to make the ask. And I understand their reasoning and that’s great.
But a lot of us in the fundraising world don’t work in a position where we have the luxury of time to be able to personally make the ask every single corporate partner or corporate prospect that we have in our organization. We just have too many prospects to be able to see. Plus I personally believe that I don’t have the monopoly on passion for the organization on connections and the opportunities to open doors. And I’ve certainly been at some organizations where I’ve had board members and volunteers who’ve been at least as good if not better than I have at asking. So why not bring them along on the team and empower them and set them to work and let them work their magic. Some of them are really, really good. So I want them to be on the team to ask. I believe that our boat will go further faster if I put other team members in it and allow them to grow.
I want to point out throughout this presentation, there are things that people who are not good at asking can do to help the sponsorship team and to help us get to a larger goal. I do believe that good askers are not born, that they are not made, that you can teach most people to ask. Some people aren’t good at it from one reason or another. Some people don’t have the common sense. I’ve certainly worked with some volunteers who had the heart but maybe not the common sense or the right manners or whatever. So I didn’t want them to asking. But there are things that they can do too. I’m going to try to point those out throughout the way.
I believe that sponsorship campaigns are a lot like rowing and I believe rowing, though I don’t know a lot about the sport, I believe rowing is really beautiful. The synchronicity of it, the way the team makes it look almost effortless. There’s a lot going on under the water, under the surface, there are a lot adjustments being made.
Steven: The slide I see is “Sponsorship campaigns are like rowing” and we’ve got a picture of rowers. Is that where you want to be?
Rebecca: No, I actually want to be more ahead.
Steven: There you go. You did it.
Rebecca: Okay, but do you actually require a lot of coordination and effort that require a lot of leadership and in fact the rowing team, if you take a close look at a rowing team in some sort of competition, there is someone from the team who sits in the very back of the boat who is called the Coxswain and is usually a lot smaller than other people in the boat. This person is usually facing the opposite way of everybody else. Everybody else in the boat faces backwards. And the Coxswain is the one and only person facing forward.
And they have a headset on and they talk to the team through the head set throughout the rowing race. And they are calling tiny little adjustments throughout the race to each of the members telling them which way to pull, which way to adjust their oars, how hard to pull, basically since none of the rowers can see the river ahead, can see the current, can see the way the wind is coming across the river.
The Coxswain is telling everybody which way to go so they don’t end up going in circles and is coordinating everything. And this person the Coxswain, often doesn’t get a lot of credit because he or she is not rowing and sometimes gets a little teased or harassed for not rowing, for not pulling his or her weight. But this person is really key to navigating the river. And I want you as a fundraiser to think of yourself kind of like the Coxswain calling the shots, coordinating and making it happen. And I’m going to talk a little bit more about that as we go forward, because you’re the person who’s going to map out the strategy and the team is going to come to count on you to help coordinate what you’re doing throughout the fundraising campaign.
Now the first thing that you need to do to get your campaign together is to put your sponsorship offer together and while it says the first thing, I actually do it as the last thing. The last thing at the end of last’s years campaign because when I’m wrapping up last years campaign, I do a debrief on last year’s campaign and I think on last year’s campaign what worked well. Last year, what didn’t work well? What could I have done last year to sweeten the deal for my sponsors? I’m constantly looking for what I can do to make my sponsorship offers more attractive to my sponsor.
Now, we who love our organizations, we tend to think our sponsorship opportunities are great. Why wouldn’t our business partners want to partner with us and be sponsors with us. But go to a professional baseball game or go to a race track or a car race track. Go to a NASCAR event or some other professional . . . go to an Indy 500 event or something similar, and take a look at how they treat their sponsors and what their sponsors have the opportunity to have and then think about your event. And what you’ll quickly realize is that what the typical non-profit organization can offer its sponsor, in comparison to what a professional or even in an amateur sports event can offer its corporate partners. They’re very different. And for the most part we’re not as strong a partner in many, many ways as a lot of sporting events are for our corporate partners.
Now we do you have some other things to offer. We have really loyal, passionate followers and we have a great image and being associated with our great image can be really good for our corporate partners. But there are some exposure and some media opportunities and some other things that a typical non-profit can offer. So we have to really think about what it is that our corporate partners want and what we can do to make ourselves as attractive a partner as we possibly can.
I’m often surprised when I first started to work with a non-profit partner at just exactly how little the non-profit organization actually knows about what kind of a partner they are for a corporate organization for a sponsorship opportunity. I’ll start working with a non-profit organization and they won’t have any idea of how many website visitors on average they have each month? They won’t have idea on how many email addresses they have or if they mail a newsletter, they won’t know how many addresses it reaches.
Those are kind of the specifics you really need to know because you need to know what your reach is. You need to have all that data for your event. You need to write a media plan. That in and of itself having a written media plan and being able to articulate to your sponsors what you’re going to do in terms of how you’re going to promote the event and how you’re going to share the event during the event. It’s going to make you more attractive to a potential sponsor. So you need to put your sponsorship offer together. You’re going to need to be able to figure out how to make it attractive your sponsors before you even begin.
And if you don’t know what your sponsors want, then talk to them, ask them, what you are looking for in a partnership. And they will actually surprise you. One of the things that I’m hearing more and more from corporate partners with what they’re looking for, is engagement opportunities. They don’t just want their logo on our poster. They want an opportunity to actually interact with our participants. So for example when I was working with the Alzheimer’s Association, the people who serve up events most often were people who had a loved one with some form of dementia. And one of our biggest sets of sponsors were people who were in the long term care industry.
They wanted to interact with our participants at our events because they recognize that sooner or later a lot of the people who were at our events were going to looking for a long term care placement for their loved one. I just got back from the association of Fundraising Professional’s Conference and a lot of the vendors were interested in the exhibit hall and the address list of the participants because they wanted to mail the participants to interact with us. To tell us about their product and invite us to come by their booth so that we can learn more about their product. But that is an engagement opportunity and companies are very much interested in that. So think about what engagement opportunity you can offer your event for the people you are interested in working with.
You’re going to want to attach some value to your sponsorship offer. Are you going to ask 10,000? Are you going to ask 50,000? Are you going to ask $500 for your sponsorship level or your sponsorship package? And that is really dependent on two things, both of which require some market research. One is, what do other non-profit organizations in your area charge for a similar package if you’re in a small community? What you’re going to be able to charge is going to be different than if you’re in a very large city. You need to do some research on what others in your area are charging.
Recently I did some market research for an organization on golf tournament sponsorships in their area. What I found was they were very competitive and very much in the right market or right money realm for the larger sponsorships. But they were way off for the small one. They were missing opportunities in like whole sponsorship area. They were only charging $75 for sponsorship and everybody else in the community was charging a lot more. So for some of the smaller levels they, I encouraged them to step it up and charge more.
The other piece of that, is not just what do other non-profit organization charge, but what are businesses paying? Are they willing to pay, for example, a newspaper ad? If you can give them an equivalent coverage to a newspaper ad in some of your press and your website and so forth and they pay for that in other media prices, what do those cost them to buy? So you can compare that way also and put a value on those things and then you know what you can market your packages for. Some great additions to your package or to your offer that will help you sell your package, testimonials from past sponsors. If you can even get some of your past sponsors to reach out and just say, “Hey this is a phenomenal opportunity for me,” it can be really impactful and really powerful in helping you to attract a new sponsor. News clips of your event last year also are very, very helpful.
So here’s one of the ways that your volunteers can help from the get go. So after you’ve put your sponsorship package together and you’ve put your opportunity together. One of the first ways that your volunteers can help is by identifying your prospects. And here is one of the many opportunities that or many ways that people who are not good at asking can help. It can help identify prospects, help generate a prospect list.
Where are you going to find your prospects? Of course as always in fundraising, one of the best places to find your donors is with your past donors. So your last year’s sponsors are of course the best place to start. But you can also look to board member’s companies and sometimes board members’ companies haven’t been invited to be a sponsor. But your board members’ associate companies. Your board members’ companies’ managers, the organization spenders, the companies interested in your audience. Again, think about the Alzheimer’s example and how the people were interested and the people who were at our event.
And also looking at the community who have marketing dollars. And that is just a start. Brainstorm with your committee and again they’ll help you generate I imagine . . . we’ve never had trouble in any of the communities I’ve worked on, generating more prospects that we can possibly get to. And while we usually start with the low hanging fruit, start with the people who were easiest. So we mail a bunch of sponsorship and then move on to people who were more distant from us.
One committee I worked with decided you know what, we know we’re going to need sponsorship from these people. Let’s start with people we don’t think we’re going to get sponsorships from with new relationships and work on those first. And then come back to the people that we’re really confident are going to give us sponsorships because sometimes we never have time to get to the people who are long shots. So we started with long shots first and we got a tremendous number of new relationships and new sponsorships. It was a great year for us. So that is a strategy that I recommend you to consider, is starting not with the low hanging fruit, starting not with last years prospects or last years sponsors, but starting with people that you’re going to work at a little bit.
And again, for more roles for people who don’t belong in the asking front, sponsor care. So after you signed a sponsor on the dotted line, there’s a lot of work that has to be done after they’ve said yes. After they’ve signed on, you need to write them a welcome package. In that welcome package is of course the first thing is to say thank you, but you need to go over the benefits with them even though you went over them in the sales part of the relationship. But I’m always amazed at people who somehow don’t understand their benefits.
I’ve had sponsor relationships where we’ve gone over the benefits in the development of the relationship and then they choose the sponsorship and then somehow don’t realize that they have a table at a gala. It gets close to the gala, they don’t realize that they have tickets and I’m talking to them about who is going to take their tickets, who is going to fill their table. And they’re like, “We have a table?” So start coming over that again and again with them.
So this is a great thing for people who aren’t good at asking, to do the follow up “We’re so excited that you’re coming and who is going to be sitting at your table?” And just touch base with them about that multiple times. That way you’re not a few weeks from the gala and talking to them about who is going to fill the table and they’re scrambling to figure out who is going to fill the table, because you do want the table to be filled and you want your event to be full. You want it to look like a success and if you have empty seats it’s not going to look like a success.
And if you have a silent auction, you of course want it to be full because you want bidders at your auction. Just thinking about one type of event. So you want them to know what their benefits are. You also want them to use their benefits, so you can involve the person who is not good at asking in that part of the sponsorship committee. Also at the event itself. You can have someone who is not good at asking assigned to be a sponsor greeter or to act like a sponsor concierge. Make sure that you have the sponsor’s wine glasses are not empty or introduce them to people or introduce them to board members. Help them make sure that they’re comfortable working the room. Some sponsors are just like everybody else and that they can be shy. They can be uncomfortable in networking. So someone who is not especially good at asking can help make them feel more comfortable and welcome and do all those sort of things. There a lot of different things.
When you have your volunteer committee, of course one of the first things that you have to do is provide some training for them, especially if you’re going to involve them in the process of making contacts with potential sponsors and asking. And the biggest thing that I find that I have to help volunteers understand is that I have to help them understand the motivations of potentials sponsors. I find that volunteers who have these tremendously big hearts don’t understand that businesses often have very different motivations for getting involved as sponsor, then they themselves have for getting involved with volunteers. And so I have to help them understand that businesses don’t usually have big-hearted philanthropic reasons for getting involved with sponsors. Some do of course, but many of them have business motivations for getting involved in the non-profit organization and non-profit organizations event.
So I have to help volunteers understand that. So I have to explain cause marketing and some of the objectives of cause marketing. And that’s one of the biggest things that we go over in volunteer training. And of course people have to learn to ask. I do believe that’s a skill that people acquire and not something that people are generally born knowing how to do. I find that the writings of Jerold Panas are very, very good for that. His book “Asking” is great. For that, several others of his books are really, really helpful and I’ll often used excerpts from his books with volunteers and volunteer trainings because he has some sample scripts of questions and answers that donors have given and situations that he’s been in. And these help with things like sample scripts for getting a meeting, sample scripts for overcoming objections and a lot of other things. So I find his writings, several of his books, really, really useful for training and I recommend them.
Everybody hates role-play. They feel very, very put on the spot. But at the AFP faculty training academy that I attended. I think that was 2010. BJ Bischoff taught the course and she shared with us a way of role play that I’m sure is not original to her, but that is where I learned it. Its team based and collaborative. So there are two seats at the front and basically you align everybody up behind one or the other. You take turns sitting in the hot seat and the person behind the person in the chair taps the person in the chair on the shoulder and relieves them so they’re no longer in the hot seat. And you take turns so around and round you go.
So the person in the hot seat is only in the hot seat for a couple of minutes and they get tapped out and the next person sits down and role play is for a few minutes. Its actually a lot of fun to do it that way because you’re only in the hot seat a couple of minutes and people on the team behind the person in the chair, help coach the person in the chair on how to role play. It’s a much more fun way to role play and practice asking and then somebody can practice being the donor with objections or questions. That’s worked really well in volunteer training on asking.
Another thing that is very important to talk about in volunteer training on asking, is that they need to know what’s going to come up when they go ask. They need to know that questions are going to come up, negotiations are going to come up. Issues are going to come up. So you need to prepare them for those. When you yourself go out and ask for a sponsorship, what comes up? What questions? What objections typically come up? And so you need to think through how you want them to handle those issues.
And it maybe that you don’t want them to handle those issues and so you tell them, if this is or this comes up, I want you to say, “I’ve got to get back to the development director and give back to you.” So you need to say, “This is the limit of your empowerment. I don’t want you to get into these things.” so at this point you need to just tell them I’ll have to call you back. Or maybe you want to empower them to handle one or two of these issues but not others. But whatever it is that you want, you need to think it through in advance. You need to anticipate it and then you need to tell them to anticipate it and let them know how you want them to resolve it.
And then another big thing that we talk about in training is the role of coordination and the role that you play in coordination. And this is something that comes up all the time when there are lots of volunteers asking, is just the role of coordination. I find volunteers go out and I want them to generate new prospect. But I find that lots of them will generate the same prospect. “You know Rebecca, I was driving around town and I thought we should ask Sam’s Club.” And I think that’s great, but 10 people have said that we should ask Sam’s Club. That is great.
Well my very worst fear is that somebody goes ahead and asks Sam’s Club and somebody ask Sam’s Club for $25 and really I wanted to ask Sam’s Club for 1000 or 5000. And that is a small example. There maybe some other company that I wanted to ask for a whole lot more and somebody has asked them for $25. And then what happens? The company gives $25. The company expects you to be grateful. The company feels proud. The company feels like they’ve done their part. And you’re kind of in this awkward position because you wanted to ask for them for a whole heck of a lot more. So it’s a really terrible position to be in.
So I don’t want anybody to ask without talking to me first. So I talk to them in volunteer training about, it’s great for you to come up with ideas. But please talk to me first because I explain to them that once we’ve asked, it’s really, really difficult to go back and ask for a different amount. And it may be that the amount that we initially ask for is really not the right amount to ask for. So I explain that.
I also explain that if we have one person approaching the company for one amount and another person approaching for another amount, then it looks like the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. And it does make us look like we’re ill-prepared and like we don’t really know what we’re doing and that we’re coordinated. That doesn’t make us look like a good candidate for a sponsorship. So we want to coordinate that.
And of course out of volunteer training, I want the volunteers to walk away equipped and so one of the things that I want to give them and this picture is to supposed to look like Reese Witherspoon in her role “In the Wild” all loaded down with her horrible backpack. I want them to have all the information they’re going to need to be able to ask. But really, I don’t want them to be loaded down. There will inevitably some volunteer who wants to be that downloaded down. And for that volunteer I will give them whatever they need to be that loaded down. Because I find that that volunteer will not feel safe and secure without being that loaded down. So if they want all the stuff and they want to be that loaded down, I will load them down that much. But most people will not need all of this stuff, just some of it.
But there will be some volunteers who will require every single item on this list in order to feel safe and secure going out into the world to ask. So decide what things your volunteers are most likely going to need to be equipped to be asked and some of these things they’re definitely going to need. Make sure they have those, maybe you want to provide them electronically on a flash drive. More and more often that’s how I give them to volunteers these days. One of the things I almost always make sure that people have, is an emergency number for me. That way they know how they can always get in touch with me and that makes everybody feel piece of mind and safe and secure and once they have that, they’re going to go.
One of the things in sponsorship tips, sometimes organizations are people will want to put DVDs or videos on USB, flash drives or something. Don’t do it. Every business I’ve ever talked to says they don’t watch them. They end up in the trash. So even if your communications director says, “But our DVD is going to win an Emmy,” or “Theo James himself made a personal appearance to attest to the worthiness of our organization.” Don’t do it. And if somebody tells you, you must put it in the package and let it slip out in your car on the way somewhere. It’s not going to get watched. Its just not. So unless the company you’re going to visit has a CEO who calls you and says, “My wife watched it in her Sunday school class and she begged me to ask you to bring it over and watch it with me.” Unless that happens don’t take it in somebody’s office and expect them to watch it with you. They don’t want to. So I would not include under any circumstances a DVD.
At the conclusion of your first volunteer training, I’d make sure that folks walked away with some sort of resource or reference manual and I do that for a lot of reasons. I find that when people walk away with something physical like a notebook or a USB flash drive or something, they feel like they have something tangible that reminds them they learned something. Its also comforting to people. They feel like they have something to refer back to when they have a moment of anxiety, until they can’t remember something important. And also people like me, I’m one of those people who are so in the moment and when the moment is over, I realized I don’t remember something. I thought I did. I did that at that moment. I was totally with you, but then moment is past and I’m like “What was that?” I can’t recall. So I need to go back to something to bring it back up. So that is helpful there.
And then in terms of volunteer assignments, you’ve got a long list of prospects. You’ve got a list of volunteers. So how are you going to pair the volunteer up with the prospect. And initially I pair volunteers up with only a couple of prospects. I don’t pair all the prospects up with all the volunteers initially. I set up volunteers only with a couple of prospects and then leave the rest for later to pair after I can see how things are going. I don’t want to give volunteers a long, long list of assignments because I don’t want to overwhelm them, and I also again, want to see how things are going. If somebody is doing great, I want to give them more. If somebody is moving a little slow or not having a lot of success, I want to kind of wait till they find their voice and get their feet on the ground before giving them a lot more.
Early on I pair everybody with just a couple and I try to find a couple on the list that are going to be easy asks for everybody. I set people up to win. I don’t give anybody a really difficult assignment at first. Not new volunteers, not people who’ve never asked before. Personally when I get a success and probably a lot of you on this webinar are the same. When I hear a yes and I close a sponsorship or get a gift. Its like a little burst of dopamine for me. It’s a high and I got hooked on that high a very, very long time ago. And I want my volunteers to experience that because I feel like if I can get them to experience that, I can get them hooked. I want them to have that early victory. I want them to know what that feels like. I just think that it feels so awesome that they’ll get hooked and they’ll continue to come back and come back and come back.
So I set them up for success early on. And then later when they’ve had some successes and know that they can do it, I’ll give them a little bit more challenging assignments. I try typically to save the really terrible assignments always for myself. If there is prospect on my list who is a total curmudgeon or is a really difficult negotiator and just makes my life miserable, I try to keep that person for myself always. I try not to subject any volunteer to the very worst of the prospects.
In terms of getting in the door, just a couple of thoughts or ideas. You all know how to use connections to get in the door, but a couple of other thoughts on this. You can use letters of introduction from well-known community members to get in the door. And you probably done that or tried that as well.
One thing that I have done with great success a couple of times where my organizations have had events they try to really ratchet up. One time I was working for an organization that had almost no community visibility, even though it was a 25 year old organization and it was kind of relaunching an event. And so the organization held a free breakfast for corporate leaders and got a bunch of corporate leaders into a room. We got somebody to sponsor the breakfast, to pay for the breakfast. So it was free for the corporate leaders. And just did a very short 15 minute presentation, had the breakfast be about 15 minutes long before work kind of 8:30ish or 8:00. I can’t remember exactly what time we had it.
Anyway, we just gave a really brief overview. This is who we are in three to five minutes and “We’re relaunching this event and even though we’ve been around in the community for a long time and you may not be aware of us. We’ve been operating pretty quietly. We’ve been doing good work. We’ve been here but we have been operating pretty quietly and we’re relaunching this event. We’d like to reach out to you to talk to you about it. We feel like it’s an event that you would be very interested in. And we’re going to talk to you about sponsorship. There is a card in your seat. If we could just follow up, we’d love for you to leave your name and your contact information and there is a flyer in your seat.”
And people filled out the card and left it and said, “You can contact us.” So we got people’s permission to contact them to talk further. It was a no obligation, just leave us your information if we can follow up for 20, 30 minutes chat. So we got people’s permission to contact them to talk about sponsorship. It was great. So we had grew sponsorship significantly that year. And again, I’ve had a couple of organizations do that. We’ve always had really good success. It was permission based marketing. It was wonderful. I encourage you to try that.
Sponsorship care, we talked about this a little bit when we talked about volunteers who don’t ask. Some of the sponsors that I have and that you have I’m sure are very high maintenance. I want them to feel very well treated and so this was something that’s important to do. Even if they don’t literally get a facial or some sort of mud bath. I want them to feel well cared for and so that is extremely important.
When we wrap up the volunteer training and coaching, it is not a one time thing. It’s not a one and done. So usually we have a volunteer training session to get started, but then we continue to do coaching all through the campaign. And depending on your organization and it’s geography that may, depending on how dispersed you are, and I have worked with organizations that have been dispersed across the state. I’ve worked with organizations that have been in one city and I’ve worked with organizations that are stretch out all across the country. So depending on your geography, you might get together face to face. You might get together over Google Hangouts. You might get together over a conference call. However you can. I’d love it if you can be face to face some way. I’d love it if you can be in person.
If you can’t, call over a conference call and share your successes and talk through what’s going on. If you can identify a common problem or two or even if it’s not common. If somebody can share, “This is a challenge that I’m running into” and you can brainstorm that persons challenge with each other. You can all learn from that. If you can share success. You can all learn from how to as well. It’s a great way to publicly praise someone for what’s going on. Plus its good morale to celebrate people’s successes.
One of the things you can do to keep energy and momentum going is just to celebrate and to offer encouragement. A theme is often very, very fun. One year for a volunteer training, we took the “Finding Nemo” movie and took Dory’s advice to just keep swimming. And we concluded the volunteer training with a little clip from Nemo where Dory was singing just keep swimming. My volunteers loved it. They thought it was hilarious and so we were swimming throughout the volunteer campaign. And in fact on the right, there’s a picture of some board members. At the last board meeting before the event I took a bunch of dollar store swim goggles into the board meetings and I passed around a bucket full of swim goggles and said, “I invite you to put on your swim goggles. I invite you to put some on your rear view mirror of your car and as you drive around town to the next couple weeks I want you to use them as a reminder to go ahead and make one more ask. One more ask can make a difference whether or not we make goal.”
And I swear, as I drove around town the final weeks of the campaign, I saw swim goggles bobbing in people’s rear view mirrors and these board members that evening, the one in the middle was 80 or 90 years old, were swimming in the board meeting and had their goggles on. That is absolutely one of my favorite pictures.
So here, back to the rowing the Coxswain, the team’s coordinator in rowing, the tradition has it he or she gets dumped in the river at the end of the race if they’re successful. At this particular campaign where we were swimming through the volunteer campaign with the “Finding Nemo” theme, at the end of the campaign we were very successful. It was a great campaign. I was giving out some volunteer awards as a celebration and couple of my volunteers came busting through the door with a six foot inflatable Nemo singing just keep swimming, swimming and you can tell they were very happy there in this picture. And I think this was the fundraisers version of being dunked in the drink. So that was definitely a happy day.
Just to recap. So to run a successful campaign, you need to build your team, identify your prospects, put together your sponsorship offer, train the team, teach them to ask, help them understand your corporate partners, equip them, give them ongoing support, set them up for success, coordinate, help volunteers get in the door, take care of your sponsors, celebrate success and then finally the last thing we’re going to talk about is debrief after the event.
And you need to or ask your volunteers to debrief with your sponsors after the event. Find out what they thought about the event. What were their expectations? Were they met? Were they exceeded? How can you improve the event next year and I ask, “Are you willing to be a sponsor next year?” And if I can close next year’s sponsorship at the end of this year’s campaign, I try to. And again to come back to putting your offer together for next year, this debrief process is part of that. What can I learn that’s going to help me put my sponsorship offer together for the following year? And again just to reemphasize, if I can close the deal for next year, I go ahead and try.
So we are going to wrap it up here and take some questions but I want to let you know how you can reach me. I’m a consultant in the mountains of north Georgia and all of my contact information is on my website which is on this slide and I encourage you to reach out to me anytime. I’d love to hear from all of you. So if you don’t get your question answered today, I’m happy to take the questions by email through the web address on this slide.
Steven: Thanks Rebecca that is an awesome presentation. You got 10 minutes to stick around the questions is that okay with you?
Rebecca: That sounds great.
Steven: Cool, we got a few come in already and just want to encourage people to ask away. We got Rebecca here for probably about more 10 minutes. Rebecca, I will just kind of role through these. Meredith here is wondering, “What do you find are the biggest motivations on behalf of business to sponsor non-profit events? What have you run into? What do you find their biggest motivation there?”
Rebecca: Yeah, well with cause marketing, businesses are looking for a partner, someone who can help them reach their objectives. So whatever their objectives are. If their objectives are to reach more customers, then they want to partner with somebody who can help them reach more customers. And again to keep drawing from the Alzheimer’s Association example. Similarly, one of the clients I’m working with right now is in senior care working with senior services and we’re partnering with, again, a lot of organizations who serve seniors. They have an interest in people who are in interested in the people who follow our organization.
So share your client base, share your objectives. So some of the other things, businesses want to look good to their employees and to their customers. So if they can be associated with you and that can help them with employee morale or with their customer constituents, that’s really, really positive. So if you have a really, really positive reputation in your community or across the country and that plays well with their constituency, that can help them also.
Steven: Cool, cool. Jane here was wondering, “If you’re starting from scratch and need to get in the door with the company, which department would you typically reach out to when you’re first making that initial contact?”
Rebecca: Great question. First of all I look and see if I have a personal connection. If there is a board member who has a connection with somebody who is in finance, I would start with the person in finance who I know and ask them if they can open door for me. If I don’t have a personal connection, I go to marketing. Marketing has control of the dollars most of the time for these sort of things and makes most of these decisions. If I can’t get anywhere with marketing, I then usually go to HR.
Steven: Makes sense. Tess here is wondering “Any strategy for amping up sponsors for higher level sponsorships for maybe their anniversary year or the second or third year that they have supported you. What about upgrading sponsors who already support you?”
Rebecca: Well that is where making sure . . . just like with the donor. You’re treating the relationship personally, that you’re actually going to see someone. I’m working with one client right now where we’re starting up a sponsorship campaign for an event that’s annual. And this client is new and we’ve never worked with them before. And the Board president said something to me about emailing or mailing out the sponsorship solicitations. I’d really like to talk to somebody and if possible, I like to see them face to face. It’s the same principle as with individual giving. If you can get face to face, you’re going to get better results. I want to build a relationship with sponsors. I want to know somebody.
I want to talk to them and after two or three years, I want to be able to say, “This is great.” I want to have had the relationship where each year we’ve talked about were your expectations met? What did you want to get out of this? Did you get what you wanted out of this? And then after I know they had a good experience for a couple of years I want to say, “Look, I’ve been thinking about you and I know you had this fantastic anniversary this year. I was thinking let’s do something special. I have some ideas. Let’s brainstorm.” Pitch some ideas to them, listen to what they pitch back. And then brainstorm together and see if you can come up with some special ideas and some special pricing to see if you can take that into a new level that works for you and works for them.
Steven: Cool. Speaking of pricing, here’s a question from Laura. She works from a very small organization and she’s wondering how to first figure out the sizes of the sponsorship. So defining those levels. What is a good weigher? What advice do you have for Laura for actually defining those sponsorship levels for the first time?
Rebecca: Yeah, that is where I would start with the market research. I’d look at what organizations in your area are doing. I recently did this for a non-profit organization in a small community that was doing a golf tournament and I pulled 13 different golf tournament sponsorship proposals from 13 other organizations in that community and just reviewed what were their levels.
What do they offer at the levels? What do those price those levels at? And then looked at what did I feel like the organization I was working for could price their levels at. What should they offer? I wanted to push it as far as I could but I didn’t want to push it so far that we were much more expensive than everybody else or that we didn’t offer competitive benefits. I wanted our benefits to be competitive but I also wanted our dollars to be as high as possible, without pricing ourselves out of the market. So I would take a look at your market.
Steven: Makes sense. We probably have time for one last question and I know we didn’t get to all of them. But Rebecca would you be willing to take some questions over email is that fair to say?
Rebecca: Sure, sure, sure.
Steven: Well while we do this last question, I’ll just put your contact information back up on the screen. Question from Jodie. Jodie has two events, one in the spring and one in the fall, what do you think about asking the same companies to sponsor both events? Do you think that would be kind of taboo to ask them for both or would you just ask for one and not the other? What do you think there?
Rebecca: I ask the same company all the time. If they ‘re interested and willing, yay. I would not hesitate and I would be sure and thank them profusely and tell them how much we appreciate their incredible support and tell them how much we are so glad they’re willing to support all of our events. And I’d also consider offering them a package or offering them some additional perks because they’re such phenomenal supporter. You don’t want to start to lose money, but they really are a phenomenal supporter if they’re willing to do both events. So see what you can do for them and show them the love.
Steven: Yeah, why not.
Steven: Rebecca, this is really awesome having you. I learned a lot. I hope everyone else did. Quite a few people listening in so thank you to all of you for taking an hour out of your day to hang with us. Rebecca we kind of want to have you back next year hopefully.
Rebecca: Thank you so much. It was great and again, I welcome questions anytime.
Steven: Cool and I’ll be sending out the slides as well as the recording of this whole presentation a little later on. So look for an email from me. We’d love to see you again. There’s lots of more educational content on Bloomerang’s website. Just check out our resources section. I’d love for you to do that. We do these webinars every Thursday. We’ve got a couple more here in April, a couple of cool topics coming up. Next week, one week from today, we’re going to talk about getting your board on board with fundraising. And two weeks from today we’re going to talk about direct mail appeals and how to write them. How to tell your stories a little bit better. Really cool topics there, sign up for one of those if they look interesting.
Joy, send me an email about your question that you just sent over to me and if you have any more questions you can always email me and please do email Rebecca there, if we didn’t get to your question. I know we just run out of time there, so sorry about that. But we’d love to see you again. So we’ll call it a day there. Thanks for hanging out with us for an hour or so and hopefully we’ll talk to you next week. Bye now.