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Think of what you can do for a potential sponsor rather than what they can give you

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

One of the biggest mistakes in seeking sponsorship is to think only of your own needs and wants. Your sponsorship proposal therefore tends to be about you rather than focusing on the sponsor’s needs. But it’s not about you; it’s about them!

Sponsorship is about the commercial benefit you can offer a potential sponsor. There is no magic bullet that will motivate a sponsor to throw money at your deserving cause – unless you have thought out a win-win proposition. You need to package a combination of benefits that will provide them with value for money.

Sponsors aren’t holding their breath waiting for your approach. They are besieged by heaps of applicants seeking money. Therefore, the power in the relationship lies heavily in their hands, and you need to tailor the content of your proposal to suit the sponsor’s unique requirements.

You need to be able to offer a sponsor an avenue for them to reach out to their target market. In this sense you are a ‘middleman’ or conduit – a way for the sponsor to strengthen their connection to their target market.

If all you are doing is focusing on your own needs, you are effectively asking for a donation – because you are not offering the sponsor their money’s worth. Donations and philanthropy are totally different from sponsorship.

As a corporate affairs manager, I received dozens of sponsorship applications every month and found that 90% of them were merely photocopied, mass-produced documents that made no effort to relate to my organization’s marketing and communication needs.

I particularly recall the local ballet company expecting money to fall to them because the husband of their business development manager was a consultant to my organization. Their application made little attempt to look at our requirements.

Same with the high-profile children’s hospital. They assembled a rather arrogant proposal that strongly implied it was our moral duty to support them. But their offering was just a token. They had made no attempt to understand our requirements. If they had wanted a donation, that would have been a different matter under a different policy, but they were pursuing me for sponsorship that was all about take, take, take. They would have given us no value for our money.

Same with the police helicopter. Under political pressure from the State government (before my time), we had agreed to sponsor the police helicopter for three years. What did we get? For our $200,000 each year we got a 12-inch by 9-inch decal with our logo on the two sides of the helicopter. Nothing else. The government changed, and when the three years loomed up I could hardly wait to use the money elsewhere. I gave the police plenty of notice, but that didn’t stop them complaining to the CEO and the newspapers. The CEO knew quite well the deal didn’t stack up in commercial terms and supported my decision.

To win ahead of other applicants you need to do your homework and look to offer something a bit different. Don’t plaster the postal system with mass-produced applications. You may think that sending out many proposals and following up with phone calls may impress your boss. But don’t confuse activity with effectiveness. Many people also use this busy technique with media releases. But in both cases, busy outputs are counter-productive. In fact, such outputs are merely junk mail.

If you take a professional approach you will not send out many proposal documents at all because you will have filtered out the irrelevant companies and just focused hard on those who fit well with what you can offer. My e-book, The secrets of successfully seeking sponsorship, gives more guidance (

A tailored sponsorship proposal doesn’t mean sending a mail-merged covering letter and some primitive mail merging within the document. The proposal needs to genuinely deal with that sponsor’s specific needs.

The experts say that 75% of sponsorship time should be spent on research. Research each potential sponsor. Look for the fit with what you can offer to suit their unique needs. Their website or a Google search will reveal most of their priorities. Try to understand them and how you can help them reach and strengthen their relationships with their target audience. Check their sponsorship record to get a better idea of their strategy.

Hold a creative or brainstorm meeting to identify the benefits you can uniquely offer each sponsor. Look closely at what you have access to in terms of target audience and access to it. Time and effort invested in creativity can win you the money. It doesn’t have to be stupendous creativity, just find smart angles to show how the sponsor can connect better with their target audience through you. You are effectively the broker.

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the communications field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on communication techniques and management.


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