I usually write articles for sponsorship seekers (my ebook on “How to win corporate sponsorship” is my second biggest seller), but most communicators act on behalf of sponsorship givers rather than seekers. In my own experience as a corporate affairs manager with several organizations, sponsorship often has been the single biggest component of our annual communication budget and therefore it is important attract the right sponsorship approaches.
Many large organizations receive hundreds of sponsorship proposals every year. Most of these proposals are a real pest because they aren’t tailored to your needs. I know – as a corporate affairs manager, I used to receive many of these types of proposals and begging letters. Most of them, unfortunately, were a waste of everyone’s time because they weren’t targeted to our requirements.
Corporate sponsorship has a commercial purpose. It requires a measurable return on investment in marketing or relationship terms. (Sponsorship isn’t a donation to a worthy cause. By definition, donations are given with no expectation of anything in return and therefore have no commercial purpose.) Organizations have to justify their sponsorship decisions according to the benefits they will receive in dollars or in better outcomes from their relationships with key stakeholders. Therefore, sponsorship proposals need to address the specific needs of the sponsor in order to maximize effectiveness.
The best way to improve the quality of proposals and reduce the number of unwelcome approaches is to communicate – tell people what you want! Spell out to potential applicants what you are looking for in their proposals. Your corporate website is the best avenue to outline your sponsorship policy and guidelines. More advice on this in a forthcoming e-book on giving corporate sponsorship.
Prepare a concise paper that outlines your sponsorship policy and guidelines, post it to your corporate website, and make it widely available. Consider where sponsorship seekers contact your organization about sponsorship. Typical approaches are made to your:
- Head office
- Regional offices
- Sponsorship department
- Public relations department
- Marketing department
- Community relations department
- Advertising agency
- Chairman or CEO’s office
- Managers in discussion with others on operational issues
- Other staff who may be personally known to the sponsorship seeker.
Ensure your sponsorship document is circulated widely to every department within your organization – to managers and especially to frontline staff who receive contacts from the public – staff such as receptionists, personal assistants, telephonists, secretaries and call centre staff. Enquirers can simply be referred to the sponsorship area of your corporate website or a copy of the guidelines can be emailed or posted to them. The job of your frontline staff is made easier by having this material at hand.
Also, your employees will better understand your sponsorship strategy if you circulate the document internally to them. They will be able to provide useful advice to people who may raise the possibility of sponsoring groups they are associated with. Sometimes employees themselves suggest sponsorship activities to you and therefore the guidelines can assist them to understand what is required.
If you receive proposals from people who have obviously not read your sponsorship guidelines, return their application with a copy of your guidelines and a form letter requesting them to revise their application to fit your selection criteria. They may not be pleased about being obliged to do more work, but they will start to realize that tailored approaches are essential if they have any chance of getting to first base.