Presented at ORGPRO on July 17, 2007
By Sharlan Douglas, APR, President, Douglas Communications Group and
Debra McGuire, CAE, IOM, Director of Communications and Education, Michigan Townships Association
To create awareness about useful resources that can provide value to the membership and increase non-dues revenue for the association.
To help vendors understand what they can ask for when working with associations and to discover how to obtain value through creative marketing relationships.
Sponsorships and other traditional marketing methodologies are not adequately meeting the needs of today’s vendors.
You can’t “build it and they will come.” Successful sponsorships work from the outside in. As Fats Waller sang, “Find out what they like, and how they like it, and let them have it just that way.”
Research your vendors covertly (Internet) and overtly (interview them). Find out what other organizations they sponsor, how much they spend and why.
Benchmark yourselves against other similar organizations, aka your competition.
Analyze your sponsorships over the last 3-5 years. Slice and dice the data. Compare gross revenue from each of your programs, publications and events. Who are your largest sponsors? Smallest? Which ones are not giving enough compared to their status in their industry? Break them out into levels, e.g.
Under $2,000 a year
Create an honor roll: Vendors that commit in advance for a year’s worth of donations at a specified level get bonus benefits. (It helps them plan their annual budget and you only have to pester them once). Look for gaps. If you have a number of sponsors giving a total of $3,500 a year, use the honor roll to move them up to $5,000.
Use the results of your research to make the case to your board (not the other way around. Retooling your sponsorships or creating a comprehensive honor roll will take time. Consider legal implications; for example, calling sponsors “partners” implies a business relationship that you may not intend.
Consider also your mission, bylaws and corporate culture. Some organizations are very comfortable with an overtly commercial relationship with vendors, while others maintain arm’s length.
Members benefit from your efforts to help them learn about useful, beneficial products and services. Think about setting criteria for the kinds of businesses you will accept as sponsors.
The Internet could meet 80 percent of your communications needs. Printed materials don’t have to be extensive or expensive.
Make it easy for your customers. Don’t make prospects talk with three different staffers to understand all their marketing options. If you can’t create all-in-one account executives, make sure that all staffers who sell sponsorships know the features, benefits and costs of the other programs.
Create packages based on what you learned about your vendors. Be willing to customize them – one vendor won’t know what you’ve done for another.
IT’S OK TO SELL! You often will be dealing with people who are sales people themselves. They appreciate someone who gives them thorough information and who knows how to close a sale.