This week at the Western Sponsorship Congress in Calgary, I got a peek inside the world of corporate sponsorship. What I saw was both suprising and fascinating.
Although I can’t say I’m totally comfortable with everything I found out, I do think the approach of corporate sponsors to allocating funds has a lot to teach us about personal support to charities.
Tip #1: Know Yourself
The advice that the sponsors repeatedly gave was that any proposal absolutely has to be a good fit with the sponsoring company.
They’ve figured out what issue areas they want to focus on and why. They know what specific demographic groups they want to impact.
And they’re looking for partners who are able to address those requirements. A telecommunications company with a clearly articulated preference for supporting local events in the communities where its employees won’t consider a proposal from an international aid charity, for example.
This approach is a significant time saver. By narrowing down the types of things they’re willing to consider, sponsors are able to reject the bulk of the requests they receive with barely a look and no guilt at all. This frees them up to really pay attention to the ones with a chance.
By adopting this same attitude, charitable givers can save themselves enormous amounts of time and trouble. Start by understanding what your own values and goals are, and use that to find something that’s going to work for you.
Tip #2: Go narrow, go deep
Several of the biggest sponsors expressed a clear reluctance to spread themselves too thin with their sponsorships.
They align themselves with one or two specific kinds of things (professional sports, education, youth, etc.) and make connections with those causes in a number of ways. This goes beyond monetary contributions. It might mean having employees volunteer for a sponsored event. It might mean providing product (such as computers) to schools. The options are limited only by the creativity of those involved.
The corporations do this for business reasons, but it works for individual givers, too.
By limiting the number of causes you engage with and engaging with them as fully as possible, you ensure a more rewarding giving experience. For instance; by volunteering at the same organization where you give money, you become more knowledgeable about the issue and the work; by participating in the online community around your chosen issue, you connect with others who care about the same things you do.
Going narrow frees up your time and energy to make it easier to do all of this. Going deep gives you the ability to better understand the issue you care about and (even better) the impact you’re a part of creating. What could be more rewarding than that?
Tip#3: Understand and Monitor Your Objectives
For corporations, a sponsorship deal can be seen as a marketing transaction. They’re often seeking to build a favourable opinion of their company in the eyes of their current and potential customers and employees.
Whatever the specific reason for entering into a sponsorship arrangement, though, they clearly identify it from the outset, and make a point of finding out whether they get their money’s worth. They track media coverage that mentions them, they monitor how many people are exposed to their involvement; the list goes on.
The point is, they go in knowing what results they’re hoping for, and they pay attention to see if those results happen.
For individual donors, this is a hugely valuable outlook to have. Even if the result you’re hoping to produce is hard to measure, the mere fact of clearly naming it in advance is key.
Unless you know what your expectations are, it’s impossible to know whether they’re being fulfilled. Some time after giving, you might end up with a vague sense of disappointment, but no concrete action to take.
On the other hand, if you know what you’re hoping for and you pay attention to the work that happens after you give, you can get a pretty good sense of the success of your contribution.
If it goes as you’d hoped or better, that will be very rewarding. If it doesn’t, you now have an opportunity to go back to the organization and give them clear feedback about the problem.
So steal these tips from the pros to make your giving a more productive and rewarding experience! Thank you to the organizers of the Western Sponsorship Congress for including me in their event.