Planning in sponsorship is the most underestimated stage of creating a successful strategy. When you decide that you are ready to engage corporate partners, you also need to have everything in place internally by the time you make your approach to a brand (because once you’ve made an approach you can’t take it back and start over.) Your plan should focus on maximising internal support and ensuring you have robust organisational processes that set you up for success at all levels. Correct planning includes creating a culture of commercial acumen or ‘sponsorship friendliness’ that promotes whole-of-organisation commitment to support your efforts. For-Purpose organisations that are successful at engaging corporate support are the ones that know why their supporters are a potential target market to a company and what communication channels they can offer to leverage the ideal partnership.
Finding brands that are the ‘right fit’ for your organisation is a vital part of the sponsorship process. Unfortunately, this is where most For-Purpose organisations choose to start their journey. The high priority need for more funds drives many charities to approach any brand without fully understanding just how successful they could be if they had a clearer action plan. The challenge of commencing your sponsorship journey in this phase means that you have missed vital steps in the process (like forgetting to create the foundation of your new house before putting the walls in!) Unless you know what you have to offer, are supported internally and have policies in place that define how your organisation sees corporate partnerships, then you are potentially building your house on sand… and we all know how that turns out! Finding the brands that are willing to align with your organisation is not just about asking ‘who are we going to approach?’ It means taking the time to value your offering to sponsors, do your research to ensure a strong alignment and build relationships with potential partners before you send them a proposal.
Connecting with partners who are aligned with your mission and can see the value of you being a direct route to their target market is a milestone worth celebrating! Understandably, many For-Purpose organisations get to this stage of the process with feelings elation, knowing the value of this investment, but this natural excitement can all too often lead many to take their focus back to their ‘core work’ and new partners and fresh promises are left forgotten, leading to difficult conversations, uncomfortable relationships and no chance of renewal or investment for the following year. You must secure the connection. Ensuring you have the right tools, contracts and processes in place to make it as easy as possible for a partner to stay with you and enjoy the experience of becoming part of your ‘community’s family’.
Keeping sponsors is the name of the game! Don’t employ months of hard work only to lose them because you haven’t delivered what you promised, or worse, created expectations that you weren’t able to keep. It’s inevitable that partnerships will come to an end at some point and as long as you are able to identify what is happening then you can still maintain respectful and collegiate relationships. However, sometimes things just don’t work out – what then? This phase is about ensuring that you are in control and can identify what’s best for your organisation to maintain your sustainability.
Best practice sponsorship starts with your organisation and ends with your organisation. That’s where the buck should always stop. When you are able to flow through the planning, finding, connecting and keeping phases you will be able to continually tweak, tighten and refine your processes and approaches to keep growing your network of partners that want to see your success as much as you do.