Corporate relations is an essential part of any development office and typically falls into two categories: corporate grants, and sponsorship gifts. Depending on the company you’re working with, one gift could be coming from multiple budgets within the organization. Below are a couple of helpful tips to keep in mind when preparing that next corporate sponsorship visit.
1. Do you know what you’re selling?
Having a comprehensive catalog of available options not only helps your potential donor visualize the many options available, but it also helps keep your office in order. If you are new to the team, or bringing a new member on, having an established catalog will be an invaluable tool for their training. This doesn’t have to be a flashy piece, but you should have some list of the available options ranging from special events, workshops, spaces, programs, etc. If you’ve not gone through this process before, you might surprise yourself with just how many opportunities are available, or conversely, what you’re missing to round out your sponsorship portfolio.
Don’t have a catalog? Here are a few tips to get you started: what it is (the event or thing), price range, date(s) of the program/event if applicable, recognition offered, and sponsor benefits and the fair market value (or non-deductible) portion of the gift if applicable.
2. Do your research
I know I am most likely preaching to the choir on this one, but even if you’re asking a long-time sponsor for a meeting, do a quick check of their website. What are the supporting right now? Have they changed focus? Let’s face it, the reason we’re always on the lookout for new sponsors (in addition to raising additional funds for our organizations) is because corporations change focus, board members change, and inevitably budgets change. It is better to go into a meeting knowing a sponsor may have to trim their support this year and have some fantastic options to choose from, then to learn about it during a meeting and not have back up options prepared.
3. Corporations are people too
In other words, while there are differences in how you approach and steward individual vs. corporate donors, remember – they are still donors. How you steward your corporate donors, barring corporate changes in focus, will ultimately determine how involved they will be with your non-profit. Corporations can be great partners for bringing in more than just dollars, they are a perfect place to recruit volunteers and committee members.
4. Be mindful of increased prices
I worked with a group once who thought they should automatically ask for a 3% increase in sponsorship every year from their corporate donors. Personally, I think that is one of the quickest ways to ruin a great relationship with a corporate partner. Be sure to ask for increases when they are warranted, but keep in mind that organizational budgets change and if you’re always asking for more, it will give the impression to your donor that you’re in a one-sided relationship.
Thinking back to #2 on our list, if you come prepared knowing that increasing a sponsorship isn’t likely with a sponsor, but bring options that can still fit (most) of their needs, this will let them know you’re in this relationship for the long-term. It’s also good stewardship.
5. How flexible are you?
Flexibility can mean many things, and here I am specifically referring to your catalog of options and the go/no-go areas for your organization. If a sponsor wanted to increase their gift, but wanted to have a sign at your front entrance showcasing them as a sponsor, would you do it? If someone wanted to increase their gift, but needs an extra table to your sold out gala, do you give it? You’ll never have all the answers up front, but when it comes to spaces or programs, know where and when you’re comfortable putting names or logos (and know which one you prefer). This might be a good conversation to have with your CEO to get their thoughts about logo/name placement at your site if this isn’t a conversation you’ve had before.
6. Say thank you & follow-up
I am sure this goes without saying, but remember to THANK YOUR DONORS! In addition to their initial thank you letter, I often prepare a year-end thank you letter for my corporate donors to highlight all the ways they’ve helped my organization this past year, with pictures and quotes whenever possible. It reminds them about all the benefits they’ve received, the impact their funding created, and provides a great chance to set up a meeting for the new year. Also, as you set up tours and lunches with your individual donors, be sure to include your corporate decision makers (and their families if appropriate) into this schedule – it could pay off!
Best of Luck,
Amy Lazoff is an Associate with SNF Writing Solutions, LLC