April 28, 2016

How Can You Increase Your Sponsors’ ROI?

Plate of honey with honeycombs Your board chair introduces Rob, the sponsor of the day. Polite applause ushers Rob to the microphone. Rob captures the room when he shares how glad his firm is to sponsor the event. He announces three surprising facts about his work before issuing a challenge to take a quiz on the table and win a prize.  He introduces the speaker. As the event concludes, Rob and his coworkers linger and meet people. Back at the office, they compare notes, distribute prizes, and make follow-up appointments.

Rob and his firm engaged in sticky ROI sponsorships.  Sticky ROI sponsorships generate new relationships. They move existing connections ahead in the customer acquisition process. Stickiness creates a positive association between the event, the nonprofit, the business, and potential customers. Sticky ROI sponsorships return every dollar and more than sponsors invest.

You can create sticky sponsorships to increase your sponsors’ ROI and, in turn, your nonprofit revenue. Check out How to Succeed Getting Nonprofit Corporate Sponsors and How to Grow Your Sponsorships Dollars for more. Successful sponsorships allow you to increase your sponsorship rates and generate “rinse and repeat” future commitments.

The Sponsorship ROI Challenge

Most event sponsorships barely stick. Like a self-stick note taped to a brick wall, they cling to our minds for a moment before fluttering to the floor.

Want proof? Name one sponsor from the last three events you attended. At the events, you heard the sponsor’s names. You noticed the banners. You saw the Powerpoint and applauded to thank them.  But, can you name them now?

Most of us fail to remember the sponsors. Why? Afterward, en route to our offices or after jumping on our next call, and in the days that follow, we’re bombarded with other names, announcements, and news. If the event sponsor’s name sticks, it’s remembered. Otherwise, the sponsor’s ROI suffers.

The good news is that research proves that even un-sticky sponsorships create lasting positive impressions on attendees. However, obtaining a “positive impression” may not be enough return for a potential sponsor to invest or renew a nonprofit sponsorship. When I ask my business clients about their return on event sponsorships, most reply, “Not much, but we like helping the cause.” Occasionally clients can trace substantial returns. The majority report nebulous gains.

Helping your sponsors gain sticky ROI returns on their investment supports all the labor you put into events and make your sponsorship stand out. They support profitable events, improve your income and brand.

Sticky Solutions ROI

Here are a few practical and innovative solutions I’ve developed for clients that support sticky ROI sponsorships.

Sticky Pre-Event ROI

Most of the effort to create sticky ROI sponsorships occurs before events.

  1. Pick your sponsors carefully. Who can benefit from sponsoring your event? Note: This is a very different question from, “Who can we “get” as a sponsor?”
  2. Get sticky early. Set early deadlines.
  3. Ask the business leaders whom they hope will be in the room. Reach beyond automatic answers, such as, “Wealthy people who will become customers.” Instead, get specifics: “People who are new in town and need financial support.” Coax your sponsors to sharpen the focus. While our exploring this issue,  consider where you might offer a joint invitation. Take back what you learn to your office to build your invitation list.
  4. Suggest and help the sponsor craft a pre, during, and follow-up event plan. How will they activate their sponsorship? Which benefits will they take advantage of in their package? Determine what help, if any, they need from you.
  5. In advance, develop emails and materials to support the sponsors’ marketing. To reduce your labor, explore if the sponsor marketing people like to help.
  6.  Discuss what introductions they would like at the event. Assign this task to board members, staff, and long-time volunteers.
  7. At least 48-hours before the event, provide an attendee list with affiliations.
  8. Since sponsors can actually harm their cause by overselling or droning, provide a template script for introductions. Here, you have options. Sharing a clipping file of successful introductions. Or provide a coaching/planning session with a volunteer expert.
  9. Plan your introduction of the sponsor. Make it thoughtful and memorable. If possible, include a personal endorsement.

Sticky During The Event ROI

At most events, you’ll be enjoying greeting people and finalizing details. Support your sponsors by:

  1. Encouraging sponsors, board members, and staff to arrive early so people can begin introductions.
  1. Station sponsors (and helpers) at intersections in the room to greet guests and help with crowd control. Ask assigned helpers to catch the overflow and help move along overly chatty guests.

Sticky Ever After ROI

After events, everyone on your staff will be ready for a break and to get back to “normal.” The post-event period offers more ROI opportunities.  The opportunities provide significant rewards with minimal effort.

  1. Within 48 hours, call to thank the sponsors. Ask about their experiences. Offer follow-up suggestions. Strategize on ways to capitalize on their investment. Can you develop something together? For instance, the sponsor might provide a list of the resources discussed and provide them to attendees. As you conclude your conversation, share that you will check in a month because ROI takes time.
  1. Call in 30 days. Share any good news about the event’s successes. Thank the donor for making it happen. Inquire about their results. Offer any feedback and any insights about how the sponsor might achieve even more in the future. Let them know about their next opportunity and when you’ll be contacting them. (Put this date in your calendar.)
  1. Add to this list. You can make future sponsorships opportunities even stickier.

Sticky Sponsorships ROI Without Backbreaking Labor

Sticky ROI sponsorships are labor-saving devices. They make renewals a LOT easier.  (See Regain Your Lapsed and Waffling Sponsors and Your Donors, Sponsors, and Funders Can You Keep Them?) Plus, you shift most of the work well before the event. What sticky value will you help your sponsors create?

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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