Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Anisha Robinson Keeys, @AnishaRKeeys. As Managing Director of Lance + Lee, Anisha helps non-profit and social entrepreneurship organizations secure human and monetary capital and diversify the ways they raise money in the areas of individual and corporate giving, social enterprise, and fundraising events. Anisha has raised over $66 million dollars in the areas of youth and women`s empowerment, education, disaster relief, arts and healthcare. For more info, visit http://lancelee.org/
SmallBizLady: Will a corporation sponsor anyone?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: Sponsorship offers a multitude of benefits to the sponsee, including but not limited to cash, products, clothes, shoes, sporting equipment, nutritional supplements, computers or software.
With all sponsorship relationships, the sponsor’s goal is to achieve a good return on investment. First on the list is to directly drive sales and or other marketing objectives. A sponsor’s other goals include making their product stand out from the competition.
Knowing whom to approach and who to avoid can save you a lot of time down the road. Some companies, like Levi Strauss & Co., make it clear they choose their sponsorships and do not accept unsolicited requests. Your time is better spent elsewhere and you may have better luck starting locally. For example, if you’re into women’s empowerment, you might have a better opportunity to partner with a local non-profit organization to start. Pursue sponsors who will support your collective efforts for mutual benefit.
SmallBizLady: What would motivate a corporation to sponsor you?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: To build relationships with your stakeholders and or the audiences you serve, for direct sales, and opportunities to sign up prospective customers for their product and or service, and/or to entertain and or provide networking opportunities for their clients.
Here are three ways to approach corporate sponsorship:
Community Involvement: Businesses benefit when they are identified with a commitment to their local community. It may be in your best interest to approach a potential sponsor from this angle.
Image Compatibility: You are the sponsee and YOU are the idea of the image they’re trying to promote, not the other way around.
Brand Ambassador and or Spokesperson: A company may want to use you to endorse a product by making appearances or advertising on their behalf. While under contract, your personality, behavior and loyalty matter a great deal.
SmallBizLady: What must you have, bring or do to attract a corporate sponsor?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: You must bring some type of value to your prospective customer. Provided you match the values and are influential with a targeted audience, many corporations are moving toward having outsiders be the “face” of a campaign, project or program. It doesn’t hurt to have a strong mailing list, social media following, and or be someone who is established as a thought leader in your field.
If you are thinking about pursuing sponsorship, be prepared to ask and answer a few questions:
- What is your organization trying to achieve?
- Can you effectively tell your organization’s story?
- What value could your organization provide to a prospective corporate sponsor?
- What impact on sales could a corporation make by supporting your organization?
SmallBizLady: How do you determine your value?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: First you need to know your prospective sponsors care about how you help them advance their efforts. It doesn’t matter that you are a good cause, do great work, etc. You must create a mutually beneficial value proposition to make them care. Don’t be shortsighted in thinking that logo recognition is of highest importance to corporate sponsors.
Questions to ask:
- How does your organization prove and measure its work?
- What value could any of your organization’s demographic audiences bring to potential corporate funders?
- Could any of your organization’s core values conflict with those of potential corporate funders?
Most of all, you must create a natural and mutually beneficial opportunity for a sponsor to offer financial support.
SmallBizLady: What’s an example of a mutually beneficial proposition?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: American Express frequently sponsors organizations and individuals and projects all over the country.
This deal allows:
- On- and off-site customer acquisition
- Increased usage of products with various constituents
- Opportunity for employee participation
SmallBizLady: Where and how can I find sponsorship prospects?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: Look at your “low hanging fruit” to mine for prospects. On what boards and committees do you serve? Who are your vendors (bank, accounting, and other services)?
Many people build their list in a grassroots fashion by gathering their colleagues who are “connectors” and hosting a prospect research session where connectors share their contact lists and agree to make introductions to prospective sponsors. Your goal is to get a face-to-face meeting (optimal) or a phone conversation with your prospect.
Don’t overlook your family, friends and neighbors—you’d be surprised at who is connected to the right people to get you sponsored.
If you don’t have the benefit of a personal introduction, but you have a strong value proposition, target appropriate companies and consider connecting with corporate or community relations and or marketing directors. Larger companies may have sponsorship managers or brand managers.
SmallBizLady: What questions should you ask and answer as you develop your proposal?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: What is the primary demographic of your organization’s donors, customers, stakeholders etc.? Is the potential sponsor already supporting organizations or people like you? If yes, which organizations? How can your event, project or program help your potential sponsor reach new audiences?
SmallBizLady: Does a graphic designer need to create your proposal?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: No. Your proposal doesn’t have to be fancy to get funded. 90% of my deals are made through having one to two phone calls, coming to a mutual agreement about the sponsor’s needs and my client’s offerings, sending those bullets by email –which leads to a Statement of Work (SOW) agreement that is contractual.
SmallBizLady: How does social media fit into all of this?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: Think about the ways your organization can help prospective sponsors leverage social media for positive reviews and coverage. How can you use your current social media following to drive business to your prospective sponsor?
I’ve sold sponsorship for:
Individual tweets: (At between $150-750 each.) These are great for connecting your followers directly to a sponsor’s coupon offer or other call to action.
Sponsored blog posts: If you have an active high traffic blog, invite your sponsor to be a guest blogger. The guest blog post should offer information and value to your mutual customer base.
TweetChat: Invite your Twitter followers to do a Q&A session through a live TweetChat. This is mutually beneficial as you earn more credibility through affiliation with a sponsor and your sponsor leverages the chat as a helpful sales pitch—often gaining new customers.
SmallBizLady: What are the top elements that should go into your proposal?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: Overall, your proposal should be a thorough representation of your organization, and the value of partnering. Most sponsors could care less about your structured sponsorship level chart—so don’t create that! Think outside of the box of the traditional platinum, gold, silver, or other cutesy substitutes or themed levels that match your organization’s brand or type of event. Opt for a list of a la carte benefits instead.
View your sponsorship proposal as a business pitch, with professionally presented content and layout, and make sure the proposal can stand on its own if you are unable to get a face-to-face meeting with your prospect.
Overview – Brief description of your organization Brief outline of the event, project, or program.
Objectives – Outline the objectives of the event, project, or program for which you are seeking support.
Target Market – Identify how your proposal matches the target market of the proposed sponsor or how it could increase the corporation’s market share
Sponsorship Benefits – Demonstrate how your organization complements your prospective sponsor’s goals and philosophy. Also include the cost of the investment.
Marketing – Detail how you plan to market the proposed project.
SmallBizLady: What are a few things people forget to include in their conversations with sponsors and or their proposal?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: Don’t forget to discuss things like exclusivity–make sure that sponsors are not in competition with each other. Try to keep the proposal under five pages and make sure to include a reply form.
You must assume prospective sponsors will not contact you directly; it is your responsibility to contact them.
SmallBizLady: If people want to pursue sponsorship, what actions should they take NOW?
Anisha Robinson Keeys: Know your value but approach the process by prioritizing what’s in it for “them”. Instead of need, focus on how your organization adds value for your corporate prospect.
Remain visible and vigilant on social media. Build and engage your followers and don’t be afraid to engage brands that are a good fit for your audience
Start to develop your list of prospects using the strategies I outlined above—especially engaging your connectors!
Consider partnering with an experienced sponsorship broker to organize, monitor and support your ongoing sponsor efforts.
Final thoughts: Generally, your corporate prospects don’t care about your organization, project or product. You must create a mutually beneficial value proposition to make them care, remember, “what’s in it for them.”
Add value and offer benefits beyond logo recognition.
You will hear NO more than you hear YES when soliciting sponsorship.
Don’t despair! Work toward building meaningful relationships over time that lead to a YES.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.