Maintaining the balance between sponsors and members is a delicate undertaking. You and your members look to sponsorship dollars to keep registration fees low and the quality of your events high. Sponsors, on the other hand, want opportunities to speak to their best customers.
Sponsorship dollars may be critical to funding your mission, but members don’t want to be inundated with sales pitches everywhere they turn. How can you keep your sponsors happy year after year, especially during downturns, and still provide an enjoyable experience for your members? Here are our suggestions:
#1 – Get to know your sponsors
If you have a small number of sponsor prospects, start a conversation with them about what they need from their sponsor dollars. Some companies only want to exhibit in your trade show or vendor showcase. Others want more exposure. One of the best ways to know which sponsor wants what benefits is to ask.
If you have a larger number of potential sponsors, develop a sponsorship application that allows a sponsor to tell you what they want – from a budget-friendly presence at your trade show to full event sponsorship.
After an event is over, make sure you debrief each of your sponsors. Let them tell you what went well and what didn’t. Keep the conversation positive with a focus on improving all sponsorship programs, even those that are well-managed.
#2 – Get to know your members
In much the same way you communicate with your sponsors, start conversations with your members about what they expect from sponsor interactions. Ask when they are most likely to seek out a sponsor and in what venue. Find out what they prefer about sponsor interactions and what they try to avoid. Inquire about their interest in seeing innovative products or services. Explore their tolerance for live demos. When you know what your members like and are drawn to, you can help your sponsors design their approach.
#3 – Establish a sponsorship advisory board
Create a sponsorship advisory board comprising both sponsors and association members. This board can provide insights into creating sponsorship opportunities that are beneficial for both parties and align with the association's goals.
#4 – Determine the revenue goals for your sponsorship programs
Decide how much money you need from sponsorships and where you plan to use the revenue. Once you know how much revenue your program needs to generate, you can start to price the individual components.
You’ll also want to match anticipated sponsorship revenues to the programs that need funding. You might find that you need more revenue for a program than sponsorship alone can generate. You might also find that sponsorship dollars can be dedicated to fund new initiatives.
#5 – Research your current offerings and investigate new ideas
Make a list of all the ways a vendor or service provider can gain access to your members. Once you have a complete list, start to analyze where your sponsorship dollars are coming from and where they’re being spent. Determine how much funding the sponsorship program needs to operate, and what its net proceeds are. Sunset the programs that aren’t effective and consider new ways to attract sponsor dollars. Rely on the conversations you’ve already had with sponsors and members to find the best fit.
#6 – Create customized sponsorship packages
Create customizable sponsorship packages that cater to the specific needs and goals of sponsors. This allows sponsors to choose options that align with their objectives, ensuring a mutually beneficial partnership.
#7 – Allow sponsors to conduct educational sessions
Allow sponsors to conduct educational sessions or workshops during association events. This provides valuable content for members while giving sponsors a platform to showcase their expertise.
#8 – Promote recognition programs
Implement recognition programs that acknowledge sponsors in non-intrusive ways. This could include logo placements, mentions in newsletters, or acknowledgment during events without overshadowing the association's core activities.
#9 – Encourage collaborative content
Encourage sponsors to collaborate on content creation that is relevant and valuable to members. This could include co-authored articles, case studies, or joint webinars that showcase the sponsor's expertise. Ensure that education is the primary goal and that the content is more than a long commercial for the sponsor’s products and services.
#10 – Foster long-term partnerships
Encourage long-term partnerships with sponsors to build sustained relationships. This can lead to more integrated and well-received sponsorship strategies that become part of the association's culture.
By carefully tailoring sponsorships to align with the association's goals and member preferences, it is possible to create beneficial partnerships for both sides. As your sponsors get to know your association and you get to know your sponsors, you can plan unique offerings that initiate and build strong relationships throughout the organization.
Emma is the Marketing Manager at Rhythm. When she's not thinking about all things content-related, you can find her traveling or shooting 35 mm film.