7 Ways to Get Your Board on Board With Sponsorship

Following on from Chris’ excellent article on what boards need to know about sponsorship, here are a few extra tips on how you can make it much easier for your board members to become more comfortable with supporting your sponsorship efforts.

Remember, and Realize, the Difference Between Sponsorship and Philanthropy

Chris and I have both emphasized this heavily in the past, but it always warrants repeating! Over the years I’ve had some very interesting conversations with companies about both their philanthropic and sponsorship goals, and typically they are very different. Where philanthropy might be about meeting social goals, sponsorship is about meeting business goals. By helping your board members to appreciate this difference, they will be more successful in their approaches and go into conversations with the right mindset.

Share Some Real Examples of Sponsorship Relationships

Nothing illustrates how sponsorship works better than sharing some real examples of sponsorship relationships at work. Be clear to use examples that illustrate how this is NOT philanthropy, and about the company’s business goals, so that they can really see the difference.

Walk them through the process you went through to get the sponsor on board, and demonstrate to them how the process led to the successful relationship, showing them that this is a process that they too can follow.

Invite Your Board Members to Meet Happy Sponsors

Your happy sponsors can be your best advocates. Give your board members the opportunity to meet with happy sponsors and encourage them to talk with them about what works about the relationship, and how this is a win win for everyone.

You can also use this meeting point as chance for your board members to get involved in thanking sponsors for their support, so that you can build a deeper connection between your organization and the sponsor.

Give Board Members the Tools They Need

This does NOT mean arm your board member with a sponsorship proposal! What would be far more helpful at this point would be to provide them with:

  • Some background on the company and other sponsorship partnerships that they may have been involved with
  • Some information on your organization’s audiences and assets
  • Some information about the person that they are meeting, and their role within the company
  • Some key questions to ask, to get the conversation flowing in the right way. Examples might include:
  • Can you tell me more about your business goals?
  • What activities do you find work really well to help your build your business?
  • What markets are you predominantly looking to reach?
  • What does a successful sponsorship arrangement look like to you? What does it help you to achieve?

May sure your board member feeds this valuable information to you as soon as possible, so that you can follow up promptly.

Help Your Board to Understand WHO They are Talking With

Even if your board member is meeting with a friend within the company, it is crucial that they understand their friend’s priorities. I’ve talked with both community giving representatives and sponsorship leads within the same company, I have sometimes wondered if I was talking about the same place!

Your role, and therefore the role of your board member, in relation to the company, is to make the corporate contact’s life easier, or to help them to be more successful. By understanding the contact’s priorities, whether it is charitable giving, staff engagement, or business development, you can find ways to support them in their goals, and leave them feeling that you are the answer to their prayers.

Start With Some Low-Hanging Fruit

Once you get your board to agree to support you in your sponsorship journey, see if you can provide them with some easy wins to get involved with. Nothing breeds enthusiasm more than success!

So don’t start them off with complex scenarios or obscure “opportunities” where the fit may hard to find, or indeed, where it might not exist at all. Help your board members to understand that with the right offer, you are far from begging for funds, but finding a mutually beneficial arrangement that both parties can be ecstatic about!

They Only Need to Have a Conversation!

It is very unlikely that your board member will be involved all the way through the process. In fact, in many cases, it wouldn’t even be advisable! It is crucial that if you are the sponsorship lead, you can keep control over the whole process in order to avoid potential risks around board members, or others, making offers to companies that your organization is unable to fulfill.

So let your board member off the hook, and help them to understand that their role is to open doors, and have conversations with their contacts to find out their business interests and if there is a potential fit. Their only goal might therefore be to secure a follow up, perhaps with you as the sponsorship lead.

About the Author: Mena Gainpaulsingh is a fundraising professional and consultant specializing in strategy, individual giving, capital campaigns, grant writing, prospect research and event management. She has worked in the sector for 18 years, initially at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, where she worked on a capital campaign to build a new treatment centre for torture survivors.

As a consultant, Mena has worked with a broad range of organizations, including WaterAid Canada, Starlight Children’s Foundation and Virgin Unite. She has delivered training internationally on strategy, major gifts, international fundraising, donor stewardship and grant writing at a number of venues, including: City of Ottawa Arts Centres, Volunteer Ottawa, Algonquin College AFP Ottawa and Toronto. In a voluntary capacity Mena sits on the boards of the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary and AFP Ottawa, where she is Vice President of Professional Development.

She is dedicated to supporting the professional development of fundraisers and enjoys helping charities navigate their way through their various fundraising challenges.