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How CJ Landed a $30,000 Multi-Year Partnership Within Three Days of Working With Us…

by | June 28, 2023

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CJ Scarlet’s Road to Success

Last week, we looked at Anissa Cooke’s path to sponsorship success in the synthetic biology sphere. Today, I want to review an extraordinary case, the story of CJ Scarlet.

CJ is the volunteer Vice President of Harmony: NC LGBT+ Allied Chamber of Commerce in Clayton, North Carolina. Just as the title says, she earned a five-figure multiyear sponsorship agreement after only three days of starting the Sponsorship Accelerator.

I’m sure you’re dying to know how she did it, so let’s get into it.

CJ’s volunteer position saw her rising in the ranks fast. Within a week of serving as the VP of her LGBT+ volunteer organization, she became the head of corporate partnerships and outreach. 

However, she struggled in the beginning. She spent way too much time promoting her cause (she told me she would “dominate” the conversation) and presented her information out of order, which would cause sponsors to make snap decisions they maybe wouldn’t have had they had all the information. 

It wasn’t CJ’s fault. She had no sponsorship experience, and this role had been foisted upon her. She was literally learning as she went, throwing things at the wall to see what stuck. 

However, she wasn’t happy with this approach. Even though she wasn’t being paid to do sponsorship (remember, CJ does all volunteer work) and didn’t know the first thing about it, she wanted to excel in her new role. 

So she did what anyone does when they want to learn more about something: she Googled sponsorship. 

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Our services at the Sponsorship Collective came up high on the list, and after speaking to her fellow board members, CJ joined the Sponsorship Accelerator. She had already gotten a lot of use out of my free materials, such as this blog and my YouTube channel, and she thought she could get even more value out of the paid material.

And she did, in a major way. After only three days of starting the Sponsorship Accelerator, CJ had secured a $30,000 multiyear sponsor. 

Now, let me preface this by saying this is rather uncommon. CJ is a bit of a sponsorship legend around here, but her accomplishment proves that it’s possible for anyone to grow their sponsorship endeavors, even if they lack experience.

Maybe it won’t happen in three days, but it will happen!

CJ also benefits in that the LGBT+ space is hugely popular right now. It wasn’t always, but more brands want to align with inclusive values, which opened up her sponsorship opportunities. 

However, if she hadn’t learned the basics, even her cause wouldn’t have been enough to land her the high-profile sponsorship she’s since achieved. 

In our interview, CJ told me that the amount of sponsorship dollars she brought in from the first 90 days in the Sponsorship Accelerator was more than her organization had achieved in the last 30 years. 

Applying the Principles CJ Scarlet Learned to Your Own Sponsorship Program

CJ is one of my Sponsorship Collective superstars, and I’m really glad I got to share her story. Without further ado then, let’s get into the lessons and principles CJ learned by joining the Sponsorship Accelerator and explain how you can use them for your ongoing sponsorship properties. 

You Can’t Rely Heavily on Your Cause

I know I’m going to sound like a broken record to those of you who read this blog frequently enough, but for those of you who are new or contemplating joining the program, it’s worth saying again.

Volunteer and nonprofit sponsorship is a tricky subject. You come from a background where you win over your donors by promoting your cause. Then you get into sponsorship and try the same thing, and it doesn’t work.

Sponsorship isn’t and won’t ever be philanthropy. You can find donors in the volunteer space and investors in the financial space, but sponsors occupy the marketing space.

A partnership with a sponsor is transactional. That’s not to say they’re an ATM that hands out cash because that’s not what I mean. 

Rather, you’re not getting something for nothing, nor is the sponsor. 

The sponsor will give you cash or promotions in exchange for your assets and activations. The goal of those is whatever the sponsor needs, be that more brand awareness, leads, sales, you name it. 

A cause can be a jumping-off point for having those marketing conversations, but it can’t be all you bring to the table. 

You must have tailored assets and activations. You need fine-tuned audience data with at least 25 data points for each audience group. When you have these things, you can slot in a conversation about your cause a lot easier, and the sponsor will be more receptive. 

CJ told me that her biggest issue before beginning the Sponsorship Accelerator was being too forceful about her cause. It goes to show that even if you champion a cause that most people care dearly about, such as LGBT+ rights, it’s not enough to get a sponsorship deal. 

You Must Know What to Present to Sponsors and When 

Another issue that left CJ feeling frustrated early on was that sponsors were making quick decisions without all the facts. She’ll admit that she was responsible for this, as she wasn’t presenting all the pertinent information upfront. 

This is a common sponsorship error. Some sponsorship seekers simply don’t know what sponsors want most, which was CJ’s issue. Others know but don’t have what sponsors want, such as detailed audience data, so they bury what scant information they have in the hope that the sponsor won’t notice.

Well, let me tell you something, they notice, and they pass on a potential deal

Of all the components of a sponsorship property, which does a sponsor care about the most? That’s simple. It’s your audience.

You must put your audience front and center. They’re the most important part of any sponsorship proposal, and they’re your primary asset, so they should be featured primarily in your sponsorship package. 

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Sponsors want access to your audience to integrate them into their customer base. That’s assuming, of course, that you researched your audience and used the data you gathered to select sponsorship prospects.

Be Willing to Learn

CJ is one of my favorite sponsorship stories because she did more work in the first few weeks of her time in the Sponsorship Accelerator than I’ve seen some people achieve who work in sponsorship professionally. 

She wasn’t getting paid for her sponsorship role, yet she took it as seriously as she was. She didn’t even ask for the sponsorship job within her committee, but once it was assigned to her, she took the flag and ran with it. 

She knew she could have achieved better outcomes for Harmony and was eager to improve. CJ looked up sponsorship tactics in her personal time, and that’s how she found my services at the Sponsorship Collective. 

If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll get the same results you always have. Sponsors won’t suddenly wake up one day and wish to work with you if you don’t change anything about your approach. 

You must have a willingness and hunger to do better and be better, and an ability to admit that you don’t know it all. 

CJ achieved great things with her can-do attitude, and you could too! 

A Good Team Is Important

Although I’ve given CJ credit, it was through her and her team at Harmony that the organization tasted sponsorship success. CJ stressed that to me throughout our interview. 

Her team was willing to take a chance on our services here, as CJ had to convince them to use organization funding for the Sponsorship Accelerator.

I know many sponsorship seekers feel like they must go through the sponsorship process by themselves. Even if you’re the only one in charge of your company’s sponsorship endeavors, such as is the case for CJ, that doesn’t mean you can’t fall back on the others in your department or on your team.

Ask for help, rally together, ping-pong ideas, draft emails together, and do whatever it takes. 

The Right Assets Matter

One of the projects CJ has in the works with Harmony that she was most excited about was creating what she believes is the first LGBT+ co-working space. 

Co-working spaces are a popular trend as it is, but when you add the LGBT+ element, you have a recipe for success. Unsurprisingly, many companies have already clambered to become a part of it since it’s the first of its kind. That would be great press for Harmony’s sponsorship partner(s).

I love this asset so much not only because it’s innovative, but it touches on sponsorship needs well. Sponsors often want to expand new roles or enhance their reputation and aligning with an LGBT+ cause helps them do that. 

To spearhead a new LGBT+ initiative with an organization like Harmony? It’s the icing on the cake. 

Your sponsorship property must have assets that get sponsors salivating. I’m not saying you must come up with something that hasn’t been done before (but if you can and it ties into a sponsor’s needs, more power to you!).

However, choose your assets (and activations for that matter) less on what seems cool and more on what drives your audience and helps your sponsor. 

Change Is Good

CJ took over Harmony’s sponsorship endeavors recently, but the organization was no stranger to sponsorship. It fell into a lot of the archaic sponsorship pitfalls, such as using gold, silver, and bronze packages. 

Originally, CJ had pursued sponsorship that way as well because she believed that’s what you were supposed to do. However, once she began watching my videos, reading my blog, and later, partaking in the Sponsorship Accelerator, she realized that tiered sponsorship was the wrong way to go.

When she told her team this, they disagreed. They were so used to doing sponsorship their way that they were reluctant to accept any alternatives. CJ used her persuasive skills to convince them to try, and it’s a great thing they did because it paid back dividends for them.

Another area where CJ had to really fight to get her team to change its mind was customizing sponsorship packages. Originally, they told her it would be too hard to customize a package for each prospective sponsor. 

However, CJ disagreed. She convinced her team to give it a try by reminding them that they could earn more sponsorship dollars for offering a tailored, custom package than for something cookie-cutter. 

Change isn’t easy, but it’s almost always good. Embrace it, as you’ll constantly have to change up your sponsorship game. That’s right, even if you find something that works.

Why is that? Sponsorship is not one size fits all. You might discover a solution that works for one sponsor, but that doesn’t mean it will suit another. You must stay flexible to accommodate the needs of each sponsor you work with. 

Ask for More

CJ is a writer by trade. Although she’s mostly retired these days (hence the volunteering gigs), she authors books, and she also has a journalism background. 

That didn’t give her the edge when talking to sponsors that you might have assumed, at least not at first. Once she completed her training in the Sponsorship Accelerator and learned which topics to prioritize and when, she found it so much easier to talk to sponsors.

Better yet, they enjoyed speaking to her. They knew they weren’t going to receive a sales spiel but thoughtful conversations.

One of the questions CJ asked that I advocate for as well is, “can you tell me more about that?”

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This simple question can extract more information from a sponsor, which is especially valuable during a discovery session.

For example, let’s say you’re asking a prospect about their company’s current challenges, and they tell you sales fell in the last quarter. That’s good information, but you could use more details.  

By asking for more, they might divulge that sales dropped by 32 percent and were down 15 percent from this time last year. 

It’s kind of like peeling the layers of an onion. It gets easier the more you keep going, and you reveal more information as you do it. 


CJ Scarlet is one of my favorite sponsorship case studies because she went from knowing nothing about sponsorship to landing a dream sponsorship deal in only three days after joining the Sponsorship Accelerator.

She got into sponsorship on a volunteer basis and didn’t have to put her heart and soul into it like she did. She recognized that she didn’t know enough about sponsorship to do her new job effectively and sought to learn.

She wasn’t afraid to discard the old sponsorship methods that clearly did not serve her LGBT+ organization and try something new. She’s living proof that anyone can succeed at sponsorship if they’re willing to give it their best!