What is Sponsorship?

Before you can begin to ask how to get sponsorship money you have to start with the basics: What is sponsorship? Before you use my sponsorship proposal template let’s look at what corporate partnerships entail.
This is part one of a five part series focused on understanding the demands of sponsorship. How to know when you’re ready to jump in, how to avoid common mistakes, what to expect at your first meeting and how to get sponsors even if you’re on your 100th meeting. Whether you are working on an event sponsorship proposal, corporate philanthropy or working on cause related marketing campaigns, this article is for you!
Before we discuss what sponsorship is let’s break all the rules and start by defining sponsorship by what it is not.

 What is Sponsorship? Let’s Start with What it is Not!

  • A donation
  • A gift
  • Philanthropy
  • About slapping a logo on everything and anything
  • Easy
  • Just about sponsorship levels or a sponsorship package

So We Know What it isn’t…so then,

What is Sponsorship?

Corporate sponsorship is at its root a marketing spend and sponsors measure value based on return on their investment- not how many logos you put on a banner at an event. Sponsorship is a way for corporate entities to connect with their demographic, to build their brand and ultimately to find more customers. Companies can partner with charities to build their brand but they can also partner with for profit companies.

A note about terminology: corporate fundraising, sponsorship and cause marketing campaigns often refer to the same umbrella group of revenue though each focuses on a slightly different approach. I will be using these terms interchangeably throughout this article and my blog but my focus is on program and event sponsorship as well as smart corporate partnerships.

Corporate Sponsorship is Competitive

The importance of this point cannot be overstated.  When a charity moves into the realm of seeking sponsorship they are competing with other charities (nothing new here) but they are competing with for profit companies- magazines, websites, TV, ad space, sport teams…you name it! That means competing with for profit marketing budgets and sales teams.

Corporate Sponsorship is all About Partnership

If I had only 5 minutes to spend with someone to talk all things sponsorship, I would say as much of the following as I could:

  • Sponsorship is a partnership between the charity and sponsor and partnerships are based on trust and mutual value
  • One size fits all sponsorship packages have their place but in most cases are completely useless.  The gold, silver and bronze (and any variation of that theme) sponsorship package rarely works and always leave money on the table
  • You should never, ever submit a sponsorship package to a prospect until both parties agree that it fits the needs of the sponsor
  • The only way to know if your proposal meets the needs of a prospect is to meet, talk and e-mail before you submit anything
  • Never assume your prospect wants logo placement  (watch for an expensive example of me making this error in a future post)
  • When I do more listening than talking I sell more sponsorship opportunities
  • Sponsorship is hard and while it is fundraising, your major gift officer may not be the best person to take on this portfolio

If You Want to Know How to Write a Sponsorship Proposal, Ask Your Prospects!

Above all, you will never be able to guess what a potential sponsor wants.  All you can do is know your product, event, program etc. and who you appeal to and ask lots of questions. If your stakeholders are not your prospect’s target market, you don’t have a fit.

So you’ve read this far and are probably saying to yourself “this is all well and good but I still don’t know how to close a sponsorship sale.”  Good!  Sponsorship is involved and takes time to fully understand and this series will help.

Building a Sponsorship Proposal is a Process

The sponsorship process includes the following, each of which could be a single person’s full time job!

The Work Really Starts Once Your Sponsorship Proposal is Approved

So that’s it right?  You have cash in hand- see you next year when you need money again!  Not so fast, the money arriving means that the real work begins.

Once you have cash in hand, it’s now time for:

  • Meetings to discuss the sponsorship package and your corporate fundraising ideas in detail
  • Helping the sponsor to take advantage of their investment (Activation)
  • Creating a fulfillment checklist and strategy for each sponsor
  • Delivering your sponsorship obligations
  • Delivering your fulfillment report
  • Being held accountable for what you missed

Make Your Sponsorship Proposal Stand Out

Some companies hear from thousands of charities every month wanting their sponsorship dollars or looking for event sponsorship along with thousands of for profit companies wanting the same.  Surprise your next prospect by coming to the table ready to listen to their needs and by proactively creating a strategy that helps them meet those needs. Prove to them that you know how to help them reach their customers and see what happens.


Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.

After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.

Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn