Badges, Bags and Keycards: Do we remember?

nonprofit association conference Flax Associates

Think about a conference that you attended hosted by another organization. Do you recall who sponsored the badges? Bags? Keycards? Coffee break the afternoon of the second day?

Doubtful.

The reality is we forget (and we are in the sponsorship business!) and attendees rarely remember. As a result, corporate executives don’t value these opportunities in the way that we would hope.    

The standard approach is to offer one-off transactional benefits associated with a conference, gala dinner or other events.  This may bring revenue from companies that view the event a ‘must attend’. Yet, these options fall short of corporations achieving their objectives – and make it difficult to generate significant revenue. For the next event, we offer the same benefits, reach out to the same folks, and often end up frustrated and disappointed.  

Corporations are besieged with funding requests from many nonprofits – ranging from aquariums to zoos. Generally, the offerings are similar and make it difficult to grab the attention of corporate decision-makers. How many senior executives want to discuss badge details or the color of the conference bag? We need  to differentiate ourselves! We should move from a transaction-based sponsorship approach to broader partnerships at higher investment levels and address the following: 

  1. Identify our assets and corresponding benefits.  To differentiate our organization, the first step is to assess our assets (audiences, communication channels, programs/initiatives).  Determine how to convert assets into benefits that will resonate with corporate interests.
  2. Engagement first, dollars second.  Connect with corporate representatives and gain an understanding of their programs/campaigns, objectives, and successful partnerships.  If we show a genuine interest in their plans/efforts – we are more likely to generate interest and learn about opportunities that offer value.
  3. Structure our partnership program. Establish offerings or programs based on insights gained from corporate contacts and aligned with our assets. Structure partnerships with opportunities to connect with our audience in an appropriate manner aligned with our organizational culture.
  4. Gain needed buy-in. Ensure that our board and/or senior leadership are aware and involved throughout the process. Understand their perspectives, concerns, and suggested path forward. Gain approval and seek support in conveying the value of the partnership program to staff.
  5. Connect with decision-makers at the right corporations.  Shift conversations from low-level corporate staffers to senior level decision-makers. Avoid going back to the well too often.  Reaching out to the same companies over and over again will lead to frustration and resentment. Connect with the right corporate contacts and provide offerings based on their needs and interests. This will lead to stronger relationships and a higher level of investment.

Standard one-off sponsorships are lazy, boring, and often lead to decreased interest and reduced revenue. If you are seeking to differentiate yourself from the crowd of organizations seeking support and an increase in income, go beyond offering badges, bags, and keycards.

Flax Associates helps associations and nonprofits establish mutually beneficial partnerships that enhance value offered and result in additional funding. We help develop the strategy, structure, and ability to implement. If you’d like to discuss your current sponsorship strategy and plans to boost your revenue, please reach out by email (lewis@flaxassociates.com) or phone (202 266-2655).