Herding Cats: Getting Your Regions to Deliver a National Sponsorship

CatsI have worked with a lot of big sponsorship seeking organisations, and one of the biggest challenges is how to get the regional offices to deliver national sponsorships on a consistent basis.

This becomes even more complex when the structure is federated and the offices are operating as independent businesses. They have their own sponsors to look after, and may not be interested in delivering national sponsorships that they see as having limited benefit to them. Or worse, they may be resentful that the national sponsorships mean they can’t sell sponsorship in those categories because of promised exclusivity.

While this is a challenge, it is far from insurmountable, and I offer a few strategies that may help you to manage this often complex situation.

Consult your stakeholders

Before you can get your regions on-side, you need to understand the issues surrounding why they are they unwilling or unable to deliver a national sponsorship well.

  • Do they not have the human resources? (This is often a major factor with volunteer-based organisations.)
  • Are they unsure of what is really expected by the sponsor or lack the expertise?
  • Do they believe they’re not getting anything for the effort?
  • Do they find it difficult working directly with the sponsor (or the sponsor’s regional management)?
  • Is there resentment because national sponsor exclusivity clauses are limiting their own sponsorship revenues?
  • Do they simply hate being told what to do?

In my experience, it is usually one or a combination of the above. Once you’ve let them unload – which may not be pleasant – you need to develop a strategy that allows sponsorship to work better for everyone.

Educate your stakeholders

Many regional offices could use some education on the basics of best practice sponsorship, and some organisation-wide training can be a very high-leverage investment for many reasons: Your regions will be more confident; have greater capacity to raise sponsorship themselves; and a greater understanding of what sponsorship can do for them.

To address this specific issue, you want to ensure that you also include topics such as:

  • How sponsorship benefits your organisation in many ways – not just financially. It could be about driving participation, membership, or donations, or introducing your organisation to the sponsor’s broader audience.
  • How to develop a strong, creative hit list of sponsors. If your regions understand that the national office selling some categories doesn’t actually limit their options very much, they will be more open to cooperation.
  • Sponsorship is unallocated funds. In other words, sponsorship funds can be funnelled into whatever budgets or projects need a cash injection, so long as the contracted benefits are delivered, as promised.
  • The benefits of strong sponsor servicing. These include easier renewals and larger investments, the sponsor providing additional assistance with achieving your larger goals, and advocating sponsorship of your organisation to others.

Make it worth their while

It takes a lot of time and costs money to deliver a sponsorship. You know it. I know it. And your regions know it. Why, then, do so many national offices expect that the regions will simply deliver their national sponsorship for no real benefit to their bottom line?

Depending on your structure, the way you handle national sponsorship income will be different. For instance, if your national office is raising sponsorship purely for national programs that are carried out 100% by the national office, you may retain all of the associated sponsorship revenue. If your national office is mainly administrative, and all events and initiatives are carried out at the regional or grassroots level, the proportion of national sponsorship income you retain will be smaller. If you are running major programs and events out of your national office, but regional offices are handling grassroots implementation, you will need to balance the sponsorship income to cover your administrative and program costs, as well as the regions’.

If you use my sponsorship pricing methodology as a starting point, you will need to work with your regions to determine how much it will cost them to deliver the promised benefits to national sponsors. Then, you should offer them more than that – at least double – to do it. If you don’t have enough revenue from that sponsor to pay that to the organisations delivering much of the value, you are either undervaluing what you’re delivering or have some other flaw in your pricing methodology. You may want to review “Sponsorship Pricing Basics”.

Give them some room to move

What is the national office going to sell and what is the regional office going to sell? That can be a very tricky question. I’ve seen some national offices define their sponsorship “jurisdiction” so broadly that the regions have virtually no relevant categories left to pursue. I’ve seen others determine that the national office will approach national companies, while the regional offices can approach only regionally-based sponsors. This would seem to be straightforward enough, but is all about delineation and doesn’t take into account the sponsor’s needs at all. What if, for instance, a major bank is expanding their footprint in one region and wants to focus their sponsorship there?

There are always going to be exceptions, but in general terms, you should define some parameters around what types of sponsors the national office will pursue and what types the regions will pursue, always ensuring there are ample, relevant categories at the regional level.

Overall sponsors (sponsors of your organisation, not specific events or programs)

You should define the sponsor categories that are most appropriately sold by the national office. These are likely to be major sponsor categories that are equally relevant across regions and dominated by national companies. Anything outside of those categories should be fair game for the regions to pursue.

Program/event sponsors

The most important thing that needs to be determined is whether the category exclusivity offered to national sponsors extends to regional events and programs. For instance, if a charity has a national partnership with Target Stores, could a region run an event in partnership with another retailer or their local shopping mall? If national exclusivity is going to extend across local and regional events, that could preclude a lot of revenue for the regions, so it will need to be priced and distributed accordingly.

Create channels for cooperation

There are going to be instances where the above just doesn’t apply. Let’s say there is a professional services association. They are approached by a new, cloud-based accounting software company for a national sponsorship. Sounds great, but one or more of your regions is already sponsored by a different accounting software company. What do you do? You could:

  • Work with the regions that aren’t sponsored by a competitor to put together an almost national sponsorship.
  • Work with the regions to determine when the existing sponsorships end and then create an offer for the potential sponsor that grows the sponsorship as it moves forward.
  • Work with the regions to buy out the existing, competitive sponsorships.
  • Refer the potential sponsor to the regional offices to cut separate deals with each of them. Note: This is generally the least favoured option by sponsors, although it can be the easiest for a sponsee.

In all of these cases, there needs to be open communications between the regions and national office. In cases where there are complications, I suggest the national office should prepare a one-sheeter outlining the benefits to the overall organisation and regions and suggest a way forward. If there are any concerns, either individual meetings or a group videoconference could be held to work out the issues.

Truth be told, this is a post that has been sitting half-written for months, because this is a complicated area fraught with politics and egos and often wildly varying capabilities. It’s difficult to stick a stake in the sand and say, “You need to do it this way”, because there is no one right way. What I’ve tried to do is highlight some of the most common issues and a number of the ways they can be addressed. Good luck.

Need more assistance?

If you could use some additional support, I provide sponsorship coaching, sponsorship consulting, sponsorship training, and if you need a fast, cost-effective start, the Jump Start program. If you’re interested in any of these services, please review the materials and drop me a line to discuss:

Kim Skildum-Reid
admin@powersponsorship.com
AU: +61 2 9559 6444
US: +1 612 326 5265

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