My Answer to the Sponsorship Management Software Dilemma

CogsI get a lot of people asking for me to recommend a sponsorship management software package, and until not too long ago, I didn’t know how to answer that.

If you look at generic project management software, it either isn’t flexible enough, or it is such a blank canvas as to require total reinvention for each sponsorship. Either way, it isn’t great at accommodating stakeholder activities from across the business. Usually, it fell to one person to admin the software, and that was virtually a full-time job.

Some companies have tried to create sponsorship management software, but I always found it incredibly frustrating. In addition to the stakeholder issue, the crux of these generally centred on a bunch of checklists of things to do to progress a sponsorship. While there is a process for moving an investment forward, taking a checklist approach to  leverage and measurement pigeonholes sponsorship somewhere in about 1996. Issue press release – check. Put link on website – check. Invite VIPs – check. They simply didn’t accommodate what is a very creative process that changes vastly from one investment to another. As sponsorship has become more and more sophisticated, this approach has become more and more counterproductive.

Honestly, until just a couple of years ago, most of my clients were keeping track of the admin of sponsorships on a spreadsheet, and managed stakeholder input with meetings, distribution lists, and millions of email cc’s. It was not ideal, but it was at least straightforward and flexible.

Now? Now, the world has changed, and all I can say is hooray for collaborative workspaces!

In the past year or so, many of my clients have transitioned their sponsorship management activities onto online, collaborative workspaces, and they work beautifully.

The basic idea is that you have a secure, online “space” where you can post projects, and under each project, you can have a team. You can include people from only your company, or you can include subcontractors (consultants, agencies). The way I set it up is that all of the various stakeholders for a sponsorship form part of the team: The sales manager heading up the on-pack promotion; the social media consultant who runs your Facebook page; the HR manager who will administer the employee volunteer program; the brand team, etc.

You can assign and track tasks, upload/download documents (plans, contracts, and meeting notes), review items, vote, and much more. And it all happens in real time, so your whole team knows where the sponsorship is, and what is required of them, at any given time.

I’ve had the opportunity to test drive a number of them, but the two that I have opted to use for my own project management – and that I have been steering clients toward – are Basecamp and, more recently, Trello. Both do everything outlined above and both are highly secure, running over SSL/HTTPS security with regular, offsite backups.


Basecamp is probably the most widely used web-based collaborative workspace, but there are some clear positives and negatives.


  • Hundreds of major corporations use Basecamp to manage projects, meaning that it will have a high acceptability factor within your organisation.
  • It has a central repository for documents associated with a given project (although if there are a lot of them, they can lack context).
  • You can opt to get updates by email or RSS.


  • It’s ugly.
  • It’s not particularly user-friendly or intuitive.
  • It costs $50-150 per month, which admittedly is not a lot, but it’s not free.

For more on Basecamp see


I was pretty happy with Basecamp, but I am now officially in love with Trello.


  • It is intuitive and very easy to use, with a graphical, drag-and-drop interface.
  • It’s pretty.
  • Documents/photos/etc get dragged onto “cards”, so there is always context. This can be important on big projects.
  • You can opt to get no updates, hourly “digest” updates, or immediate updates by email.
  • They are always adding new features, and prioritise improvements and new features based on user suggestions, votes, and input. Personally, I use about half of the new features that have been introduced, as they seem really well thought-out.
  • It’s free. They may add more fee-based services in future, but their website says what you get free now will always be free.


  • It isn’t as well known as Basecamp.

Trello really excites me as a tool for the sponsorship industry, but I’m not sure I can do it justice in words. The video below will give you an idea of how it’s used. Keep in mind, you don’t need to organise the lists like that. Use your imagination and you can design a setup that will work for your organisational culture and the way your brain works.

For sponsors, I’m generally recommending a board for every major sponsorship and separate boards for each umbrella and regional portfolio. I am colour-coding cards with admin/legal, partnership management, leverage, and measurement. There are a couple of other colours that can be assigned, depending on the type of sponsorship and particular areas of emphasis – for instance, you might want “on-site” or “hospitality” or “staff engagement”.

I haven’t used it for sponsorship seekers, but can absolutely imagine using more of a timeline/funnel system, like the one shown in the video. You may add another list for more big-picture stuff or, and this is what I think I’d do, create a separate board for the actual administration and marketing of your event or project.

Seriously, tell me this doesn’t excite you!



For more on Trello, see

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