What Should You Do When Your Board Sets Unrealistic Sponsorship Targets?

What Should You Do When Your Board Sets Unrealistic Sponsorship Targets?If you’re a rightsholder – particularly in the non-profit or charitable space – at least one of these will sound familiar:

  • Your organisation is planning an expansion or other costly activity, so your board increases your sponsorship target, or
  • Your government funding is cut, so your board increases your sponsorship target, or
  • Your donations have dropped, so your board increases your sponsorship target, or
  • Your attendance has dropped, so your board increases your sponsorship target, or
  • One of your competitors scores a big sponsorship, so your board increases your sponsorship target

We have all been in this position at one time or another, but when many boards don’t understand how sponsorship works, and that sponsors are not a font of easy money, the pressure on frontline sponsorship seeking staff is higher than ever.

This just-get-more-sponsorship approach is so common that it borders on normal. But as common as it is, all of these rationale for raising sponsorship targets are inherently flawed.

As an organisation – board included – the first thing to understand is that your commercial value (ie, the amount you can raise in sponsorship) has absolutely nothing to do with your financial need. Your commercial value may be a lot more than you need, or it may be a lot less. If those figures work out roughly the same, consider it a rare coincidence. The upshot is, just because you need or want more money doesn’t mean you will be able to raise more sponsorship.

As much as dollars in the door are numbers, increasing sponsorship is not a numbers game.

The other thing to take on board is that sponsorship revenues seem to naturally level themselves out. If your organisation is taking a certain approach, with a certain set of resources, and working hard at it, you are probably raising close to as much as you will ever raise within the bounds of those circumstances. Doubling the number of phone calls you make won’t double your sponsorship, and neither will doubling the price tag on your sponsorships. In fact, the only likely result will be a target unmet and resentful, demoralised staff.

As much as dollars in the door are numbers, increasing sponsorship is not a numbers game. The three biggest factors in determining your success at hitting a much bigger target are getting real about your commercial value, being flexible with funding, and the sophistication and creativity behind your approach.

Getting real

You need to take a good, hard look at your organisation and your events. Even though you need money for everything, not everything is sponsorable, which brings me to…

Getting flexible

Rather than chasing money for individual events or programs, it may be a lot more effective to go for one or more larger sponsors across a range of your activities. Or you may find one or two events that have huge commercial value, and should be flexible enough to maximise the revenue off of those and shift any overage to other, less commercial programs.

Getting sophisticated

Upgrading your approach to best-practice sponsorship is the single biggest thing you can do to increase your commercial value. Sponsors are looking for best-practice partners – partners who really understand how sponsorship works for a brand and for the brand’s target markets and can deliver to their goals. That’s still rare enough that it will set you apart, and if you’re one of those sponsorship seekers, you are immediately more valuable to potential sponsors.

Here are a few resources to get you started. By all means, share them with your board. Let me give them the blunt advice they so sorely need!

Need more assistance?

For all you need to know about sponsorship sales and servicing, you may want to get a copy of The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition. You may also be interested in my latest white paper, “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“.

If you need additional assistance, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive sponsorship capacity-building service for large, diverse, and decentralised organisations.

Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.

Please note, I do not offer a sponsorship broker service, and can’t sell sponsorship on your behalf. You may find someone appropriate on my sponsorship broker registry.

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