Non-Profits, Watch Your (Sponsorship) Language!

OFFENSIVE LANGUAGEI see a lot of proposals from non-profits and I interact with many in workshops. Something that is both counterproductive and alarmingly consistent is the use of seemingly positive terms that are, in fact, big red flags to sponsors. Below, I’ve outlined three of the worst that you can use in a sponsorship proposal.

“Tax advantages” and “Your sponsorship is tax deductible”

There are no tax advantages to sponsoring a charitable organisation. Sponsorship is a marketing investment that is deductible at 100% as a business expense. You are not talking about a donation, but even if it were a donation, it is still only deductible at 100%, so the net effect is the same.

If you include one of these terms in a sponsorship proposal, a cluey sponsor will think you don’t understand that sponsorship isn’t a donation, but a marketing investment. Just leave those terms out of the proposal.

“Corporate Social Responsibility”, “CSR”, and “Triple bottom line”

Corporate Social Responsibility and triple bottom line reporting has nothing to do with how a company spends its money.

CSR is solely about whether a company makes its money in an ethical sustainable way. If they make money in a socially responsible way, that box is already ticked. Writing cheques to charities does not tick it more. If they do not make their money in a socially responsible way, there are no amount of cheques to charities they can write that will tick that box.

Instead, concentrate on how sponsoring your charity creates a powerful marketing platform for their brands and increases both relevance and resonance with their target markets.

“Help”, “Support”, and “Assist”

If you’re trying to lay on the guilt or look needy, and not like a potential marketing partner, this is how you do it.

Corporate sponsorship is not free money. It has nothing to do with helping or supporting your organisation, as deserving as you may be. It is an investment that companies make with marketing money. It needs to achieve marketing objectives, which are defined as changing their target markets’ perceptions of their brand and changing their target markets’ behaviours around that brand.

And while sponsoring charitable and community organisations with a portion of marketing funds may be a mandate for some companies, sponsoring your specific organisation is not. You need to make a business case about why sponsoring your organisation will help that brand achieve their objectives and connect with their target markets in a meaningful way.

Use terms like “investment”, “partner”, and “marketing platform”, but be sure it’s not just lip-service. If you aren’t prepared to be a real marketing partner, stop looking for sponsorship and concentrate on filling out grant applications.

Need more assistance?

If you want more information and a step-by-step process for raising more sponsorship (including a special section for charitable and community organisations), I recommend The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition.

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
AU: +61 2 9559 6444
US: +1 612 326 5265


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