Non-Profits, Watch Your (Sponsorship) Language!

Non-Profits, Watch Your (Sponsorship) Language!I see a lot of sponsorship proposals from non-profits and I interact with many in workshops, and as clients. 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 types of language that you can use in a sponsorship proposal or sponsor meeting, This is the first step in becoming a valuable strategic partner to sponsors, and you’ll find that once you change your language, your offers will be different – the way you frame them up, and put them together.

Make this change, and you’ll realise there’s more to do, so I’ve also provided a load of resources to get you on track to best practice, and the bigger, better sponsors to which best practice gives you access.

“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 relevance, resonance, and alignment 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.

Changing your approach

If you’re doing any of the above, you need to stop and stop now. If you’ve been using “bad” sponsorship language, that’s usually indicative of deeper issues with your sponsorship sophistication.

There isn’t one kind of sponsorship for for-profits and another, less commercial and accountable, kind of sponsorship for charitable organisations. No. You need to be able to compete with for-profit rightsholders for the same pool of marketing funds, and the only way you’re going to be able to do it is by shifting to best practice sponsorship, which is the same across sectors.

To that end, I recommend you review these two resource roundups, which are about building and retaining sponsorship revenue for all sectors:

These blogs are aimed directly at non-profits, covering a number of other issues and downsides that are endemic to the charity sector, so you can continue tidying up your approach:

These two white papers outline what best practice looks like, and the big trends driving sponsorship decisions and results. Read them, and your real value should be readily apparent:

The above resources are completely free for you to use. One or both of these would also be an excellent investment in building your capacity for sponsorship:

The upshot of all of this is that you’ve got a valuable, leverageable marketing platform. Bloody act like it. When you do make that shift, so will your sponsorship fortunes.

Need more assistance?

If you need additional assistance, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive Sponsorship Systems Design service for large, diverse, and decentralised organisations. I’ve also got self-paced, online sponsorship training courses for both sponsors and rightsholders. Get the details and links to course outlines and reviews here.

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.

© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. To enquire about republishing or distribution, please see the blog and white paper reprints page.

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