partner

6 Mistakes to Avoid When Partnering With a Small Business

So, you’ve landed that coveted partnership or large sponsorship with a small business. Feels great, doesn’t it? It’s a goal for many nonprofits and social enterprises, and if you’ve made it this far, you’re ahead of the curve.

However, securing the relationship shouldn’t be your goal. You need to work at making it successful…for both of you. By doing so, you’ll ensure a long-lasting relationship, and it will give you the confidence and reputation needed to repeat the process.

A successful partnership with a small business can lead to more money, more volunteers, a larger network, and much more. Plus, it gives you other people who will champion your cause.

Last week, we talked about the mistakes that small businesses should avoid when partnering with nonprofits. Today, we’ll chat about the mistakes you should avoid on your side of the relationship. Because not only should you play your role in making the partnership a success, but ultimately, it’s the only thing you can control.

6 Mistakes Nonprofits Should Avoid When Partnering With a Small Business

Mistake #1: Don’t Explain the Benefits to the Small Business

Even the most generous of sponsors and partners have to ask themselves at some point, “What’s in it for me?” This isn’t rude or crass. It’s natural when thinking about entering into this kind of relationship. After all, they have a business to run.

Philanthropy often comes out of excess resources, whether that’s time, money, or something else. Businesses need revenue to keep their doors open and their lights on. So, while they often want to give out of the kindness of their hearts, they also realize that giving back is good for business.

So, be proactive and answer their question. Don’t let it be a distraction or guesswork on their part. This may only become a nagging feeling that grows as time passes.

Try to include both altruistic and practical answers. Altruistic options may be things like goodwill or higher employee engagement. Practical ideas could include press opportunities, showing off their logo on your website, or even single points of contact for streamlined communication. Think about what you can do to make the partnership intentional and beneficial.

Mistake #2: Don’t State Exactly What Your Nonprofit Needs

I get it. Having this kind of sponsorship or partnership within your grasp is incredibly tempting. And it’s easy to just accept whatever the business wants to offer you, even if you don’t need it.

However, you have to think of your organization first. If someone offers to create a new website for your nonprofit, for example, but you had a redesign done a year ago, don’t accept it just because it’s handed to you on a silver platter.

If a small business approaches you to partner, leave no room for ambiguity. Ask for exactly what you need. At times, there may be a compromise or alternative you hadn’t thought of, which is another great solution. But if they are only willing to give something you don’t need, this won’t serve you well in the end. And, honestly, other than getting your organization’s name on their resume, it won’t serve them well either.

The goal is to create a partnership or sponsorship that benefits you both, and one you’ll want to continue into the future.

Mistake #3: Don’t Follow-Through on Your Commitment

This advice requires me to dish out a little tough love. Nonprofits are especially understaffed and under-resourced. But, if you make a promise—keep it.

There may be all kinds of fancy benefits you list on a sponsorship or partnership package or presentation. I know you want to do everything you can to sweeten the deal.

But for the sake of your organization and the company you’re talking to, don’t include anything you don’t think you can follow through on. Broken promises can cost you much more than a relationship.

Even if you feel like you don’t have a lot to offer, keep it simple. Follow-through. And over deliver.

Be an nonprofit or social enterprise that keeps their word.

Mistake #4: Keep the Partnership a Secret

This mistake builds on a little of what we’ve already talked about, but in general, one of the best things you can do for your corporate partners is talk about them. It’s a fine line for them to do it themselves. They want to do good—and shout it from the rooftops—but they also don’t want to come across as sleazy or exploitive. So, this is something you can help them with.

Use your email campaigns, social media, and events to talk about what an awesome partner they are, and all they’ve done for you. This is also an easy way to get them to stick around.

Side benefit: It may also encourage other small businesses to work with you as well. It’s always encouraging and comforting to see a proven path to success.

Mistake #5: Ignore Those Bad Vibes

I’m not much of a “woo woo” person, but I do believe in intuition. And as I mentioned in last week’s post, I had to let go of a client that I knew better to work with in the first place. From the initial conversation, I knew this organization wasn’t going to be a good fit, even though they seemed like an ideal client on paper.

But I made excuses, thought it would get better, and jumped in anyway. And things went bad quickly. It was two very long months of working together before I decided to let them go. Meaning, it definitely wasn’t worth the money!

So, learn from my mistake. Don’t ignore those bad vibes! If things feel off in those initial conversations, don’t establish the partnership. It will likely be more trouble than it’s worth.

Even if your nonprofit or social enterprise is desperate, this company will almost certainly not be your answer. After all, if they can’t deliver on their promises, end up taking more time than you have to give, or deplete your man power or energy, you could end up worse off than you started. It would’ve been better to stay away and find a better corporate partner to begin with.

Finding the right company will be worth waiting for!

Mistake #6: Start With a Large, Make-It-Or-Break-It Project

It’s always best to start small, and with several conversations. Don’t rush into a partnership. Hopefully, there will be plenty of potential for a long-term relationship, but it doesn’t have to start that way.

Test the waters to see if it’s a good fit for both of. Make sure you can each hold up your end of the bargain, and build on that success.

Beginning with a big project, especially one where there’s a lot riding on it, will add unneeded stress and pressure. While it may work out for the better, I just don’t recommend it.

Instead, start with a small win. That will create a strong foundation.


 

PSST: We’ve also built a sponsor presentation template if you need help getting started!

It’s customizable and easy-to-use, so all you have to do fill in your info and schedule the meeting!

 


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A successful partnership between your nonprofit or social enterprise and a small business can lead to more money, more  volunteers , a larger network, and much more. Plus, it gives you other people who will champion your cause.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify, supporting cause-focused organizations

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


6 Mistakes to Avoid When Partnering With a Nonprofit

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the leader of a nonprofit that I’d long admired. And while I loved hearing about their mission, their work, and their successes, it was one of their failures that stuck with me: a failed partnership.

To be completely frank, it wasn’t the nonprofit’s fault. It was the small business that tried to work with them. And it’s a story I’ve heard before from others. Sadly, it probably won’t be the last time either.

There are a lot of well-meaning people in small businesses with big hearts. And I’m deeply grateful and encouraged when I hear about for-profits partnering with nonprofits. It’s a wonderful thing, and honestly, it’s good for business.

However, if small businesses aren’t careful, they’ll do more harm than good because they’ll not only ruin the relationship, but pre-burn the bridge for others wanting to do the same in the future.

So, before you begin to think about building that partnership, let me give you the inside scoop on what a lot of nonprofits are looking for, and some pitfalls to avoid.

Before you begin to think about building a nonprofit partnership, let me give you the inside scoop on what a lot of nonprofits are looking for, and some pitfalls to avoid.

Mistake #1: Push Your Agenda Instead of Filling the Nonprofit’s Need

Let me just cut to the chase—this is often the culprit. In fact, it’s what happened in the example above.

While it is absolutely true that you should get something out of the relationship as well, you should approach the nonprofit with a genuine desire to serve. You need to try to understand their needs, and see where you can fill a gap.

Having an outside perspective is invaluable. It’s the reason I often get hired for projects as well. It’s a tremendous thing to step back and look at a situation or organization in an entirely new way for someone. So, that should not be overlooked.

However, if you reach out to a nonprofit with a list of things they “need,” but they don’t want any of them, this partnership is in trouble before it ever gets off the ground. And no amount of pushing what you have to offer on them is going to help.

You may be a videographer who sees the need for a new promo video on their website, but if they’d rather have someone film their annual gala, start there. Yes, there may be times when you can show them something they might not have otherwise seen, but a lot of broken partnerships are the result of a business telling a nonprofit what they need, the nonprofit accepting helping they don’t actually want, and no one being happy in the end.

Mistake #2: Leave the Details and Commitment Level Out of the Conversation

Everyone likes friends who constantly RSVP maybe and pop in and out of their lives at the most inconvenient moments?

That’s a big, fat no.

Spontaneity has it’s time and place for sure, and everyone loves surprises now and again, but leave them out of the nonprofit / small business partnership. Or, at least most of the time.

It can be a scary thing for a nonprofit to let someone new into their flow, especially those working on highly-sensitive issues. So, do them a favor and let them know how you plan to show up for them.

This doesn’t have to mean a huge commitment. Just be clear about what you can, and can’t do, and when you can, and can’t, do it. It’s that simple. Open lines of communication mean everything.

Your time is precious, but so is theirs. Take the time to outline exactly what this partnership will look like. That benefits you both.


Mistake #3: Don’t Follow-Through On Your Commitment

Can we just all agree that life happens? I know that, you know that, and so do the people you want to partner with.

It’s not always fun, and it’s not always easy, but sometimes circumstances change. If that happens, the best thing you can do is to communicate that to your nonprofit partner. Give an explanation, and notice (when possible), but don’t just disappear.

We have this crazy, new term we’ve all adopted over the past couple of years called “ghosting.” If you aren’t familiar with this concept, it’s pretty clear from the use of the word, but it’s when someone just vanishes from your life. Typically, this word is used in the date-osphere, but it applies here, too.

A leader at a social enterprise told me about someone who did this to them. This woman showed up out of the blue, promised them the moon, got consent from the organization, took what she wanted, and then was never seen or heard from again.

Ugh.

Can we all also agree how gross this is? Please, under any circumstances, do not do this to anyone—ever—but especially my friends at nonprofits. It’s a small world, so burning one bridge may just cause a wildfire you can’t put out. Plus, it’s just insanely rude and causes me like me to write posts like this.

Be honest and be respectful. You’ll probably get the same in return.

Mistake #4: Keep Your Nonprofit Partnership a Secret

Okay, I get that this statement may be kinda strange to include here, but I’m a marketer, so it’ll makes sense in a moment.

Hopefully, you don’t want to partner with a nonprofit solely for the publicity, but no one’s going to deny that it’s not a benefit. As I mentioned before, it’s also good for business.

However, I also get it can feel weird or braggy to talk about it. But that’s good. It means you care! So, show it off, but in a way that feels right for you. (PS: I can help you figure that out! :)

My guess is that you’re partnering with the nonprofit because you are excited about their work, so talk about that. Guess what? The nonprofit would love that, too!

I was just reading in Philanthropy News Digest that companies give the least amount to charitable causes each year, when compared to individuals and foundations. They said, “And last comes corporations — a surprise to many observers, who, given the dominant position of the private sector in the U.S. economy, no doubt assume that businesses play a far greater role in philanthropy.”

Given the potential for philanthropy, I would love to help change that fact. And one way I think we can do that is by helping those who are giving to talk about it more. People like me and the media can highlight giving and partnerships more, but it’s also up to you to talk about it. Encourage your peers (and competition) to give, and watch the goodness spread.

Yes, this should be done in a way that both parties feel good about, but the point is—it should be done. Say it loud and proud, my friend! Giving back is the new black!

Mistake #5: Move Forward, Even Though You Got Bad Vibes

I’m not an overly “woo woo” kind of person, but I do absolutely believe in intuition. And I had a client that I ultimately had to let go of because I didn’t listen to my Spidey sense during our initial meeting.

Yes, I want you to partner with a nonprofit, but does that mean you have to partner with the first one you come across? Nope. You’ve got over 1.5 million to choose from here in the US alone, so you can be a little picky, if needed.

My former client was perfect on paper. Ideal, as we marketers say. I was really excited to sit down and have coffee with him. But in a few minutes time, I should’ve known better. We weren’t communicating well, and I felt like I was just repeating myself. He also just seemed more interested in hearing himself talk more than hearing what I had to say. But I made excuse after excuse in my head as to why I felt that way, and moved forward anyway. It was for a small project and wouldn’t eat up much of my time—or so I thought.

Ever been there?

This “little” client ended up being a lot more than I bargained for. He asked for favors and discounts, had me repeat the same conversations over again, and contacted me on weekends and evenings unnecessarily. So, after about a month or so, I had to tell him I was not going to be the right fit for him. It was a hard lesson to learn, and many of you probably know what I’m talking about.

So, while partnering with a nonprofit is a wonderful thing, make sure it’s the right fit. If you get a bad vibe, it’s time to exit stage right.

Mistake #6: Start with Large Projects and Little Details

If by now, you haven’t started to see that partnering with a nonprofit is somewhat like dating them, let me clue you in here. Many of the same principles apply!

Build your partnership like you would build any relationship. Start small, and with a conversation.

This partnership should be mutually-beneficial and clearly communicated. That’s what is best for both of you, and it will help ensure success, even if it’s only a short-term project.

Nonprofits are often in desperate need of additional support, whether it’s financial or through something like volunteering. So, in that case, they may feel the need to jump in with you and take anything you offer. But that doesn’t always mean that’s what should happen.

Be sure to have a couple of conversations before starting any work to make sure you’re both on the same page. And, even then, try a small project to start. Once you leap into the trenches together, you’ll be able to see if this partnership is what both of you wants.

If not, say thanks and try again with another organization. If so, you’ll have the time of your life making positive change on behalf of a worthy cause. It could be just the thing your business—and life—was missing.


What questions do you have about partnering with nonprofits?

Nonprofits, next week I’ll talk about how you can be a better partner for small businesses, so stay tuned!



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Before you begin to think about building a nonprofit partnership, let me give you the inside scoop on what a lot of nonprofits are looking for, and some pitfalls to avoid.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Top 5 Blog Posts of 2017

Since I pump out new blog content every week, it stands to reason that you may have missed a post or two in the hubbub of your workdays. But my goal is to continually provide marketing and communication information, resources, tools, and tips for nonprofits and social enterprises—and the people who lead and run them. I do this because I want to see you get noticed and grow.

However, if you're short on time and playing catch-up, I've done the hard work and narrowed it down to this year's top five posts. So, grab some coffee, a snack, and start reading . . . 

Signify's Top 5 Blog Posts of 2017

1. A COMPARISON OF 13 POPULAR SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULING TOOLS

Even as a marketer, I know that I should be marketing my blog posts much more than I am actually writing them, but they both have to get done, so my time is always split. It's a common frustration many of us share, right?

There are, of course, a lot of ways to get traffic to your site, but for most of us, the day in and day out formula revolves around social media. And if you spend several hours writing a blog post, but only promote it on social media a couple of times, it could easily go to the internet graveyard. #RIP

So, what's the solution? I think it might be a social media scheduling tool, especially if you do not have someone who is solely dedicated to your social media strategy. There are a lot of popular options out there, and I took the time to review 13 of them. None were perfect (though some come close!), and several were quite similar, but I think you'll find some great choices for your nonprofit or social enterprise.

Read the full post . . . 

 

2. 8 WAYS YOU'RE SABOTAGING YOUR LAUNCHES (AND HOW TO FIX THEM!)

Every launch is a big deal. It takes your valuable time and resources, not to mention oodles of effort. So, whether it's the launch of a new website, a book, a campaign, an event, or a product, it needs to get the job done. After all, you don't have time to waste. I know this because I know many others like you, and you've got too much on your plate for missed opportunities.

But what happens when a launch is just okay? Or maybe it's good, but it wasn't as good as you'd hoped. Or, sadly, what if it flops? (FYI, even successful launches have room for improvement.)

No matter which of these situations you find yourself in, I've observed a number reasons throughout my career in marketing, PR, and events (among other things) that may be causing you to unconsciously sabotage your launches. I'll touch on eight of them here. But don't worry, there is hope! I'll also show you how to fix them so that your next launch is your best yet.

Read the full post . . .

 

3. WHAT YOU NEED TO CONVINCE POTENTIAL SPONSORS AND PARTNERS

Whether you're a nonprofit or for-profit social enterprise, chances are that you're on the hunt for a corporate sponsor or partner. It could be for a long-term initiative, upcoming event, or special campaign. 

And why wouldn't you be? Corporate sponsors and partners bring in new revenue, as well as a new audience that is potentially untapped by your organization or cause. The benefits to you are crystal clear.

However, have you stopped to think about what you bring to the table? There's plenty in it for the companies you're asking as well. Never sell yourself short.

These kinds of collaborations are called "cause marketing," and friends, I have really good news. There is no better time for it, and I'm about to tell you why. The bad news is that you may have the wrong approach.

Read the full post . . . 

(By the way, do you need a sponsor/partner presentation template?)

 

4. 10 TOOLS TO MAKE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS LOOK MORE PROFESSIONAL (MOST ARE FREE!)

I'm not sure running a small business will ever get easier, because I don't really know anyone, anywhere, at any size company who wishes they had more to do. But when you have a larger team, you at least have more of a division of responsibility. So, it can be challenging to look like a larger organization when it's just you at a desk in your guest bedroom, or just you and a few friends who decided to jump in and solve one of the world's problems over coffee one afternoon. However, looking more professional, like a large business would, can often mean more sales or donations, more support, sponsors, and more attention. 

So, how do you make that happen? I still have a lot to learn myself, but here are just a few of the tools that help my one-woman show look a wee bit bigger and more professional.

Read the full post . . .

 

5. HOW TO EASILY INVEST IN YOURSELF AND YOUR ORGANIZATION

First of all, I'm not just talking about throwing money at the latest software, or buying fancy computers, or getting team t-shirts, though that would be snazzy. I'm talking about the "deeper" investments for personal and professional growth, which leads to added value and growth for your organization.

When you invest in yourself personally, you knowingly—and unknowingly—apply that new knowledge and experience everywhere around you. So, even then, you're benefitting your organization. And when you invest in yourself for your job, or on behalf of your organization, your directly applying that new knowledge to your role and your cause. Intentionally investing in yourself also often provides renewed energy, focus, determination, know-how, and purpose. So, why not get on board?

Read the full post . . .

 

And those are this year's top five posts! What did you enjoy? Did you have a different favorite?

PSST: Don't forget that you only have a couple more days to try and win a Communications Strategy Session, valued at over $500! Details here. Resolve to make your marketing better in 2018.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

my goal is to continually provide marketing and communication information, resources, tools, and tips for nonprofits and social enterprises—and the people who lead and run them.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


What You Need to Convince Potential Sponsors and Partners

Whether you're a nonprofit or for-profit social enterprise, chances are that you're on the hunt for a corporate sponsor or investor. It could be for a long-term initiative, upcoming event, or special campaign. 

And why wouldn't you be? Corporate sponsors and partners bring in new revenue, as well as a new audience that is potentially untapped by your organization or cause. Their benefits to you are crystal clear.

However, have you stopped to think about what you bring to the table? There's plenty in it for the companies you're asking as well. Never sell yourself short.

These kinds of collaborations are called "cause marketing," and friends, I have really good news. There is no better time for it, and I'm about to tell you why. The bad news is that you may have the wrong approach.

What you need to convince potential sponsors and partners to work with you

So, what do you need to convince potential sponsors and partners that they should work with you? While I might not actually call it easy, it is probably a little simpler than you think. And it begins with two things: some basic information and knowing your own value.

What is Cause Marketing?

The simplest definition for cause marketing is when for-profit corporations team up with nonprofit organizations for a mutually-beneficial purpose. This is the traditional mindset for us folks from the business world. 

Some examples include when you donate an extra dollar at the grocery store for a feed the hungry campaign at Thanksgiving, or the local car dealership sponsors a nonprofit event, or when many companies display pink ribbon products every October with proceeds going to breast cancer research.

But as with so many things these days, I think the lines have become a little blurred. So, I'm going to introduce two other options. The first comes with the new-ish model of social enterprises. (I love that they have disrupted business in this way!) In this vein, a form of cause marketing could be baked into the business model. One example is that Warby Parker partners with VisionSpring to provide glasses for those in need. It's the now famous one-for-one model pioneered by companies like TOMS. Warby Parker doesn't own VisionSpring, but that is the only nonprofit they partner with.

The second is more of a lateral sponsorship or partnership. This would be when similar companies or organizations partner for a greater purpose, either long- or short-term. One example is when various organizations create a coalition to further a cause. There are various anti-trafficking coalitions around the country, with members offering complimentary services to both survivors and the community. They can do more together than each would on their own. Another option might be when nonprofits or social enterprises combine efforts to host an event, and split profits.

 

Who Are Your Potential Sponsors and Partners?

1) The first place to begin to answer this question is by considering your goals. Is it to make some additional money? Greater awareness for your organization or your cause? To build a long-term relationship with a company that can help sustain you? As always, you need a strategy behind your ask. This will help get you a lot further, and whether you're aware of it or not, it will also come through in your conversations with the would-be sponsor or partner.

2) Next, consider existing relationships. It's tempting to shoot for the stars and go after the biggest dog around, but that may not be the most productive use of your time and effort. And it may just leave you more frustrated.

No matter how big your operating budget, relational capital is your biggest asset here. Relationships are everything, and you can't manufacture them. After all, if you owned a company with piles of money lying around, and knew of a worthy cause you could get behind, wouldn't you put your dollars there first? Yes, you would. (And can we be friends?)

I suggest actually creating a spreadsheet of your personal capital, and having any employees do the same. You may not need it right away, but you will at some point. Find those relationships that may be great funding, spreading the word, making introductions, or some other benefit to your particular organization. (Think: Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point.)

3) Next, make a spreadsheet of prime candidates for your sponsorship or partnership. This can include those in the relationship capital category, as well as others that come to mind. This will help you look at everyone objectively and all at once.

4) Finally, do your research. Does that company already have a charity or social mission partner? Do they have upcoming deadlines, or deadlines that have passed? Do they work with your cause, or have their own focus that's not a good match? For any companies that make the cut, this info will come in handy later for your presentation.

The Magic Bullet for Your Sponsorship or Partner Presentation

If the information above was a bit of a review for you, you'll need to hone in on this section. What you need to understand is that there has been a major shift in marketing the last few years—that directly relates to your presentation. 

Websites, emails, social media, and even presentations all used to be focused on you, the organization. No matter who you were, you could visit a website and the entire thing would be about them. That's not the case anymore. Everything is now "customer-focused." Meaning, even the language on your about page should include the person visiting your site. 

You have to repeatedly assume that someone who is reading your website, interacting with you on social media, listening to your podcast, or sitting in on your presentation is asking themselves, "What's in it for me?" You need to confidently be able to answer that question in everything you do. 

So, please don't skip that step when you talk to potential sponsors and partners. If you can make a compelling case for how working with you benefits them, you're almost there. 

 

The Secret Sauce is YOU

It's easy to think that whomever you're meeting with is the prettiest girl at the dance, and you're the awkward one standing in the corner trying to decide whether or not to ask her out on the floor. But, really, it's you! This is the really good news I alluded to earlier.

According to Cone Communications 2017 CSR Study, "consumers are no longer just asking, 'What do you stand for?' but also, 'What do you stand up for?' In today's tumultuous society, Americans expect companies to not only improve their business practices and invest in social issues that are aligned with the company, but to be a force for change in broader society."

And, guess what? That's where you come in! They also discovered that:

  • 87% will buy products and services based on their values, and 76% will boycott for the same

  • 78% want companies to address important social justice issues

  • 63% of Americans are hopeful business will take the lead to drive social and environmental change forward, in the absence of government regulation

Download the full report here. (And, by the way, these are great stats for your next sponsorship or event proposal!)

What all this adds up to is that you are the prettiest girl at the dance! These companies need you! Why? Because their customers want them to be involved in doing good, and they want to stay in business. Your organization is just as valuable to them as it is to you. It would be truly a mutually-beneficial relationship, and that should come through in your communication with them. Time to tango!

However, in your excitement, don't forget about the section above. Yes, companies might be actively looking for a "do good" organization to partner with, but you still need to show how you can benefit them. Expect to give as much as you take.

 

Additional Sponsorship Presentation Tips

  • It needs to look good. I hope this goes without saying, but as you are walking into a room to ask for something, your presentation needs to look professional. Keep it clean and simple with key thoughts and lots of white space. That doesn't mean, though, that you have to pay to have it done. There are tools that can help any novice look more professional.

  • Obey any guidelines. Many large organizations will have guidelines posted on their website, so be sure to look out for these. For example, they may not sponsor events. If that's the case, they may still be a good long-term partner and should be targeted for that ask later.

  • Watch for deadlines. Same as above, there may be specific deadlines you should adhere to. Or it may be that your campaign, initiative, or event doesn't line up with their budget year. For example, one client that I work with always hosts their benefit dinner in the fall. But some of the sponsors we solicit are already tapped out by that time. In that case, you should ask for a preferred timeframe to contact them again for consideration. You may be have to be more creative in your ask if details are scarce at that time, but if it's potentially a good fit, they'll be more willing to work with you.

  • Include stories and facts. Both are compelling. And people will invest when both their heads and their hearts are in it. Additionally, this will allow you to speak to what matters most for different kinds of people. We are all naturally drawn to stories, but facts help making a compelling argument.

  • Think past, present, and future. Show where you've come from, the current need, and how things could be different with help. Allow them to see not only what is, but what could be.

  • Be creative in your approach and tactics. While you may simply Google, "sponsorship presentation" or "event sponsor proposal" for ideas, don't just copy and paste. Remember to customize everything to your unique cause, organization, and abilities. In the "What's in it for me?" category, this could include simple ways that you'll make the process easy, like taking care of all the design work or providing a single point of contact. Or it may be more along the lines of specific holidays associated with your cause or specific to your geographic location.

  • Don't ask out of desperation, but confidence. I have a friend working on a short-term campaign, and she is struggling with her funding. She sent me the info that she intended to send out to some influencers, in hopes they would help promote. Frankly, it sounded desperate. People do not give to desperation unless it's a tragedy or natural disaster. So, she reworked her pitch with the magic bullet and secret sauce above, and it came out sounding much more like something people would want to be involved with.

  • Get help, if you need it. If you work solo, at the very least, get someone else to look over the proposal. That can be a peer, employee, intern or a friend with a good eye and understanding of what you're trying to accomplish. And depending on the size of the ask, you may want to hire a professional. This may include someone that specializes in sponsorships, a graphic designer, or a writer (<-- shameless plug). Here are some of my recommendations. And don't forget, you'll likely be able to use or adapt this information and resource multiple times—instant bang for your buck.

  • Include what makes you unique. As we talked about above, show off what sets you apart and makes you special. This could be a determining factor in their answer.

  • Include the company you're talking to. Don't save this for the Q&A at the end, Answer their question, "What's in it for me?" early on so it doesn't become a distracting thought in their minds while you're pitching your heart out.

  • Be specific in your ask. Everyone, both for- and non-profit, holds tightly to their funds. So, if you're asking someone to fork over their hard-earned cash, tell them exactly what it will be used for. If that part is still up in the air, offer some examples or make it clear that you're open to discussing what's best for the sponsor/partner. Don't make them wonder.

  • Hone the slide deck and presentation. Take a less is more approach, when possible. No one wants to sit through a long presentation, 200 slides, or even worse, someone just reading all those slides to them aloud. I'm falling asleep thinking about it. You don't have to be the best orator in the world, but hit your key points, back it up with only the slides needed, and let everything else be part of a conversation, not a presentation. Talk with them, not at them.

  • Follow up at an appropriate time, and in an appropriate way. Before you leave the meeting, ask if there is a preferred timeframe or method of communication for following up. Make it easy for them! And again, when you follow up, don't sound desperate. Even if you really are desperate, fake it till you make it ! :-)

 

One Final Note

We've talked about doing your research and some key pieces for your presentation, but there's a huge element I don't want to overlook: the human element. The best partnerships and sponsorships have a strong, relational component. Therefore, before you wow anyone with your snazzy presentation, you should begin with a conversation.

It doesn't matter if you already know the person or company that you're pitching to or not. Take someone out for lunch or coffee . . . maybe even on your dime. Get to know them and the organization. Don't start with your ask—start with their needs. 

After that, you'll begin to see where you can meet those needs, and consequently, become a huge asset to them, not just another charity. And, guess what, if you nail this aspect, it's also more likely that you won't have to be dependent on a razzle dazzle presentation to make your case. The presentation just becomes icing on the cake.

 

My friend, Mary Frances of Wellspring Living, is so good at this she could teach a class. Here's what she had to say.

Mary Francis Bowley quote, Wellspring Living

What has helped you secure a sponsorship or partnership? What else is a "must" for the perfect presentation. Tell me in the comments!


 

PSST: We’ve also built a sponsor presentation template if you need help getting started!

It’s customizable and easy-to-use, so all you have to do fill in your info and schedule the meeting!

 


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The great news is that now is the best time for soliciting new partners and sponsors. The bad news is that you may be doing it wrong.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.