Sponsorships can be extremely lucrative for both nonprofits and startups, but they’re fraught with pitfalls. There are all sorts of mistakes that a newbie that isn’t used to writing sponsorship proposals can make that will keep a stakeholder from reading through and showing interest.
That being said, this shouldn’t deter you. Sponsorships are growing year after year and there is a massive opportunity to bring in a secondary stream of income for your business or nonprofit. If you want to get sponsors for your organization and avoid the common mistakes that cause most people to fail, we have a list of what you shouldn’t do and what you should do instead:
1. Focusing solely on the money
Too many entrepreneurs and nonprofits do this when they first jump into the process of gaining sponsorships for their organizations. This is a mistake simply because at this point, organizations should focus on building relationships with their sponsors. Nothing helps to raise money and make money like a solid business relationship among partners.
Remember, this is a business arrangement. Instead of demanding a check from a potential sponsor, it’s on you to ask them what you can do to help them reach their business goals.
2. A misstep on pricing
Now, the exact opposite of this is just as common. Folks who are new to pitching (and pricing) sponsorships haven’t learned how to price these arrangements and tend to charge too little. It’s definitely possible to be stuck in the situation where you’re not charging enough for your sponsorship and when you get to the pitch, sponsors will definitely take notice.
The mistake in this is that stakeholders are Their inboxes are jam-packed with sponsorship proposals from people just like you trying to acquire sponsors. If you’re sending a sponsorship proposal to a major prospect, make sure you know your worth and make it worth the brand’s time as well. Sending low-priced sponsorship proposals to major brands are a surefire way to get rejected- if you get a response at all.
Instead, develop and identify further benefits that you can offer potential sponsors and do your research! Check into what other people seeking sponsorships are pricing benefits packages for. This is as easy as looking on Google and could potentially be worth a lot of money to your organization.
3. Giving up after a single call or email
Thinking that a single call or email will get your proposals accepted is a mistake. Stakeholders are busy people and have full work schedules. In a corporate environment, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle or accidentally forgotten.
Never assumed that a single communication is all you need to get that acceptance. Give prospective sponsors 2-3 days for them to return a call or email and then follow up!
4. Stop pitching packages
This method of pitching is old and archaic. Sponsorships that are designed to increase in price from one level to the next and include a few more mentions, announcements, or logo placements are no longer attractive to potential sponsors.
It’s more than acceptable to present a menu of available options to prospective sponsors, but you should give the prospects a voice and allow them to weigh in on the assets that best fit their business goals. If you spend your time listening a little more to the sponsor, you can identify their needs and address them in the proposal.
5. Stop selling so hard
Your first call or meeting with a prospective sponsor should be all about them and not at all about you. Obviously, you’re going to be excited about what you’re presenting about your organization, but going in aggressively during the first point of contact with flashy presentations and detailed analytics is overkill.
Treat this as a first date – tone it down a bit. If you really want to leave a mark on your prospect, don’t bring anything at all and make it all about the sponsor.
6. Quit pitching so hard
Sponsorships are a relationship that requires you, the salesperson, to be the best listener you can be. This will take you far – dig deeper into understanding the prospective sponsor’s needs. Ask them questions and then sit back and listen. Let the prospective sponsor talk.
7. You forget why they should care
Sponsors have a very limited amount of time to evaluate the hundreds or even thousands of proposals they receive. If your proposal doesn’t specifically align with their objectives immediately, it’s likely they’ll just move onto the next one.
This is why it’s important to establish credibility as quickly as possible and give your prospects a reason to continue reading your proposal. Don’t waste prospect’s time by listing every point of data and every minute detail. Your responsibility is to quickly convey why the prospect should care: the primary reason you’re approaching the sponsor for a business relationship. Is it to educate your audience? Ask for donations? Whatever the catch is, clearly state it in the opening paragraphs of your sponsorship proposal.
Follow this up with more information about your organization – how long it’s been around, the number of people that you reach, and the challenges you help your audience solve.
8. Your data is meaningless
Sponsoring your organization is a business decision by prospective sponsors. If the proposal lacks a vivid picture of how the prospect will see an ROI, they will move on quickly to the next offer.
You might be under the impression that your data clearly communicates the value of sponsoring your organization, but just slapping numbers on a page doesn’t paint a compelling story.
Properly visualizing organizational data is key to presenting it in a way that will entice prospective sponsors. Take care to tell a story with your graphics – a bar chart might leave more to be desired while pie charts can communicate your message more effectively.
Test the different types of data visualizations and layouts to find a clear, compelling way to communicate the data to prospective sponsors. Prospects should be able to glance at your data and see your vivid story immediately.
9. Lacking a call to action (CTA)
Your sponsorship proposal won over the prospect – what’s next? If you’re lacking a call to action, your sponsor won’t know how to proceed. You’ve worked so hard at convincing them of your organization’s value, don’t risk frustrating them and causing them to lose interest. Make sure you clearly spell out if they should call you, email you, or fill out a form.
Don’t leave any guesswork! Be absolutely clear about what they should do and mention it frequently throughout your proposal. A sense of urgency works well, too. Early bird pricing can entice prospective sponsors to take action sooner rather than later. Finally, always give them a deadline.
10. Leaving potential types of sponsorships on the table
CSR is one form of corporate fundraising, sponsorships are another, but an oft-forgotten option is cause marketing. This is frequently left out of the corporate development strategy from organizations of all sizes, but small shops are much more likely to forget this.
It can be a little overwhelming when you first get started with sponsorship proposals, but don’t let it. Sponsorships are sold by people. Focus on telling a story and putting your best foot forward and the relationships will build themselves.
Author Bio: Kristen Bowie is a marketing leader, forging the path with data-driven decisions. When she’s not writing for thought leadership and creating sponsorship proposals at Qwilr, she’s hanging out with her two urban dwarf goats, painting, or is out watching a local band.