How To Find a Corporate Sponsorship
Juliene Hefter, Deputy Director of the Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association, talks about how booster clubs can obtainand maintaincorporate sponsorships.
By Danielle Catalano
Danielle Catalano is a writer for FundraisingforSports.com.
Juliene R. Hefter, MSOLQ, CPRP, is the Deputy Director of the Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association. She has been involved with the association since 1991 and has been in charge of supervising recreation programs for one-and-one-half years. Part of her responsibilities includes obtaining and maintaining corporate sponsorships for public parks throughout Wisconsin.
What is a corporate sponsorship?
Basically, it's a partnership in which you're getting something but you're also giving something back in return.
Perhaps there is a business that is looking to do some marketing or advertising in the area or just wants to support some good cause. You, the booster club, contact the business to obtain money, an in-kind service, or some product. In return, you provide the business with free marketing opportunities, such as in mentioning its name in your brochures or flyers, placing an advertisement your sport program, have a plaque on the wall with the company's name, or even mentioning the company's support in newspaper articlesanything that you can give back to them.
How does a booster club go about researching corporate sponsorships?
First, you have to find a project that people are passionate about. If your community or school district isn't passionate about the project, that project isn't going to be successful because people aren't going to think it's an important project for the community. If you find a business that's interested in a project, jump on it.
A lot of businesses and organizations are interested in supporting communities because they want to look good in the communities' eyes. They want people to know that they support the community and the activities that go on in it. It's a lot easier to get things supported that involve children because if people in the business have children in the school district, they will want to support what they're children are in.
A good way to find sponsors is to take a look at what's around you. Look in the newspaper and on TV to see whose advertising. These people have an obvious interest in the community.
You then have to make sure that the business will get value out of its sponsorship. So when you approach that business, you can say: "Your company advertises in the newspapers, but everyone who reads that paper, throws it away when they're done. That's not a lot of exposure. But, if you have a sponsorship with my club, every time people go to this baseball field that you helped sponsor, everybody will see your advertisement over and over and over again."
What elements should be included when designing a sponsorship market plan?
- Policy and procedure statement. Put together a sponsorship policy and procedure statement of what you will accept as a sponsorship as well as what you will not accept as a sponsorship.
- Look at everything. When I do a sponsorship, my attitude is that anything and everything is up for sponsorship. If I can get money for something, I will try to do it. You never know what people might be interested in to give you money for, or a product for, or maybe an in-kind service. I approach everybody and I never leave anyone out.
My sponsorship is on a first-come-first-serve-basis. The first person who contacts me about a particular sponsorship gets that sponsorship. If someone else says he wants to sponsor an item that's already sponsored, I will come up with something else for the person to sponsor.
- Marketing information. It's important to develop a marketing brochure that answers:
A. Who you are
B. What your club can do for that business
C. In order to get those things, this is what the club needs from you
Then list everything that's available for sponsorshipanything you can possible think of, put in your marketing materialbecause every little bit helps you. Nothing is too small; nothing is too large. Also, make sure to note somewhere on your brochure that if the business doesn't see something it would specifically like to sponsor, but it's interested in sponsoring, to please contact you know. Let the compandy know that you're willing to work with the company on anything.
How do you make your marketing materials/brochures stand out?
- Send the prospective company your business letter with contact information at bottom.
- In a couple of weeks, call to check if company received letter. If company did and the people aren't interested, that's okay. If the company did and wants to meet, set up an appointment to present your marketing plan.
- Your marketing plan should include all lists of sponsored items, drawings and/or an artist's renditions of the project, and whatever background information you can find about your project. Better to have too much information than not enough.
- Be enthusiastic. If you're excited about your project, that can enthusiasm rub off on people.
- Relate to the people you are presenting to and be professional. This includes your clothing, too.
- Remember it's about them. Be respectfulnot pushy.
Lots of brochures. I make about four or five different brochures per project because everybody looks at things visually differently. One brochure might appeal to a corporation, but the same brochure might not appeal to another business.
Do them in-house. I use Publisher or some other simple computer program because I have never had a large marketing budget. But more importantly, if you come out with a flyer or brochure that costs thousands of dollars to create, people are going to look at that brochure and think, "Why does this group need money?" People might look at that brochure suspiciously and think you don't need a sponsorship if you can afford that kind of expense.
Clean and crisp. The brochure should look professional, clean, and crisp, and the message you want to convey needs to be succinct.
What can a booster club do to increase its chances of getting a project fully sponsored?
1. Personality. You need to have someone who's outgoing and personable. You also need someone who's willing to take chances and can accept having someone saying 'No.'
At one conference, I had a workshop where we talked about this particular subject, and a woman in the audience said, "You know, 'No' to me means 'Opportunity' to the next guy,"and I agree with that 100 percent. If somebody says No, that just means that at that particular point in time, that person might not be interested, but you can always approach that person later for another project. It's a very different perspective.
I am someone who hates going out to ask people to donate money toward something. But if it's a sponsorship, and I know a company's getting something important in return, I have no problems asking. I think people need to take that approach. It's a lot different then saying, 'I need this from you.' You need to approach them with, "I have this to offer your organization." Then once you have them interested, you come in with, "For that, we need this for our club," or "For that, can you provide this for us?"
2. Word-of-mouth. A lot of times you find out someone or a business is interested in you project by word-of-mouth. Once you get a project going, it kind of just keeps going on its own because when people hear about it or maybe see a sign about it, the person or company might think, "How can I get my business on a sign like that?"
3. Put a deadline on your projects. If you're going to do fundraising, you need to know how much money has to be raised by "this" point. Then you have to make a decision: "Okay, we at 'this point,' and the club hasn't raise enough of the necessary funds. Do we not do the project? Do we work on a smaller project? What direction do we take this project?" You don't want to fundraise indefinitely. People aren't interested in that. When people give money, they want to see something tangible.
How do you make your in-person presentation to a company?
First off, I try not to do cold calls because I'm very busy. It's difficult for someone to walk into my office and want the attention to have a meeting immediately. I wouldn't want to do that to someone else.
What should be included in a sponsorship contract?
Have everything in writing. Put together an agreement form with everyone who does a sponsorship--no matter how large or how small it is. Specifically state what the company is going to get, what you're providing it, and what the company is giving you. You need to be real specific because there can be no questions.
For example, we did a sponsorship for planting flower beds. Part of the agreement was that a company would provide the beds, plant them, and take the responsibility of caring for them and maintaining them. The follow-through is stated right in the contract: If the company didn't take care of the flower beds, the company would no longer be sponsoring that area and it would be charged for the maintenance that it would cost our department to do.
Also, if the contract deals with monetary issues, make sure the contract states if are you getting payments up front or if payments are going to made in installments.
Make known first-fight-of-refusal. For a sponsorship, the contract may last a few years or the lifetime of the product. When the contract expires, companies have the first-right-of-refusal. At that time, you approach the companies saying, 'Your sponsorship is up. Would you like to renew your sponsorship?'
Two other important things to remember are:
Authority figures. For the initial contract, along with myself and the person in the corporation doing the sponsorship, I make sure that there is another person in authority within my organization to sign the contract.
An attorney. I definitely suggest having an attorney look at your contact.
When I did my first contact, I asked the attorney we work with to look at the contract. I asked him, "Do you see any problems with this contract, if it was written this way?" Once he approved the contract, that was the contract that I used as a model for every transaction with that particular company. Granted, the wording was going to be a little different because what we were giving and what we were getting were going to be a little different.
Juliene Hefter can be reached at:email@example.com. The Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association can be found online at: www.wpraweb.org.