You’ve done the hard work. You developed a package of sponsor benefits that provides value to both your sponsors and your organization. You successfully solicited sponsorships to help support the mission of your association. Now comes the hard part: how do you steward relationships with these sponsors so they last?
Many associations need a reliable source of non-dues revenue, and income from sponsorships is a crucial part of their ability to serve their membership and advance their mission. Here are three ways your association can nurture relationships with sponsors so your association can count on their support for years to come:
1. Consistent Communication
Sponsors are supporting your association for a reason. They believe in the mission and what the association is doing. Keep them updated on progress, future plans, important meetings, and events within the organization year-round, instead of only reaching out when it is time to renew sponsor agreements. Check in with them regularly to make sure they are getting what they need, and ask them for feedback and suggestions. They want to feel like they are contributing more than just money, so don’t be shy about asking for their input. Follow up through emails, phone calls, mailings, and face-to-face meetings. Relationships are everything when it comes to stewardship, so treat your sponsors like people rather than just an ATM.
2. Elevate Your Sponsors
Make sponsors feel appreciated and valued for the investment they are making, and you will be well on your way in forging lasting relationships. You want to support their success as well by providing valuable benefits and recognition. There are a number of ways to make your sponsors feel appreciated – here are just a few:
- Place a “Sponsor Spotlight” in your monthly newsletter.
- Serve as a liaison to connect sponsors to one another through networking opportunities.
- Invite sponsors to events throughout the year so they have a better understanding of your mission and they feel like they are truly making a difference.
- Create opportunities for sponsors to showcase or demo their offerings during a conference, networking reception, educational program, or just on your website.
- Nominate a sponsor for an award in the community.
3. Offer Creative and Custom Benefits
A May 2017 article by American Society of Association Executives™, A New Way of Thinking About Sponsorship Partners, details the evolving ways associations are bolstering sponsorships by offering customized options. In the article, Bruce Rosenthal, principal of Bruce Rosenthal Consulting, specifies, “companies don’t want a laundry list of sponsorship benefits.” Specifically, not all sponsors want recognition on signage and print materials. Instead, they “may prefer an opportunity to share expertise on a panel discussion or in a focus group.”
Another example of this was provided by The International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM). Roberta Kravitz, Executive Director of ISMRM, was quoted saying, “You cannot be cookie-cutter anymore. You cannot just give certain defined items in return for the partner’s money. What you offer has to be much more specific to the partner.” ISMRM gives sponsors unique opportunities, including the chance to be involved in the annual meeting planning process.
The best way to know what will work for your sponsors is simply to ask them for their input. Whatever you do, remember that the more you listen to your sponsors, the stronger your show of appreciation, and the more likely they will want to continue the partnership.