Practical Tips For Selling Cause Partnerships To Corporate Sponsors

Cause sponsorship remains the fastest-growing slice of the sponsorship pie, projected to grow 6.1% in 2010, according to IEG. As a nonprofit, finding the support to keep your organization growing is more crucial than ever. No matter your size, now is an ideal time to tap into the power of cause marketing by aligning your organization with like-minded companies who see the strategic value of association with a cause. Here are a few tips for getting started on your selling journey:

  • Create guidelines. While corporate partnerships are a proven method to grow revenue, expand relevance and enable program delivery, even more important is protecting your organization’s brand and reputation. Before you begin the selling process, convene the key stakeholders in your organization and come to consensus around what types of companies/industries you will and will not partner with. Put these decisions on paper and make a simple process for determining if new companies fit your standards moving forward.

  • Recognize that it’s not just about the cause. Coming from a nonprofit background myself, I still find it hard to believe – but many companies won’t be sold on supporting your work simply because it is important or meaningful. While you should absolutely educate the company on the social benefit of your organization’s work, your primary job is to show sponsors that association with your work will positively impact their bottom line. A great resource for data to support your case is Cone’s Research and Insights page.

  • Prepare to sell. Ensure that the program or package you’re selling has a specific target audience, multiple points of engagement and a built-in plan to measure success. Develop solid criteria and objectives about the types of organizations you want to work with, research which have a history of (or potential of) supporting cause programs and approach each with its own tailored opportunity.

  • Find the right contact. Don’t overlook networking – you never know when your plumber’s cousin or mom’s best friend might be your ticket to that breakthrough meeting. If you don’t already know the right person, look first for contacts with marketing or brand responsibilities, (they typically have the promotions budget) and quickly identify if they have access to the tools that make things happen at your target company: decision-making authority, budget ownership or a weekly golf date with the CEO.

  • Know their WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”). Do detailed research on a prospective partner before the first meeting. Tailor your pitch to their needs and share initial ideas of what you envision a partnership becoming. Be clear about the benefits they will receive as a sponsor and show how their key audiences will engage with the program, and by extension, their brand.

  • Close the deal. Don’t let the “ask” linger. Set out a timeline by which you need a decision. Simply ask – what would it take for you to say YES to this opportunity?

And always remember – love your sponsors! No matter what organization you represent – the sponsor is taking a risk by committing to a partnership. Recognize this and delight them with your attention and recognition and you’ll be on the road to creating a true partnership.

- Emily Nichols, Account Supervisor


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