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Part Two: Small Shop Sponsorship – The Three-Headed Hydra

December 12, 2017

by Christian Robillard

In part one of this article series, I discussed the first head of the hydra that can be corporate sponsorships in our sector. This month, we’ll look at vanquishing those other two heads and set you on course to be a hero of Herculean status in your organization.


The second head I was up against was the most daunting: the valuation. Now this is the head that can be both tough to conquer and very time-consuming in the short run. The starting point will be to list out all the different events/initiatives/campaigns for which you’d like to have sponsorships. We’ll call them “properties.”

Then you’ll need to build out an “inventory” which is a collection of all the opportunities (or “assets”) that you have to sponsor. These can be everything from speaking opportunities, to logo placement on a program, to an e-blast. Do this for each of your properties—no cheating by creating one single inventory!

Next, take these assets and group them into custom packages for your potential sponsors. How do you know what to put in these packages? Ask your sponsor! I’ll guarantee you two things. First: If you ask your sponsors what they want in their package, and if you’ve done your homework beforehand and know that this is a property they want to sponsor, they will tell you exactly what they want in their package. Second: If you customize your package, and don’t give people a pre-set basket of assets, you’ll be able to bring in even more sponsorship dollars and have even happier sponsors.

But wait! What about determining how much to charge my sponsor? Great question, you’re on fire today! We’ll get to that right now. All you need to do is look at what similar properties are charging based on your audience. If your audience is (as was in my case) post-secondary university students, then look to some of the student newspapers and magazines. If it’s social media, run an ad campaign. If it’s a speaking opportunity, look at how much other events charge for a speaking spot at leadership conferences. When you’ve done your research, you’ll see how quickly the dollars can start to add up for your event.

Securing Buy-in

The third head of the corporate sponsorship battle is getting your office on board, especially your bosses. Now I’ll admit, this can be a tough nut to crack. I can almost feel the eyes rolling in the back of an ED/Fundraiser’s head. In our resource-constrained environment we don’t get a lot of chances to mess up, or even to experiment, to see what might possibly work if something else is a sure-fire thing. So, this is what I suggest as an approach:

  • Step 1: Have a conversation with your boss and let them know that you are starting a new way of doing things.
  • Step 2: Start small. Try some of the techniques I've recommended with a few sponsorship prospects, and let the results speak for themselves. Show that you’re landing more meetings and are getting more replies than you were before.
  • Step 3: Involve your boss in the process. I did this at my own work by saying, “I’d really like a second, more senior person at the table to help me.” Sure enough, after seeing the positive response from sponsors, my boss trusted my judgement from that point forward. You can do the same thing with your board or ED. It will likely motivate them to go out and talk about sponsorship more with their contacts.

So, from one small shop warrior to another I say: YOU CAN DO IT! You can beat the three-headed Hydra, and slay that beast of corporate sponsorship. And to you, the victor, will go the spoils!

This article originally appeared in the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter blog.

 Christian Robillard's expertise is firmly within the event and cause sponsorship space. Christian helps clients identify sellable assets, determine the value of their opportunities, and, most importantly, implement strategies that work. In addition to his work with The Sponsorship Collective, Christian is completing his masters degree in philanthropy and nonprofit leadership at Carleton University, with a focus on corporate social responsibility and corporate giving, social entrepreneurship, impact investing, and fundraising. Christian is the founder of the AFP Collegiate Carleton Chapter in Ottawa.

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