Time to Turn NGO Sponsorships Inside Out, Upside Down

Several times a month I’m approached by a non-profit looking for sponsors. Typically they are legitimate requests and great causes. However, I decline more than I support. Here’s why.

Why? Funds are tighter; companies want more accountability, focus and clarity. 

 I strongly believe in corporations’ role in society to help alleviate ills and innovate to improve the lives of others through a combination of donations, volunteerism, corporate strategy and more. I also believe that we need to think and talk about relationships and two-way partnerships as opposed to the one-way model of communications from yester-years. I’m a “relationship believer” because I’ve witnessed and know the power of connection.

I don’t see value in having the name of a company or sponsor on a banner, mention in a newsletter (that is sent to an audience that doesn’t have a direct impact on a company) in exchange for $100 or $500 or $1000 or whatever. (By saying this I don’t think sponsorships – private or public – will go away soon, there are also some exceptions).

The importance of value exchange in corporate and non-profit partnerships is real and here to stay. Having worked in the non-profit sector I understand the development strategy of the organizations and reliance on corporate funds however I’d encourage non-profits to think about how they engage with corporations since they’re moving away from traditional philanthropy.

Why does a corporation care or would like to gain value from a sponsorship? The first thing I would think about is content. Understanding the impact that a financial contribution affords a non-profit or society is compelling. For example, if I sponsor a child who attends a workshop on healthy living skills I’m interested to know the difference that the experience has had in the student’s life and secondly I’m genuinely interested in the experience that the sponsorship has helped create for the student. This is far more interesting and appealing than a name on a banner, pen or newsletter! The biggest challenge for a non-profit is how they can keep up with the demand for ‘tailored’ sponsorships. This shift in how we look at the value exchange proposition requires thoughtfulness and time investment – on behalf of the non-profit; it cannot be mass produced (like a name on the banner or a pen). I know time is precious and someone could argue that non-profits should be focused on the social impact and delivering on its mission. I agree that the mission should be the focus of a non-profit but the hand that feeds it cannot be separated from the way it operates and being invested in relationship is as important to non-profits as every entity. This is part of the wave of change.

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