How to Level-Up Your Nonprofit with Corporate Sponsorships [Podcast]

by | Oct 22, 2021

Have you ever wondered how to get corporate sponsorship for your nonprofit organization?

How does that even work? And how would you get started looking for sponsorship partners?

In this episode of A Modern Nonprofit Podcast, Tosha speaks with Ken Ungar, the Founder and CEO of CHARGE. CHARGE is the leading source of sponsorship advice for brands and properties, so Ken knows exactly what corporations are looking for in a sponsorship candidate.

And in this episode, he’ll answer all your questions about corporate sponsorships for nonprofits, like:

-What’s the difference between a corporate partnership and a standard donation?
-How do you know when your nonprofit is sponsorship ready?
-How do you cut through the clutter to make your sponsorship request stand out to a potential sponsor?
-And much more!

Your journey to corporate sponsorship starts right here!

🎥 Click the video below to watch the episode on YouTube.

🎧 Click here to listen to the Podcast on AnchorFM or Apple Podcasts

👇 Or scroll below the video to read the full transcript of our conversation

BONUS CONTENT: Click here to take CHARGE’s Nonprofit Readiness Assessment: https://chargesponsorship.com/sponsorship-readiness-assessment/

 


A Modern Nonprofit Podcast

How to Use Corporate Sponsorships to Level-Up Your Nonprofit with Ken Ungar of CHARGE

10/21/2021

Tosha Anderson:

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of A Modern Nonprofit Podcast, where we talk about all things relative to nonprofits and more importantly, a modern nonprofit, how we can do things a little bit differently, think outside of the box. I’m really excited for this conversation today. I have my friend, Ken Ungar here. He is the President of CHARGE Sponsorship. I oftentimes can hear nonprofits say that they’re interested in getting sponsorships more corporate support. You know, how do we go after these bigger gifts? And your company, you’re the President of CHARGE Sponsorship. This company helps for profit and especially nonprofits leverage these corporate sponsorships and how to get them and how to best use them and how to best, I guess, communicate the impact that they’re having. Right? So Ken, I’m really excited to dive into this conversation, but first I want to thank you for joining us and to sharing some of your words of wisdom on how to get this ball rolling for so many organizations.

Ken Ungar:

Thank you. It’s great to be here to chat about this subject. I love it.

Tosha Anderson:

Awesome. So really, first things first, what are the most important factors for nonprofits to consider a corporate sponsorship? So what should they be thinking about?

Ken Ungar:

Yeah, I think there’s a number of things to think about. What we advise nonprofits is the first thing is to be sponsorship ready. And what that means is to be sure that you have all your ducks in a row in terms of your marketing strategy and how you market your nonprofit. We have on our website, a free sponsorship readiness assessment tool for nonprofits to go through and look at the particular aspects of their program. But if they’re sponsorship ready, then they’re capable of giving great value to sponsors. So that’s the first thing to keep in mind, is, are they ready for the sponsorship relationship?

Ken Ungar:

Secondly, we ask them to create a sponsorship policy where they define ahead of time which sponsors are compatible with their mission because often not all sponsors are created equal and really a nonprofit is at its heart, an advocacy organization. And an advocacy organization, really it’s all about their credibility. And so through the sponsorship relationship, if you pick the wrong partner or if your partner’s just not compatible with your mission, you could sacrifice that credibility and end up hurting your mission and your ability to create impact.

Tosha Anderson:

Gotcha. So you mentioned sponsorship readiness. For those that have never been able to get a corporate sponsorship, what do you mean by that? Could you clarify that for those that are new to this corporate sponsorship role? How would you define ready?

Ken Ungar:

Yeah. So sponsorship readiness is, one, you have a marketing strategy. Secondly, that you’re ready to develop that strategy and to implement it. Can we stop for a moment? I’ve lost my video. I apologize.

Tosha Anderson:

So, Ken, when you talk about sponsorship readiness, can you share a little bit more about that? What does that mean to be sponsorship ready if you’re an organization, you’ve never received corporate sponsorships in any way? What would an organization do to be ready?

Ken Ungar:

It’s really all those things that go into your marketing strategy as nonprofit. So first, do you have a marketing strategy? Do you have a plan to use really all the channels of distribution for your message, including social media and email marketing and public relations and media relations? And then the third thing is, do you have a really good handle on your audience? Who are your audience? What is their demographics? What are their psychographics in terms of what your audience is interested in and such? So it’s really on the marketing side of your house as a not-for-profit. Do you have all of those ducks in a row because frankly, sponsorship is a marketing relationship. And if you’re not ready to be a good marketing partner, then you’re really not in a position to offer very much value to a sponsor.

Tosha Anderson:

That makes complete sense. Let’s talk a little bit more about organizations and how they can get in front of sponsorships. I own a for-profit business and I can certainly understand how many different organizations are reaching out to me for sponsorships and some sort of financial support, right? And I’m sure that most small businesses and large businesses get the same, just constantly inundated by requests. So how can an organization cut through the cluttered oversaturated business, like marketing landscape and make sure that their message reaches their target, whether it’s to their target, meaning their donors and other community constituents, or maybe their market is just getting those corporate sponsorships initially? How do they cut through all of the noise?

Ken Ungar:

Yeah, that’s a great question. And just to share a bit of information about how cluttered that market is. So a colleague of mine is a sponsorship management at a large beverage company that everyone has heard of, and he’ll receive 200 sponsorship requests a day.

Tosha Anderson:

Can believe it.

Ken Ungar:

And so that’s a lot of clutter in terms of trying to get your message in front of a potential sponsor, if you’re a nonprofit. So since the odds are against you, how do you really even those odds? Well, the first is really about storytelling. It’s to convey right from the start, what is unique about your organization and what stories do you tell about the communities that you serve? And so that’s really what sponsors are looking for, are unique stories that they can attach their brands to, and which are compatible with their brands. Right? We talked about the fact that audiences have to matter. But really having that unique story to tell and right from the start, conveying that to a potential sponsor will help you cut through the clutter and getting your message in front of that sponsor and will help that sponsor cut through the clutter and get its message heard by its audience.

Tosha Anderson:

I love that. So a lot of times nonprofit leaders talk about corporate grants, corporate gifts, corporate contributions. How do you talk about sponsorships? I guess help us understand what does a sponsorship really mean, and is that different from corporate contributions? And what are some of those advantages and disadvantages that it might bring to an organization if you were to get some sort of sponsorship, just to clarify for those that may not know the difference?

Ken Ungar:

Yeah. Great question. So a donation is obviously the typical fundraising activity where a donor is giving money in kind aid without the expectation of recognition. So that’s typically kind of the largest source of revenue for a nonprofit. Then there’s advertising and you typically see advertising revenue associated with events, the annual gala event or a charity 5K run, things of that nature. And what advertising is, is when the advertiser is paying money for the right of exposure. And so it’s typically a very static relationship where the advertiser is paying the nonprofit an advertising fee and the nonprofit is just providing exposure to that advertiser.

Ken Ungar:

Sponsorship is where the sponsor is paying a fee for the right to use the nonprofit’s logo, name, intellectual property, so that there could be a co-promotional relationship. So the sponsor is promoting the nonprofit and the nonprofit is promoting the sponsor. So it’s a very dynamic relationship and much different than advertising, where if I’m an advertiser, I’m just getting a sign or I’m just getting the right to broadcast a commercial, but with the sponsorship, there’s this co-promotion, which is very powerful because in very few circumstances is an organization like a nonprofit being paid and being promoted at the same time. So they get double benefit through the sponsorship relationship.

Tosha Anderson:

So you had mentioned it really is more like a partnership, like you said, that a contribution, there’s no strings attached. There’s no expectations generally. And you just receive the gifts and you go on about your work, right?

Ken Ungar:

Right.

Tosha Anderson:

Sponsorship is much more involved than that. So what would you say some of the advantages and disadvantages of accepting on this more formal partnership and more formal relationship?

Ken Ungar:

Yeah, that’s a great question. So in terms of the advantages, I think the first is what I mentioned before. You’re getting both financial resource or in kind resource and you’re getting promotion. And so the value of that promotion helps you, not only in terms of your overall awareness, but as we know, awareness is part of the donor journey. So you’re increasing the awareness of your organization. And so not only are you getting benefit through the sponsorship, but that heightened awareness should also enable you to translate that through greater donation because you’re increasing the visibility of your organization.

Tosha Anderson:

Gotcha.

Ken Ungar:

The other advantage is what we call third-party validation, which is just by virtue of the fact that a sponsor wants to partner with you as a nonprofit. That’s kind of that good housekeeping seal of approval, where the sponsor is validating saying, this nonprofit is worthy of support because we support the nonprofit. So it’s different than the nonprofit touting its own virtue and its own mission. You have other people saying, no, no, no, no. They really are worthy of support. So, that third-party validation’s really important.

Ken Ungar:

A disadvantage is it’s not necessarily easy. I mean, I can’t sugar coat it. It is time intensive. And I know time is always a premium in a nonprofit and there’s always way too much work than there are hours in the day, but the benefits are commensurate with the amount of work you put in. But it is more time intensive than simply accepting advertising, for example. And the other disadvantage is you have to be ready. We talked about sponsorship readiness earlier in this episode. And so you need to put a lot of work in upfront to ensure that your overall marketing strategy is fine tuned and ready to go.

Tosha Anderson:

So speaking to that, I guess my next question would really be more into how would a nonprofit start a corporate sponsorship program? How would they begin to start with that? And you talked about marketing plans and those sort of things. So for those organizations that are starting from the ground zero, what would you recommend their first few steps to be?

Ken Ungar:

Yeah. The first is establishing a sponsorship policy. I mentioned that a little earlier. What we advise nonprofits is not to reinvent the wheel. In our experience, the best sponsorship policy that we’ve seen was created by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. And they have this template posted on their website of their sponsorship policy. And it really kind of lays out step by step, what are the types of sponsors that are acceptable to you as your nonprofit? It’s important for you to discuss it. It’s important for you to vet it with your board and with your executive leadership so that you’re not spinning your wheels. You’re not soliciting sponsorship from sponsors who are not right for your nonprofit. That’s the first step.

Ken Ungar:

Secondly, it’s to really get a handle on your audience to understand, and when I say your audience for a nonprofit, it’s your donors, your volunteers, the people on your email list, the people that you speak to are your audience, what are their demographics? Where do they live? Their psychographics, what are their interests, their hobbies, their values? The reason why that’s important is as you seek a sponsorship, the sponsor is looking for an audience that matches its customers because in the end, it’s using sponsorship to enhance its brand or sell more product. So there needs to be a match between the nonprofit’s audience and the sponsor’s customer base. The nonprofit needs to have a really good handle on what that audience looks like. And I’d say those are the steps that most nonprofits do to kick off a sponsorship program.

Tosha Anderson:

I love that, Ken. I’ve seen more and more organizations, or I’ve seen this in practice on my side of working with nonprofits, especially around events, like a sponsorship. It’s not just, you’re contributing to one event, you’re a sponsor for one event, but how can we create a sponsorship package for all of the events on a small scale and a larger scale? And how can we have continuous like co-promotion of all of our events with some key sponsors? And that’s kind of throughout the year without having to revisit this conversation and have a different ask for every single event. So I’ve seen that work really successfully for some of our nonprofit clients.

Tosha Anderson:

So this has all been helpful. Ken, I know that many people are still, okay, I’m interested in the sponsorship idea. I like this idea. I like this idea of developing relationships with corporate partners. I need more help. I think probably the next question that people might have, if people wanted to get in touch with you and pick your brain a little bit more, or maybe even hire your firm, CHARGE Sponsorship to help them develop the sponsorship program and to guide them down this path, tell us a little bit more, how would people best be able to find you?

Ken Ungar:

Right. So our website is chargesponsorship.com. And for nonprofits, we have a special area where we offer some free resource for them to understand better how we can help or how they can self-help in terms of getting a sponsorship program started. It’s at chargesponsorship.com/freestuff.

Tosha Anderson:

Okay.

Ken Ungar:

And so we have a nonprofit corporate sponsorship directory, which is a compilation of a lot of resources out there to help nonprofits start their sponsorship program. But certainly, we have programs like our Jumpstart program, which is a half-day workshop to help nonprofits quickly kickstart their sponsorship program. And all that information can be found on our website.

Tosha Anderson:

Awesome. Ken, we’ll go ahead and put that in the show notes too, for anybody listening. Ken, thank you so much for this conversation and more importantly to the free resources that you’re offering any of our listeners. So if you are interested in reaching out with Ken, check him out on his website, chargesponsorship.com, and we’ll also put that in the show notes. Ken, thank you again so much for joining us and starting to have this conversation about corporate sponsorships. I think this is probably new for many of the people listening. So thank you again, Ken.

Tosha Anderson:

And for those of you that have not already subscribed to our newsletter or checked out our YouTube channel or any of these other resources that we put out there for you as well, make sure you check on our website, thecharitycfo.com, make sure you check out our YouTube channel. We put all of these episodes, we break them up into smaller clips. So if you want to go back and listen to any of this or share any of this, feel free to go ahead and check that out on YouTube. And then, of course, the audio is always available on all of your major streaming platforms, Anchor, Apple, Spotify, or any of those other platforms. So thank you all so much for joining us. Until next time. Bye, everyone.

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