Starting out sponsorships with sustainability and success in mind

If you find the right fit corporate sponsorship can offer win-win opportunities for not-for-profits and businesses alike. Here, we share our insights on identifying the right sponsorship partner for your organisation or project.

Look for an alignment of values

When you set about choosing a sponsor start by looking for businesses who share your understanding of what really matters. This alignment is essential.

One of the reasons many commercial organisations consider sponsorship is to leverage the clear values of a not-for-profit. When there’s an insincere match, both parties lose.  For instance, if you’re working for environmental protection, an irresponsible corporate sponsor may undo all your hard work – and discourage your other supporters.

Some corporates take on generous sponsorships to mitigate the harm they create.  In this case, you’ll want to be sure their values are real and not superficial. You can look at a company’s website to see how they like to be perceived. However, the way organisation lives its values says much more.  Keep your ear to the ground and check out reviews or social media comments too.

Think beyond the big brands

Well-known corporates get the most requests for sponsorships. They often have sophisticated programmes or strategies with little flexibility. On the other hand, smaller organisations may have more agility, enthusiasm and connection with local initiatives. Look for business leaders in your community who share a passion for your cause. Right now, supporting local is one way that businesses can show their care and gratitude to their communities. So, don’t overlook the potential beyond big brands.

Don’t forget the competition.

If you’re considering a new sponsor, make sure you don’t alienate those you already have by courting the competition. It’s always worth checking with current sponsors before you invite another brand on board. Although the final decision is yours, it’s useful to know where your partners stand.

In fact, your existing sponsors may have ideas for prospects too! There may be an organisation they’d like to build a working relationship. They may be able to bring intros or intel.

We know of one organisation who talked about their need for more sponsorship with an existing partner, only to have the partner offer more funds for additional branding!

Complementary audiences have a benefit for everyone.

If you can identify a sponsor who has a similar audience or target market to your own, then there’s great potential. Exposure to your respective followers may grow your fan base with just the right kind of contacts.

When your audience and your sponsor’s audiences align, it’s easier to find benefits that give real value to each of your communities. You’re also likely to find your sponsor is more actively engaged, which is what makes any sponsorship really thrive.

Cash is not the only thing of value.

Yes, cash is king. But there’s more to success than that. In the current environment, innovative and collaborative solutions are vital. In-kind support can help ensure your success and create strong new relationships. For instance, technology resources or expertise could give you the edge in adapting to the Covid-19 environment. Access to office space could remove massive stress from your budget.

Funding HQ has plenty of other ideas about how to find and nurture sustainable corporate sponsorships. Our sponsorship module has detailed guidance to help you:

  • follow key principles of success
  • develop your sponsorship offering
  • find the right business
  • approach your prospective sponsor
  • build a compelling proposal
  • make the ask
  • activate the sponsorship
  • look after your sponsor.

Click here to find out more


Superb donor stewardship is about consistency

Stewarding your donors makes sense

Fundraisers often say every little bit makes a difference. This philosophy should be more than a message – it should drive your organisation’s culture. Why? So many reasons! On numbers alone, the lifetime value of a regular small donor can be immense. It costs much more to recruit a new donor than look after a current one. You never know which modest gift could be a donor’s way of ‘testing the water’ when they have much more to offer. Creating raving, loyal fans among your donors is a simple way to build wider support.

Start with a stewardship plan and stick to it

Consistency is critical. The most important thing you can do to retain and steward your donors is to have a plan that you measure and follow. Think of it as a ‘service agreement’ with your supporters. Hold yourself to account with clear, regular measurement. Funding HQ helps you build an achievable plan to care for your donors and provides plenty of templates to get you started. If you have easy metrics in place, then you’ll have a framework to follow, so no donor gets left behind. For example, you might plan to have a board member get in touch with every donor of a certain level once per quarter. You can note these interactions and see your stewardship performance with a glance.

Put your donors first in communications

Whenever you’re communicating with your donors – individually, as a group, or in general, it’s vital to get the message right. Usually, this means keeping it donor-centric rather than organisation centric. You want to show that donor support matters and how it makes an impact. Our blog on storytelling has some ideas. 

To keep your communications truly donor-centric, make sure you understand how often they’d like to hear from you, and how. The best way to do this is simply to ask. Funding HQ will help you build a system that captures this information when you bring your donors on board.

Genuine gratitude is the greatest

Saying thank you always matters. And it’s much more important than glitzy donor gifts or splashy merchandise. Your thanks should be as emphatic as any request for a donation. At the very least, you must make a prompt thanks for every gift. Then, you can get more inventive. Below, we’ve listed a few ideas for stewarding donors. We regularly add the most inspiring case studies to Funding HQ too.

Have fun and get everyone involved in thanking donors

Donors rarely like to see too much money spent on them instead of the cause. This removes pressure and gives you an opportunity to be creative. Think about money-can’t-buy opportunities that are personal rather than elaborate. Surprising donors with something small and unexpected can mean a lot. For example, scholarship students or travelling sports teams could send a postcard to donors. Arts organisations could invite donors to watch a rehearsal.

Below are a few ideas we’ve seen that capture donor’s imaginations. We’d love to hear what special things your organisation does to recognise and care for its donors.

  • Personal notes, calls or cards from your team, your trustees or your community
  • Engagement without an ask attached, such as a birthday wish, recognition of milestones or successes
  • Creative naming rights such as ‘Tania’s roses’, Sean’s team buffet’
  • Opportunity to volunteer or get closer to the cause – a behind-the-scenes visit, hold the drink bottles, help with the costumes, capture ‘crowd view’ selfies etc
  • Something small and personalised such as autographed practice notes, a signed team shirt
  • Access to discounts or special offers from within your sponsor network
  • Public acknowledgement such as a post on Facebook, your website, a programme or display at a venue

Funding HQ has many more ideas and gives you frameworks to help you succeed. Find out if it’s a fit for your organisation here


Finding Stories that move people

What could you do if you captured the hearts of supporters, funders and your community?  You could change the world! That’s why telling the right stories is so important, and there’s potential everywhere.  

How can you find the best stories to show your impact?

A trick is to look at the types of stories that have always captivated people. These three stand out for their fit with showing impact.

Character-driven stories are fascinating and help build empathy. Who pops into mind when you think about the people who you help?

Stories with a central conflict are enduring and work well for organisations addressing a problem or need in the community. They’re great at building tension in a narrative, and that’s what captures attention.

And lastly, stories about a hero’s journey have always inspired people. Do you have a donor or staff member who fits this bill? We bet you do!

Structure your story for maximum impact

The ‘beginning–middle–end’ structure of stories is pounded into all Kiwi school kids. As adults, we can see this as a narrative arc.

To hold your reader’s attention, keep building the tension throughout your story and then wrap up with some kind of resolution.

Your aim is to hook your reader and emotionally transport them. This response is tied to oxytocin release. You should read the story about that research! Oxytocin helps unlock people’s empathy, compassion, and their likelihood to give. Keep your ‘call to action’ until after the final resolution – you want to save it until the full power of your story is flooding your reader with emotion.

Authenticity and detail help make stories compelling

You only need to watch a child relate their day’s activities to see that humans have a natural inclination to tell stories. But good technique makes your stories more interesting.

One tip is to be specific, not general when you’re telling a story. Search out details that make your reader feel as though they’re there in the moment. For instance, it’s much better to talk about a ‘scratchy woollen blanket’ than ‘bedding’.

Authenticity is vital in good storytelling. It might be tempting to make up ‘typical scenarios,’ but your integrity is just too important to risk. We know it can be tricky when privacy limits what you can say.  Sometimes, it’s better to forgo a story rather than compromise someone or your organisation.

Your community is rich with potential stories. In fact, setting out to discover them is like going on your own ‘hero’s journey’.  Hunt down stories that show your organisation’s impact and how others can help. Tell your stories well and you’ll be successful…you’ll move people’s hearts, minds, money and more.