Too often we small business owners get caught up in our day-to-day bottom line, and miss the needs of the community outside our door. By doing this, we miss an opportunity to include “socially responsible marketing" -or sponsorship- in our yearly promotional plan. Sponsorship is a perfect collaboration, considering the similarities that entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations have in common. We are value-driven, highly motivated and creative risk takers, results-oriented and close to our clients. With this in mind, consider exploring sponsorship as a humanitarian duty, first and foremost, as well as an investment. This is a business investment or partnership between two parties, who work together for mutual benefit
Sponsorship can open cost-effective doors to target markets, and media that you or they may not be able to access on their own. It also creates an incredible opportunity for your business to boost an awareness of social issues that match your values and goals as an organization.
This leads to a valuable and exciting exercise for your company. Make a list of the values of your organization, as well as a list of the things that your organization does better than anyone else. Studying these two lists will lead you to the best organization with which you partner.
Refer to these lists when you approach or are approached by an organization which may fit your values criteria. This partnership needs to be based on an honest and clear commonality of goals and values. It is much bigger than just writing a cheque. Ask questions, lots of questions. Go and see what the organization does. Try to think of as many options for sponsorship as possible. Be creative when looking for events or campaigns that match you as an organization.
You can donate money, of course. But you can also donate products or services. This is usually known as a donation in kind. Can you involve clients, suppliers or staff? Are there resources, staff or office equipment that can be shared or given? Think of opportunities that will bring people through your doors. Or where people will be able to try your product or service. Is there a special promotional item that you can use in connection with the event/campaign? Where can you put your corporate image or phone number? Are there opportunities for potential business? Remember that you already have something in common: You are both supporters of the same organization. What a terrific way to begin a client relationship.
Once you have confidently selected a partner, throw yourself into it. Be passionate, be proud and, most importantly, be very clear. Outline in writing the details of promotion, money, image, description and responsibilities, all with time lines attached. Evaluation is an important thing which could be included here.
Above all else, you want to create a positive experience that eventually will lead to other partnerships. These first steps are the beginning of a community relations or fundraising policy as your company grows.
There are many examples of excellent sponsorships. Take a look around you and see if anything catches your eye. Entrepreneurs and small business people are resourceful and always looking for opportunities for additional profile and revenue. Sharing a mailing, donating goodies to be handed out, giving children a small toy, promoting a food bank or a free meal program, buying an ad in a theatre program—all are useful to the community in which we entrepreneurs do business.
Lastly, remember that sponsorship acts as a lubricant to the goals, values and promotion plan that you have in place. It is meant to compliment, not replace, the promotion that your company already has planned. People will not necessarily buy your product or service because they saw your name/logo as a sponsor on a T-shirt. But they may buy something from you if they saw your name/logo on a number of different promotional items.
Philanthropy is the love of those around us. This in mind, you are invited to attempt to embrace this principle through sponsorship of events or campaigns that affect you and the people around you. But be prepared, and be clear of your values and goals. A partnership is a serious commitment and is not for the lighthearted. Walt Whitman said it well: “When I give, I give myself. "
Sponsorship then might be a perfect partnership for small business. It can be one of the most valuable tools available to create revenue, profile, goodwill and relationship building—and it may be far more meaningful than just a “charity" money exchange.
Presented by Mari-Lyn Hudson of Heart@Work The Business Development Group. You can reach her at: 1-866-667-0166 or email@example.com