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Non-Dues Revenue Opportunities

Value-added Sponsorships
By Jessica Widing, Executive Director & Ethan Gray, Executive Director

As more and more associations struggle in this difficult economic climate, soliciting corporate support may never have been more difficult. Nevertheless, associations are uniquely positioned to demonstrate the value of their partnership opportunities in a climate where companies and institutions are scrutinizing their expenditures like never before. Creating the right environment plays a key role.

Below are some tips to help you design a comprehensive marketing package. A conference or convention may be your biggest hook, but offering year-round benefits shows your supporters you are interested in an ongoing strategic partnership.

  1. Establish clear benefits: A prospective funder wants to know exactly what his/her company is receiving at their support level. Make your benefit packages clear. Follow-up with partners to ensure they are maximizing their opportunities; don't forget that they are entitled to a web link because they haven't asked for one. Fulfillment of benefits will keep supporters coming back each year.
  2. Offer the option to customize: Don't go out of your way to promote "unique" packages or you may hurt relationships with supporters who choose the ones advertised but keep the lines of communication open. If a prospect has specific marketing needs you may be able to design a package that is optimal for both association and supporter.
  3. Draw from a large pond: The more lines that are cast, the more likely you are to succeed. The worst case scenario is a "No thanks!"At the same time, focus on companies that have a greater likelihood to sponsor. Don't spend countless hours chasing dead-end leads; use your best judgment to evaluate a prospect's odds of support.
  4. Leverage relationships: Use your current contacts to get your foot in the door with companies or institutions. Send your promo materials to marketing directors, but also send them to the individual who last partnered with you on an initiative or even the association member who has been an active volunteer; these individuals can be your advocates.
  5. Manipulate exposure: Do what you can to ensure that conference attendees visit with sponsors, particularly in exhibit halls if booths are a benefit. Offer incentives to attendees for speaking with exhibitors.
  6. Extend your benefits beyond a conference: Supporters are looking for year-round value. Offer partnership packages that provide specific conference benefits as well as opportunities for branding before and after a meeting.
    Be prepared to itemize your benefits for your supporters, especially if you offer a la carte marketing options like list rentals or website advertising.
  7. Ask for Feedback: Sponsors love to tell you what they like and dislike. If you have the time and resources, organize a brief meeting while on-site at a conference—serve your sponsors refreshments while you ask their opinion. If the time and/or money aren't there during a meeting, send surveys post-conference along with acknowledgement letters.