Sponsorship As An Alternate Revenue Stream

Fundraising January 19, 2015

Farhad Chikhliwala

By Farhad Chikhliwala

Sometimes, traditional revenue streams like membership dues, donations and fundraising drives aren't enough. Sponsorships can offer up terrific revenue to non-profits, membership organizations and associations of all sizes.

Sharing thoughts on sponsorship as an alternative revenue source

In a recent Small Membership Advisory Session, we heard from members on both sides of the sponsorship divide:

We heard from people whose organizations had been successfully securing sponsorships for years:

“ sponsors are our key source of income ...some of our sponsors participate because they get direct benefits by either the exposure, or inviting clients … other people are sponsors because they want to benefit the community.”

There were also those who weren't quite there yet:

”We do not solicit sponsors, but I think maybe we should.”

As well as those who can’t get support within their board or organization:

“we need to get more into sponsorships, but right now, the board has just basically rejected any ideas of sponsorships at this time.”

“There's a lot that we could do with extra funds … but we just have a lack of people on the board – they've got the mindset that they don't want to favor one business over another.”

Since finding sponsors and managing those relationships requires some planning and knowledge, we’ve gathered some insight from our Advisory Community that we hope will help you gain sponsorship and increase your revenue. This will help to fund more events, projects and initiatives, providing even more value to your members.

Event Sponsorship

A good place to start is event sponsorship. One advisory member on the call shared her experience with getting a company to sponsor an event.

“Other than memberships, we have our event sponsors. We have quarterly luncheons, where we have networking time and a speaker come in. We typically have forty or fifty people attend each of those luncheons, and we'll have two sponsors.

With a $400 fee they get a table to set up and lay their materials out. They're usually industry vendors, so they are wanting to network with attendees. They also get a moment at the beginning to give a quick slideshow or video of some sort if they want to promote their product. Their logos and website URL’s are also incorporated into all of the advertising that we do for that event.

We also have our day-long seminar once a year. We have two levels of sponsors for that one. For $400 we offer a silver sponsorship. They get a table and their name is on all of the advertising. Then the higher level, the gold level, is $600. They also get all of that plus a 10-minute presentation time. We typically get sixty to seventy attendees, so that's quite a larger audience there.”

Sponsor outreach

A frequent contributor to our Advisory Community, Nicole Walters, former Program Manager of the San Diego Venture Group, had some insight into how her organization reaches out to sponsors:

“The way that we recruit new sponsors is definitely relationship-focused. We will have an idea of someone we want to target because it makes sense that they would be involved in an organization like ours, or they sponsor other organizations with similar missions.”

“Once we target a company, then we usually start with a phone call or an email, and then we do a follow-up meeting in person. Sometimes there will be a face-to-face connection at a mutual networking event. We recently signed on a new sponsor for next year because our president and one of our board members was at an event with the marketing manager of this large company. So sometimes it's face-to-face, but it’s always relationship-driven.”

Check out our 1-On-1 Advisory Series Session with Nicole to read more about how her organization tackles sponsorship.

Sponsorship advice from the experts

Noted marketing expert and business consultant,  Jay Abraham has been contributing to our Small Advisory Community Sessions for some time now. As founder and CEO of the Abraham Group, Jay has worked with a variety of clients in hundreds of different industries. During the session, Jay provided some great advice on securing sponsorship:

  • Think outside the box: Come up with unique and desirable benefits that won't compromise the integrity of your organization. Consider asking your board, volunteers and members for some ideas that will give your sponsors more bang for their buck.

  • Don’t take no for an answer: Be persistent. Go back to the people who haven't accepted your proposal yet with a new and refreshing proposition. Ask a committee or board member to communicate with them at least four times a year.

  • Honor them: Once you gain your sponsorship, honor your sponsors. No matter how much the sponsorship is worth, sending a plaque or a certificate of appreciation will do wonders for your relationship. It’s an easy, cost-effective way to show that you are grateful and that you value your partnership.

Sponsorship is a two-way street

In his recent article, Getting Started Building Sponsor Partnerships, for the Wild Apricot Knowledge Hub, cause marketing expert Joe Waters says that “at its core, sponsorship is an exchange of money for services.”

Try to think of a sponsorship arrangement as a business partnership. Your organization benefits from sponsorship, but so does your sponsor.  For associations and clubs, your sponsor gets access to your members and supporters, for non-profits, your sponsor gains the positive image and exposure that comes with being affiliated with a worthwhile cause.

Sponsorship isn’t a dirty word – in fact your  leaders and supporters may welcome it, as long as you end up finding a sponsor that’s a good fit. Corporations of all sizes are actively looking for opportunities to lend their name to a good cause or worthy organization.

According to the 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study, “more than nine-in-10 [consumers] look to companies to support social or environmental issues in some capacity” and “nearly all U.S. consumers say that when a company supports a cause, they have a more positive image of the company (93%).”

Sponsorship is about more than getting a one-off benefactor to finance a luncheon. It’s about creating long lasting, meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships. Think about how your relationship with your sponsor can evolve over the years. Involve your sponsors in organizational activities, follow-up regarding successes and as Jay Abraham suggested, honor them.

Join the conversation

Did you find any of these insights to be useful? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Additional Resources:

Image source: Detailed illustration of a compass with sponsorship text - courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com


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  • Patrick Murphy:
    OK, getting sponsorships is good, but it would also help if Wild Apricot had more tools/functionality to manage sponsorships. For example, if there was a "Sponsors" module similar to the "Members" module, with levels of donations. Or the ability to invoice for a specific donation such as "Conference Gold-level Sponsor", instead of just having a generic Donations webpage. Perhaps these could be added to WA in the future....
  • Farhad Chikhliwala

    Farhad Chikhliwala:
    Thanks for your feedback Patrick. It's always helpful if you add your suggestions to our Product Wishlist: https://community.wildapricot.com/8/ShowForum.aspx
  • Brian Yacker:
    When securing sponsorships, please keep in mind the potential unrelated business income issues which could arise if the sponsorship is not structured properly.
  • Lori Halley

    Lori Halley:
    Brian: Thanks for your additional insight.

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