Research by IEG over the years shows us that about a decade ago, corporations that work with nonprofit organizations began asking for “benefits” in exchange for their “gifts.” This request effectively conflated philanthropy with the marketing medium known as corporate sponsorship and continues to confuse both nonprofit and corporate leaders.
Nonprofit development officers, on whose shoulders it fell to figure out what their corporate funders were looking for, were stumped. Ultimately, what emerged were the generic “sponsorship levels” that many organizations put forth as corporate sponsorship — today’s Gold, Silver & Bronze packages.
However, calling Gold, Silver & Bronze packages corporate sponsorship is like someone saying that he’s been to Paris or Venice or New York City because he went to Paris, The Venetian, or New York-New York hotel in Las Vegas. It is not the same thing.
You can say I’m splitting hairs and arguing semantics. Afterall, if a company sends your event or initiative money, aren’t they technically “sponsoring’ it, in the dictionary version of the definition, and isn’t that a good thing?
My vote? No.
In the next three posts, I will provide you with as fair and balanced a picture for and against as I can develop, and I welcome your discussion and comments. So far, I have 10 cons, 2 pros.
Here are the first 5 reasons to consider moving beyond and even abandoning Gold, Silver, & Bronze (or other named but equally generic) packages.
- Generic. The biggest problem with Gold, Silver & Bronze is that they are generic. Every business is unique. You can take five banks and each will offer personal checking accounts, business checking accounts, mortgages, commercial loans, and other offerings, but each one does so differently. Each has its own strategy, brand identity, goals, talent, level of innovation, and other distinctions. By offering a business something generic, your proposal fails to take this differentiation into consideration.
- Claustrophobia. Business leaders feel claustrophobic looking at generic offerings. It says, “take it or leave it.” Imagine walking into a boutique that only sells red clothing, with the shop owner smugly sitting behind the counter, with a “take it or leave it” attitude. How inclined would you be to shop?
- Misses the point. Most Gold, Silver & Bronze packages are a bullet-pointed list of inputs (as opposed to outcomes) and almost never offer the most important characteristic about corporate sponsorship — that it’s experiential.
- Undervalue. Because these packages are a collection of inputs, they are filled with low-level and even no-value “stuff.” Therefore you’re undervaluing what your organization really has to offer, which, in my experience with clients, is usually considerable.
- No focus on ROI. These packages also are the antithesis of what corporations are looking for — to generate a return on investment. They want to increase sales, build traffic online or to a retail store, encourage product trial, build thought leadership, influence opinion, build client relationships, or accomplishing myriad other significant business goals. By their very nature, generic offerings are not focused on outcomes.
Stay tuned for the next 5 and the 2 reasons for.
In the meantime, what are your experiences with Gold, Silver & Bronze levels of sponsorship?