Sponsorship is Not a Donation.

In applying for positions, I’ve come across a few postings asking me to do a little work along with sending the requisite cover letter and resume. Depending on this position and the scope of the work,  I completely understand this. When I say scope, I am calling out a very large national health plan that  wanted candidates to provide an entire communications plan prior to even getting an interview. I felt that was a little out of scope to obtain a phone screening, but that’s just me.

I am working on a sponsorship proposal letter for a wonderful foundation out of Boulder. I don’t mind their asking for a sponsorship letter – it’s a letter, and for a sales and development professional, they should be second nature and pretty much like a cover letter. But it got me thinking – there is a big difference between a sponsorship letter/proposal and a development letter to a potential donor.

Sponsorship is a business proposal. The bank, law firm or restaurant is looking for something in return. You had better know what you have to offer them in return for their purchase of advertising.

  • Value Proposition – what are you offering – why should they get involved. This had better be more than a good feeling that they are helping the community – that’s asking for a donation.
  • What is your demographic – does it match the group they wish to reach?
  • What can you give in return for their sponsorship? Have you built value in return? Is it is special event with goodie bags? Where will their logos be placed?
  • Can you execute and over-deliver on what you’ve promised?

Donations are different – you are asking for cash and in return, you will give that person, company or group, well, nothing except perhaps a tax break and the feeling they have made a difference in the community. There’s nothing wrong with that at all – I love asking for donations and telling a story about the organization, the work and the mission. It’s just not sponsorship. Don’t spend three pages explaining how wonderful your org is to the marketing director of a bank unless you are recruiting them to your board (and that should be done in person, anyway). If you want their company to sponsor something, show the return on investment.

Donation letters can be longer, though I still prefer short and sweet. They too should have a call to action, and the development professional should follow up as any sales person would, but the donor letter should have slightly different components.

  • Case Statement or Statement of Support – this should be institution-wide – the reason anyone – a volunteer, funder or individual would want to get involved.
  • Impact in the community – who, what, how and where are you helping? How many are helped by the work of your org?
  • What will their donation do? What is their impact?

Follow up with both a donor and sponsor can be similar – it’s OK to tell a sponsor the impact their sponsorship made in the community, but just make sure you also include a recap, including photos if possible, of their branding. The follow up with a donor or sponsor will increase engagement, and ideally increase their investment.

Transferable Skills

I’ve been in non-profit fundraising for the better part of a decade, a job I refer to as “sales with a conscience.”  As I think about what I want to be when I grow up, I still get drawn to private sector sales.

What I have generally found, however is that recruiters don’t see a connection. They are sure I can’t prospect or cold call, or make a close.  Well, here’s some food for thought about that.

  • Fundraising is closer to selling a service. The donor doesn’t take home anything at all, except a good feeling, and maybe a tax deduction. There’s no WIFM statement that works to close a major gift.
  • Individual donor prospecting is the same process as B2B prospecting. Sometimes you have a warm lead – they’ve attended an event or made a small donation, but you still have to find out WHY they want to give. They may not have a pain themselves, but for some reason they relate to the pain you are trying to solve, be it a disease, hunger, or education.
  • There is little lead generation (sales 2.0) opportunity in non-profit fundraising. Instead of hosting a webinar on how to best manage data or lead scoring,  development professionals  tell stories of lives affected by their work.  There’s not a white paper to register for and download to share with colleagues – just a warm feeling of making a difference.
  • E-Mail Marketing and lead scoring are the same in the private and non-profit sector. Perhaps not so many non-profits use email marketing and lead scoring as well as B2B companies, but there’s definite potential, and  some savvy non-profit organizations are now seeing this. I’d love to see more non-profits look at their site stats and score prospects by more than just a traditional wealth overlay!
  • Closing is closing. Whether your customer is buying a car, implementing a learning management system, donating cash for a new wing of a hospital or a new literacy program. The program is probably the hardest of all three – like a service – there isn’t that tangible. I’d at least get to cut a ribbon and eventually see my name on a hospital wing in a capital campaign.  It comes down to the fact that people want to be asked. It’s why they give – be it blood, cash or participate in a webinar. Having done both, there is as much, if not more more anticipation, timing and yes, fear asking a donor for a five or six figure gift than asking a Fortune 500 company to buy your new SaaS.

Skills are transferable – if the person with those skills can relate to the values of your private sector organization.

And for the requisite shameless self promotion – my skills are very, very transferable. I can prospect, cultivate and close in any industry. I’ll sell you a car, a mentoring system, or get you to help end childhood hunger.  Let me show you.

Management 101

I just finished “Predictable Revenue” by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler, in anticipation of a meeting this week. It’s a primer on sales prospecting and a great read for managers and sales folks alike.

One point struck home with me, which Ross and Tyler actually attributed to “First Break All The Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently.” It’s by no means rocket science, but it pretty much summarized what I look for in a manager, and what I really haven’t experienced in quite some time.

1. Do I know what’s expected of me at work?

2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?

5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?

8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?

9. Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?

10. Do I have a best friend at work?

11. In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?

12. At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?


The first six points speak to the role of the manager, and the latter six to employee satisfaction. And wow – it is exactly what I think about in job searching. When I meet with potential employers, I make it clear I am interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me. I want a manager who recognizes my work and wants me to succeed. I don’t need to be best friends with my manager, but one who cares about my life and ensures I have a good work/life balance would be ideal. And being able to excel – removing “systemic” barriers to allowing employees to use their skills is imperative to me.

I’ll do my best to keep the top six in mind as a manager, and I already use the last six, perhaps not in those exact terms to judge my satisfaction.  And I’ll have some questions to ask in my meeting this week!