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.