How to Turn Your Sponsors into Cause Marketing Partners

When companies think about how best to support their communities and enhance their corporate social responsibility initiatives, cause marketing often isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Sponsorship is typically the first step many companies take in partnerships with charities and nonprofits – and unfortunately it is also often the last as they don’t explore the other opportunities.  Not only are companies often wasting their sponsorship spend (here’s how not to, in case you were wondering), they’re missing out on potentially huge returns from their community investments.

If you are looking to build upon your existing relationship with a sponsor, the first thing to understand is what the difference really is between sponsorship and cause marketing.

Like cause marketing, sponsorship is a win-win where both partners benefit. However, traditional models of sponsorship are limited as the company writes a check, the nonprofit markets the business to their supporters, and everyone pats themselves on the back and heads home. Basically, if a company buys a sponsorship at a nonprofit walk they get access to the walkers. But when a company embarks on a cause marketing promotion, they also market the nonprofit to their customers, employees and other stakeholders. This means a greater audience for you as a nonprofit and more donations, but also greater effort from the company.

This is an important distinction, because it means that your goal as the nonprofit is to convince the company you’re not really asking for more money. You are, however, asking them to do something else a bit more labour intensive, that will ultimately benefit both of you. Not every company will be willing to dive into something like this so you will likely need to incentivize them and explain the benefit to them.

The easiest way to do this is to be very clear about expectations and goals on both sides.  More often than not, the magic words you need to use are customer acquisition and cross promotion.  For example, if you ran a joint Sponsifi campaign where the company sponsored a crowdfunding campaign of yours, they would get access to your audience, you’d get donations from their audience, and they’d be able to convert donors into customers with sponsored incentives.  Campaigns like this are more than a win-win, they’re a win-win-win, because as soon as the donor uses the sponsored incentive, they’ve made their money back.  Attaching these incentives to dollar matching campaigns is a great way to incentivize all parties to promote the campaign – you, your sponsor, and your donor.

When you can present the value of customer acquisition and cause marketing initiatives in a way that meets their bigger picture goals, upgrading your sponsors to cause marketing partners becomes a much more fluid process.