All the big boys do it. They pick a worthy cause, they hire writers to develop the idea, then they link their products and their businesses to non-profit organizations that are making a real difference in our world. Think fast-food giant McDonald’s and Ronald McDonald House. Some of the most successful national brands use sponsorships as part of their ongoing media campaigns.
It’s a real win-win situation. The nonprofits they pick get funding and exposure; the companies themselves generate good feelings and social-media buzz around their businesses and their brands. Are you ready to take the sponsorship plunge? Here are a few tips for getting your sponsorship started on the right track:
- Choose consciously – Follow your heart when choosing a charity to sponsor, of course, but remember your customer base as well. Don’t support a kids’ hunting camp, for instance, if cruelty-free cosmetics are one of your best-selling product lines. Don’t forget to do a little investigation, as well. Make sure the charity you pick is a legitimate one.
- Make it relevant – While there are literally thousands of charitable organizations worthy of your support, consider one that meshes with your company. You can pick one that matches your products or even your logo. Pet food giant PetSmart, for instance, supports pet adoption events and awards spay and neuter grants. RCWilley, a furniture outlet, once hosted a “Chairs for Charity” event. Mattress Discounters supports Good Deed Dogs. Why? Because the “spokesman” on all their commercials is a lovable, talking bulldog.
- Think local – National charities are often very recognizable, and that can make them appealing when you’re thinking about a sponsorship. But, don’t overlook local causes, especially if you’re a small, local business. Your customers will appreciate your devotion to community. There may be a local animal rescue that would welcome your support, or a homeless shelter or even a kids’ sporting event.
- Involve your customers – It’s human nature to want to help. But people want to feel they have more to offer than just their checkbooks. Look how quickly the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge went viral. Give your customers some hands-on activities related to your sponsorship. Sell t-shirts they can wear to the kids’ basketball game, for instance, or ask them to bring in canned foods for the local food bank.
- Brag it up – Don’t be shy about your involvement. Letting people know about your sponsorship is vital to its success — for both you and the nonprofit. Link to it on your website. Encourage customers to spread the word with Facebook likes. Tweet about any up-coming events on your Twitter feed.
While you may start your sponsorship simply because it’s a shrewd business move, don’t be surprised if it finds a way into your heart. What may start out feeling a little forced, might soon become a real and lasting passion.
Kate C lives in the desert but dreams of the mountains. She shares her home with her husband of 27 years and a fat, sassy Boston terrier named Tess. Her favorite charity is SmileTrain.