Sponsorships are the lifeblood of nonprofit events and relationships, and the right sponsor can truly change the game for an organization. As all people in the nonprofit sector know, immense strategy and intentionality go into creating meaningful sponsor relationships.

It is quite typical for organizations to create tiers or levels of sponsorship for an event, with increasing perks as the sponsor donation increases. It makes the process simple, clear, and concise on the organization’s end on how to communicate sponsorship levels. However, doing sponsorships this way is purely transactional. By going this typical route, your organization may be missing the most valuable way to showcase your sponsors and, thus, may be missing sponsors altogether!

Last year, I was talking to a potential sponsor for an organization’s event and tried to assess why this business was hesitant to commit. The sponsor had been a donor for years, was supportive and passionate about the mission…what was the hang up? The business owners were going to be out of town and would miss the event. The main perk at their desired sponsor level was that the sponsor would get a table at the event. This sponsor was more than willing, but unable to enjoy all the perks, so they were going to walk away. After some simple discussion, we made it work and they sponsored at an increased level.

This organization almost lost a high-level sponsor because the perks didn’t fit the sponsor’s needs.

When searching for sponsors, be sure to meet the sponsor’s needs. Printing a business’s logo in a program does nothing more than create visual recognition for their business.

What if you let them frame their business, tell their story, and explain ​their​ mission? Your organization doesn’t need to create an infomercial for the business. However, your organization does have a presence and influence.

What are your strengths?

There are so many meaningful ways you can present a sponsor that is far beyond a logo in a program or slideshow. You ​can​ meet their needs. Typical sponsor levels with bulleted perks limits the sponsor ​and​ you.

Hint: ask them what they what from the sponsorship. I mean they are the ones giving you the money. Get to know what they want out of the deal as well!

Cultivating these sponsorships in a meaningful way will make your organization stand out to the business in ways they will not expect. Create an excellent sponsor experience, and they will not forget it. This can and will lead to more connections, a better understanding of your role in the community, and deeper relationships with business donors.

Know your strengths and think outside the check boxes of sponsorships. Do not limit your organization, nor the sponsor. Create an experience that will have them coming back.