Episode 79: Advertisers vs. Sponsors vs. Partners – What’s Best for Your Organization? with Ken Ungar from Charge

Partnerships can provide a much-needed boost to any organization’s outreach. They help secure funding for events, bring in a baked-in audience ready to engage, and can contribute in a variety of other ways to help your organization move closer to your goals.

However, partnerships are a two-way street.

This week’s Relish THIS I spoke with Ken Ungar, the President and Founder of Charge, an organization that helps those seeking sponsors as well as those looking to become a sponsor achieve success through sponsorship coaching and consultation services.

Ken and I had a great conversation about how to incorporate sponsors into your for- or nonprofit organization’s plan of action. In this episode we discuss ways to provide appealing data to entice sponsors to become part of your organization, how to start small and prevent creating misaligned partnerships, and how to survey your audiences to find potential opportunities.

The big takeaway from our discussion is that sponsorships are a two way street. A lot of times nonprofits get caught up in the idea of money and how the sponsor can financially benefit their organization. They lose track that there has to be value added for the sponsors as well.

This is a great episode for anyone seeking to fuel their growth through sponsorship and partnership opportunities.


Charge – Free Stuff

Survey and know your audience. Get in touch with them to leverage the opportunities hidden within.

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Ken Ungar: We talked about like things like knowing your audience and solving sponsor problems, but follow through are things where I see non-profits often not optimizing their opportunity that is following through on the promises you make in the sponsorship, because when an agency like, like us, when we’re helping a sponsor evaluate a sponsorship the place where you live or die is did you follow through on what you promised to provide the sponsor?

And so when we’re helping a sponsor evaluate an opportunity on an existing sponsorship, a huge red flag was that that the nonprofit did or did not follow through on what they promised.

Are you looking for ways to shorten your marketing, learning curve and help your organization survive and thrive? Welcome to relish. The purpose marketing podcast, a show for purpose focused leaders who want to use marketing techniques to fuel their organization’s growth. If you’re a returning listener and you haven’t subscribed already, we love to have you also please consider leaving a review wherever you listen to podcasts.

Now here’s your host author and marketing specialist, Stu swine Ford.

Stu Swineford: Hey, relish to this podcast listeners. Thanks for listening and joining me today. My guest today is Ken Unger and he is the president and founder of change, which is this really amazing organization out of Indiana that does sponsorship, coaching and consultation.

So if you are in the market for adding a sponsor to your organization, typically your nonprofit looking for a corporate sponsor. For example, this is an episode for you. I took like three pages of notes while Ken and I were chatting. Just some amazing things too. Understand and be familiar with before you leap into the sponsorship space.

So sponsorships are a two way street. A lot of times nonprofits get caught up in the idea of, of the money. The revenue that would be coming in through a sponsorship opportunity and lose track of what their responsibility is in this relationship. If we can help, if this episode can help you figure that out before you jump in the deep end and create a misaligned sponsorship or create one that is really more of a donation or a or an advertising event you’re going to be thrilled to have spent the time today to listen to Ken and I discuss all the ins and outs of sponsorship for nonprofits.

So enjoy the episode I, I think can, has just nailing it. So here we go.

Good afternoon, Ken. How are you today? Great, Stu, how are you? I am well, where are you? I’m coming from on this fine. Tuesday afternoon.

Ken Ungar: So charge is based in very cold, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Stu Swineford: It’s cold there today. We have fortunately been experiencing some warmer weather. I think this show airs in March. So we might be have the, have the same going on at that point, but that’s awesome.

That sounds right. Well, tell us a little bit about charge and what you guys are up to

Ken Ungar: over there. So we are a sponsorship consulting firm. We have clients so all over the U S and some clients abroad about 70% of our work is sponsorship related to sports. And then the other 30% is sponsorship related to the arts education, social justice, healthcare, economic development, really things in the nonprofit sector.

And we help both sponsors and what we call properties, people who sell sponsorship make their sponsorship.

Stu Swineford: Yeah, that’s great. I know that corporate sponsorship in the nonprofit world is a huge thing and it can be a real challenge with, with nonprofits. One of the things we’ve, we’ve seen a lot is a disconnect between the corporate sponsor and the, and what the nonprofit is doing and which doesn’t really serve either group as well as one might expect.

How do you, how do you achieve alignment? What are some of the things that you recommend people people do to make sure that they’re, they’re getting the most out of their sponsorship

Ken Ungar: opportunities? It’s a great question. I think a lot of it is we work with nonprofits. A lot of it starts with a mine. You know, if we kind of back up the definition of sponsorship is, is really a promotional relationship between two organizations where the sponsor is paying for the right to use the property.

In this case, the non-profits intellectual property, their, their name, their logo, you know, it’s really that pride of association, but both, both sides, both the nonprofit and the sponsor are promoting each other. So that key part of sponsorship is it’s a co promotional relationship. And I, I think that’s the most important thing for nonprofits to start with is that it starts with the fact that it’s not just the sponsor promoting the nonprofit.

The nonprofit has to be ready, willing, and able to promote the sponsors.

Stu Swineford: Yeah, that’s definitely something to keep in the back of one’s mind. I think you know, one of the challenges is, is, you know, nonprofits are always looking for you know, revenue and jumping at that opportunity to just bring in revenue.

If there’s not, if there’s not an alignment and a real passion there, it seems like that that could be a huge pitfall. Do, do you have exercises that you run people through that, that help them figure out, you know, good, good corporate sponsor

Ken Ungar: targets. Yeah. So there’s a couple of things embedded in that Stu and I think the first thing is we, we help nonprofits go through what’s called a sponsorship policy.

So before any nonprofit should engage in, in sponsorship, they really need to start with a policy of, you know, what are the right opportunities? What are the wrong opportunities? And this is a pretty broad based process. It’s not only the executive director and his, or her staff. But it’s the entire board.

So the board of the nonprofit, it participates as well. And through this process, you talk about policy issues that make good sponsorships and, and potentially sponsorship opportunities that should be avoided. And all this has done at the outset, right? So the worst thing that could happen is discussion start with a sponsor or a potential sponsor.

And then there’s a determination that there isn’t a fit or there isn’t alignment. So the nonprofit goes through this process early on and invents these opportunities really hypothetically before they have the first real discussion. And from that, they, they come up with a sponsorship policy, which guides them and talking to certain sponsors and they, it helps them avoid other spots, other potential sponsors to, to, to not smell.

Stu Swineford: Yeah, it is, it really creates a focus and rules around, around kind of even the initial engagement where where you, you make sure that you’re not wasting anyone’s time, you know, the, the sponsor or the, the nonprofits at the, at the onset. That’s, that’s a really smart way of, of tackling that issue so that you just don’t, you’re not going down a road that you really don’t want to want to travel.

What are some of the other, other pitfalls that you see even, you know, if people have figured out the alignment, is it, you know, is the next step really trying to, to hammer out what the, what the sponsorship entails and what the value

Ken Ungar: exchange is? Yeah. Yeah. So, and that, that often drives the type of sponsors that nonprofits should pursue as well.

And I’ll, let me, let me explain that. You know, basically a sponsorship is an organism. A sponsor is an organization that has some kind of business problem. So they either want to increase sales. They want to enhance their brand. They want to increase brand awareness. So as part of their marketing mix the S the sponsor has decided that sponsorship is a viable marketing strategy, but really at the outset, they’re trying to solve a business.

So in terms of that relationship between nonprofit and a potential sponsor, the nonprofit needs to identify what that problem is. And sometimes that’s obvious, you know, you could read in the newspaper, you know, certain brands are coming to market or, you know, you’re, you’re seeing a company with a branding problem and you can approach them if your organization can help them solve that particular problem through sponsorship.

But other times it’s just a, it’s a process of asking the sponsor what their, what their problem is. And so, and so through that process, Th there there’s really a give and take and discussion process where the, where the nonprofit is helping through sponsorship that sponsors solve, solve that business problem.

And, and so we see this a lot and, and really with the COVID-19 pandemic, we see this even more as consumers demand that for-profit companies engage in, in, in socially responsible activities, their CSR, their corporate social responsibility process, or, or really just through their operations in general companies are looking to engage in what we call purpose driven sponsorship, and that’s gonna, that’s going to lead in a direct line to a nonprofit.

Let me give an example. If you have a company that is packaging its products and it wants to align with its sustainability. We’re fighting climate change through CO2 emission reduction. Then that company from a purpose-driven sponsorship relationship is probably going to use recycled packaging either in the first instance, or they’re going to like re you know, ha make their packaging susceptible to recycling.

Well, that’s going to be a great partner for a recycling nonprofit, right? And so those two organizations can align. And that’s an example of when that recycling, nonprofit knows that that company is engaging in that, in the process of recycling or the circular economy, they can approach them about a purpose-driven sponsorship, where they both agree to promote the other.

And then the nonprofit is earning a revenue stream as the sponsor uses the nonprofits name and image.

Stu Swineford: Yeah. It’s amazing to how. When you start really looking into those assets that are coming to the table. So the nonprofit has their, you know, their user group and the, and the, the corporate sponsor might have theirs.

You know, if you can create opportunities to leverage those two groups to bring awareness to each of the other partners, it’s that’s where I think a lot of the magic really starts to happen. So there’s, you know, there’s certainly an opportunity for monetary exchange, but both groups need to be able to, to benefit.


Ken Ungar: Exactly. And still you’re making a really important point. So I want to pause on that for a second. Cause it’s, it’s super important that the nonprofit knows its audience, you know, it has, we can call it user group audience, you know, it’s every really. Person or group that is a fan of that nonprofit.

So it is the group of donors. It’s the people who follow the social media of the non-profit, it’s the people who receive email newsletters to the nonprofit, all of those constitute what we call in the sponsorship area, the audience of the nonprofit, and really that is the most important asset that the nonprofit has.

And so you’re exactly right. When you say that really you’re exposing the sponsor’s brand to the nonprofits audience around the sponsor is, is exposing the nonprofit, its mission, its quest for impact all of those things to, to the sponsors audience, to all of its customers. So that’s where the win-win comes in and sponsorship, which is actually the aspect of sponsorship that I enjoy the most.

Stu Swineford: Yeah. How, how often do you see? So, you know, if we kind of go back to motivations, right. And if the sponsor, if the nonprofit is engaging with a list of potential corporate sponsors, trying to make sure that there’s mission alignment, as well as kind of motivation alignment, is that, is that how you recommend nonprofits start that process?

Ken Ungar: Yeah, there has to be there. The Mo the missions have to be aligned and they had, and they have to be aligned authentically. And that’s one of the biggest changes that I’ve seen in the market in the last decade is, you know, from again, we’ll go back to corporate social responsibility. We saw kind of a, a decade plus ago, a lot of lip service to that.

So there was a lot of inauthentic behavior that was going on on the corporate side. And that posed a lot of risk for nonprofits because as advocacy organizations, Non-profits that’s, that’s kind of the most important asset that they have is their voice and their ability to be unbiased advocates of their mission.

And so over the last decade, what you’ve seen is a real, authentic dedication to a lot of the, the socially responsible behavior on the corporate side. And so kind of sussing that out between both nonprofit and, and their corporate partner or the potential corporate partner to determine authenticity, to determine mission alignment, all those things are a great start to the relationship and really become the foundation of successful marketing down the road.

Stu Swineford: Yeah. I’m guessing most people have probably are hearing what we’re saying and thinking, oh, like greenwashing you know, where you have. You know, companies who maybe don’t have a great environmental track record coming in and creating sponsorship opportunities or engaging in sponsorship opportunities with someone who you know, who may be working in that space only to kind of take away the attention from, from what they’ve been doing in a negative capacity in, in that space.

Ken Ungar: And that’s a great point. And that’s, you know, greenwashing is, is something kind of that when the red flag red alert goes off and the non-profit discussion how there’s one caveat to that though. And I want to mention it and that’s you, there, there may be companies that have horrible track records, but that have seen the light.

Yeah. And, and finding that opportunity takes a lot of patience and a lot of digging because that’s where the real magic can be because that company, if they’ve truly seen the. They’re going to spend a lot of marketing resource too, to kind of reform their reputation again, if it’s honest and authentic, and that’s an opportunity for a nonprofit to really get on board and help them down the road after they’ve seen the light.

Stu Swineford: Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s authenticity and there’s somebody just tried to leverage an opportunity and and yeah, being able to suss that out is super important. Are there tactics or techniques that you have for nonprofits to be able to, to kind of see through.

Ken Ungar: That part of it from, from my my experience with nonprofits executive directors in their staffs have a high sensitivity on the BS meter.

I don’t think they need training from a sponsorship consultancy to, to, to, to kind of understand authentic versus inauthentic partners. But having that, the one, the one advice I’d give is have the conversation and be Frank. Don’t worry about quote, blowing the deal on quote, you know, because I I’d rather kill a deal up front that wasn’t meant to be then kind of gloss over some, some troubling points, some pictures and, and get in trouble either towards the end of our relationship or the end of a discussion when a lot of time has been invested or work.

After the contract’s been signed.

Stu Swineford: Right. Right. So what do you and your team do to help facilitate these conversations to help kind of get, get these deals across the finish line? How, how does the consultant work or help a nonprofit as they’re trying to land a, a corporate

Ken Ungar: sponsor? Yeah. It’s a lot of coaching and training on our side.

So w what we don’t do, for example, we are not sponsorship brokers, so we’re not out there knocking on doors and looking for sponsors on behalf of our clients, we teach them, you know, best practices and coach them through this process. So what we’ll do with a nonprofit is it starts with that mindset of going through sponsorship one-on-one and talking about, you know, what makes us, what makes a good sponsor.

What are those, what are those things that sponsors want to accomplish and how do they accomplish it through sponsorship? And then what we’ll do is we’ll talk about the value proposition, how to, how to help a nonprofit, identify the, you know, what is valuable about what they do that they can use as, as a sponsorship.

Too often, I think nonprofits default into what I call the traditional models. You know, a sponsorship that’s part of a gala, you know, a charitable gala or a 5k race, or, you know, those things that we see most often. And what happens is a lot of those times those are, those are not really sponsorship.

They’re more like advertising positions that they’ll sell. You know, they’ll, they’ll sell kind of a program ad for a charity gala. And that’s really an advertisement if it’s not a co promotional relationship that is if they’re not promoting each other back and forth, but we’ll help them identify that value proposition.

So. Again, knowing how to speak the language of sponsorship. We’ll take the nonprofit a long way in creating really lucrative sponsorship relationships. So we’ll start with the value proposition. We’ll talk about the assets they have, and that could be assets for nonprofits. Sponsorship can be you know, a sponsorship position on their website or a sponsorship of an email campaign or all those different things, all those different assets that they have where this, where the nonprofit is reaching its audience.

And then we’ll talk through what that asks what those assets are worth, because pricing a sponsorship is, are things that often confound whether non-profit or for-profit sponsorship sellers, knowing the right price to ask right, is, is often confusing. And so we’ll, we’ll kind of, you know, strip away. You know, kind of confusion around that and get to the nub of, of what’s the right price to ask for your sponsorship.

And then we’ll talk about the prospecting process that is where, you know, how can they find sponsors? Where can they find them, how to build their list of prospects and how to go after those sponsors?

Stu Swineford: Yeah. I know that corporate sponsorship and, and, you know, those types of relationships usually fall on the executive directors plate, or you know, if, if it’s a larger organization, they, they might have a sponsorship a person in charge of, of that particular role.

Does it start with, with like a ideal target list or ideal sponsor list and, and kind of go from there? What are some of the techniques that you recommend EDS participate into? You know, just start this process or to, to be as successful as they, as they can be.

Ken Ungar: Yeah, that’s a great question. And, and there, there are two different tracks.

One is the, kind of the traditional track of how anyone, including a nonprofit would sell a sponsorship. And the other is unique to nonprofits and purpose driven sponsorship. So let’s, let’s kind of break down both of those. So on the traditional sponsorship, you look for really, you know, companies that share your audience.

So knowing your audience is, is super important. And there, there are two aspects to that. So one is the demographic composition of your audience. That is, those are aspects of your audience that generally don’t change is their, their age, their gender. Race geography, all those things that are demographic, like who, who are your audience?

Do you, does your nonprofit aligned with millennials and gen Z? Or does your nonprofit kind of align with an older demographic with boomers and with gen X? Right. So knowing your, your demographic composition of your audience super important. And then the second part of knowing your audience is psychographic, which is what are their values, what are, what are the hobbies that they have?

What are those you know, things that they do with their spare time, their buying habits? Are they in the market for cars or are they about to buy appliances, but knowing your audience as much as you can is the starting place for prospecting. Because once you know that you look for sponsors that align with your audio.

So if your audience is an older, if your audience is older, say, you know, boomers and gen X, you wouldn’t go after sponsors who necessarily sell things like energy drinks, right? Or pro or products that are sold to a younger audience. You’re looking for companies who, whose customers can be found in your audience.

And so that’s the traditional way that, that all spots are hunters start creating their hit list of prospects is by just creating that match between your audience and theirs. Then there are other techniques. You know, when when I’m advising clients, you, you look at companies that have issues that they’re trying to solve, that, that you can find by looking in the local meat, you know, your local, regional, or national media companies that are introducing new products, that’s a heavy lift.

So they’re often looking for sponsorship to help them with those product or brand introductions. You look for companies that are relocating to your area. So they’re, they’re new to your region. They’re new to your market. And you, as a nonprofit are established in that market, you have high brand recognition.

You can help that a company that’s new to your market introduce their product service or their company to that market through sponsorship. So those are the kinds of the ways on the traditional. That that you build your prospect list then on the purpose driven sponsorship, that’s easy because you know what your mission is, you know, what, what impact you’re trying to achieve.

You look for companies that are engaged from a social responsibility perspective in the same mission as you are. And often where, where we advise clients to go non-profit clients to go is there are a number of directories and they’re growing by the day of corporate social responsibility reports that companies are publishing their, their social responsibility reports and, and Stu I can provide some links for your audience that you can include in the show notes.

If they’re interested in finding those websites where those reports exist, oh, that’d be amazing. But that’s the way that sponsorship, that, that, that nonprofits are finding sponsors. That are pursuing the same mission as them, once you do that. It’s not a question of, of, of just, Hey, my mission aligns with yours.

Do you want to sponsor me? It’s right. You have to work towards, you know, through this process. What problem can I help you? The sponsors solve you guys, the sponsors paying money. So they do expect a return on investment of, of some kind. You have to come to the table with some ideas about how you’re going to help them solve their problem.

And, and essentially between traditional prospecting and that purpose driven prospecting, that’s the way you built a builder, a hit list. And then you just, you know, then you hit the bricks and contact these, these potential sponsors and have the same kinds of conversations that you have with your donors or prospective,

Stu Swineford: right.

Right. So I’m thinking like a nonprofit, like big city mountaineers who helps provide kind of transformative experiences into nature for inner city kids. Those guys might want to reach out to someone in the outdoor or recreation space who are trying to have some DEI initiatives that would be kind of a good mix for, for a potential sponsorship opportunity.

Ken Ungar: Yeah, exactly. That’s a, that’s a great examples too. And I think you could even, you can cut that into three slices, right? So it’s an outdoor equipment company that has DEI initiatives. It could be just an outdoor company that doesn’t necessarily have DEI initiatives. That’s the second one or a company that has the AI initiatives, but doesn’t know what to do.

Right. So you’ve got here three different opportunities with that one example that you gave Stu. Of how to align on a purpose driven

Stu Swineford: sponsorship, right? One of the things that we’ve done with at least I’ve, I’ve had Annie on my show it’s an organization called tap cat and they do a sweepstakes.

They run sweepstakes for nonprofits where the sweepstakes are driving donations. And one of the things we’ve seen be really successful to, to really launch a successful sweeps is when there is really great alignment. Not only the prize, but the nonprofits mission and the kind of the access to a mailing list of a corporate sponsor of that nonprofit.

So that becomes this additional asset or this additional opportunity where if and I’ll, I’ll use an example from, from one of their sweeps that ran last year, that I believe was very successful. And it was a, an organization that I believe was in the kind of snow safety realm. So they, they did avalanche awareness and, and reporting and they, one of their corporate sponsors was Climb, which is an outdoor apparel company that does like adventure, sports motor sports apparel stuff a really large, large apparel company and equipment company.

And they put a snowmobile, a snow sled up for the prize of the sweeps and the alignment between climbs audience and the prize, as well as the mission of of the, the organization just produce really great results. The cause, you know, climb was able to send you know, advertisements or whatever you want to call it.

Send information about the sweepstakes out to the, to its its base of, of of email recipients and, and really help promote that, that particular sweepstakes really affected.

Ken Ungar: I love that example because it, it has benefit and alignment on both ends, right? It, it creates the, it creates the reason that you market for both sides, because it is so on brand.

Let’s take that example when put the grand prize is, you know you know tickets to a baseball game, you know, tickets to a baseball suite. And, and that had none of the, none of the benefit, none of the cache that, that, that snowmobile had because it wasn’t aligned. And so that’s, that’s a great example of, of an activity of a potential activation around a sponsorship that could really, really work for both.

Stu Swineford: Yeah. So do you do kind of rev, I’m assuming your team kind of coaches both ends of the spectrum. Do you, do you talk with corporate sponsors on how to try to seek out opportunities for, for their

Ken Ungar: sponsorship? Absolutely. We, we, we work with both sponsors and properties. It’s, it’s not dissimilar, right?

Because you’re looking for the same characteristics on both sides, but we’ll help. We’ll help. Sponsors kind of find those right opportunities. And it’s often more difficult for some, believe it or not more difficult for sponsors because there are many, many, many more sellers of sponsorship than, than buyers, right?

So if you’re a sponsor, you are de Lucia with thousands of opportunities and, and with those opportunities come, a lot of them, which are not in alignment, won’t help. You will be just a money drain on your marketing budget. So kind of, you know, separating the wheat from the chafe on the, on that is, is so important.

So we ha we have sponsor clients that we work with and evaluating sponsorships from that perspective. And then we’ll hope sponsors evaluate. Their sponsorship and that’s something. So I’ll mention that because that’s something that that nonprofits should be aware of. I think we talked about like, things like knowing your audience and solving sponsor problems, but follow through, there are things where I see nonprofits often not optimizing their opportunity that is following through on the promises you make in the sponsorship, because when an agency like, like us, when we’re helping a sponsor, evaluate a sponsorship the place where you live or die is did you follow through on what you promised to provide the sponsor?

And so when we’re helping a sponsor evaluate an opportunity on an existing sponsorship, a huge red flag was that that the nonprofit did or did not follow through on what they promise.

Stu Swineford: Right. So it’s all about kind of committing and then being able to produce those materials for lack of a better word that you’ve, that you’ve promised to both go in both directions.

I would, I would imagine.

Ken Ungar: Yeah, exactly. I remember on home shopping network or somewhere this this, this meat roaster, which was the tagline was set it and forget it. Right. And so this is not a case of set it and forget it. Right. And so after you signed the contract and you get the check that’s where the sponsorship begins not ends.

Don’t set it and

Stu Swineford: forget it. Yeah. I can see that. It’s it’s interesting. I could see how.

Just like getting too much of a good thing. You know, having a mismatch and miscommunication at the onset of a sponsorship opportunity could really be incredibly painful for well, for both sides. But you know, if a, if a nonprofit has created the wrong type of relationship there you know, they might be stuck with a lot of work that they don’t have the capacity to, to accomplish through this new, this new

Ken Ungar: engagement.

Yeah. And that’s why for nonprofit clients, we, you know, one of the tips that we offer is I don’t care if you’re a three person nonprofit or a 300 employee nonprofit who is responsible for sponsorship. Right. It could be in the example of a three person operation, I don’t really care how small they are, but one of those one or more of those persons should be specifically tasked with fulfilling sponsorship where it won’t happen.

And, and so being really formal internally about that, to say, you know, listen, XYZ staff member, you know, he or she is, is going to be responsible for fulfilling these promises. That’s critical right at the outset or what you find is like at the end, everybody’s pointing fingers that I thought you were going to do it.

No one thought you were going to do it and it doesn’t happen.

Stu Swineford: Right. That’s that’s super important. I think that goes to our, that’s a great advice for kind of everything in one’s. Once arsenal is, you know, making sure that somebody’s somebody ultimately is, has the responsibility for that and is being held accountable for, for getting, you know, whatever, whatever promises were being made accomplished.

Ken Ungar: And I get it Stu I’m on the board of a, a relatively small nonprofits. So it’s all hands on deck and all the sudden are utility infielders. So I get the challenge of a nonprofit cause I live it in that capacity. So all that has to happen is if you’re getting the resource, if you’re getting the, the money that comes a responsibility, if fulfilling.

Stu Swineford: Yeah. So that’s actually an interesting segue or, or additional topic of conversation would be for a small nonprofit who’s. You know, starting to explore this idea of, well, could we, could we bring in a corporate sponsor to help drive revenue and potential outreach and all of the other great things that come with with those types of engagements?

What are some of the things that you would recommend that they do first to make sure that they’re either, you know, not getting in over their head or able to, to, you know, fulfill on on, on that opportunity?

Ken Ungar: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great question, Stu and I, and I generally start with a concept that’s called sponsorship readiness.

And so the issue is, are you ready as a nonprofit to be a great sponsor with somebody or to be a great property, will someone want to sponsor you and, and, and simply put that comes with effective marketing. So effective marketing part is. Are you really good at social media marketing? And do you, you know, how many followers do you have, you know, for your, you know, for your Twitter account and for Facebook and are you really good at email marketing?

And do you exploit public relations and media relations opportunities? And, and how is your website and how many unique visitors do you have to your website? All of those things, I call sponsorship readiness, but like on your end and your business Stu you would just call great marketing, right? And it’s whether it’s digital marketing or, or any other discipline, because, because here here’s the, you know, here’s the truth, you know, a sponsor is using you as a marketing platform.

So the question is, are you a good marketing platform? And, and, and often, except in the cases of like purpose-driven sponsorship, and we talked about that earlier, if you’re not a good marketing platform, that is, if you don’t have a robust audience, And if you don’t have, you know, the ability to talk to that audience, well, you’re not going to be a good candidate for sponsorship.

So the first, the first thing before you sell sponsorship is to make sure that your marketing house is in order. And that’s like working with, you know, companies like yours and, and having internal staff that that’s really good and talented at marketing. And I know that’s a challenge especially in smaller enough nonprofits, I get it again, I’m on the board of a nonprofit that, you know, kind of works through those issues every day.

Right. And so, and so, but before you start on marketing it’s, are you proud of your market or sponsorship? Are you proud of your marketing platform? Because that’s the first thing a sponsors a prospect is going to look at and they might not tell you that your baby is.

You’ll find out when they don’t call you back or they don’t respond to your email and, and, you know, on our website. And again, I can provide the link in your show notes. We have a free sponsorship readiness assessment. So you can go through kind of line by line and answer a questionnaire. And it only takes about 10 minutes and it’s all the different ways that a sponsor’s gonna look at you.

Yeah. And when you answer this questionnaire at the end, it’ll give you your score and indicate where you can improve and whether or not, you know, a sponsor would think that you’re a good prospect. Right. But that’s where you start. So it’s, it’s like counterintuitive. Like you don’t start by, by learning how to sell a great sponsorship.

You start by learning how to do great marketing.

Stu Swineford: Yeah. It’s funny. It’s like, if you’re healthy, you’re healthy. Right. And And all of those things that you do to, to engage with your audience into entice and, and excite your, your audience to take action and to stay in touch with them and stay in front of them.

You know, everything along that stakeholder lifecycle, all the way from attracts to, to inspire is built into, into a healthy marketing, I guess, deployment. If we want to use that word, and if it’s healthy, then it, then it’s going to create additional opportunities for you. And if it’s not healthy, it’s not going to work to do, you know, some of the basic marketing things.

And then it’s also going to fail you when you’re, when you’re going out, trying to engage in new channels, like, like sponsorship. That’s really interesting.

Ken Ungar: And then let me just, let me, there’s a caveat to that too. And so I said, you know, healthy market. You know, we’ve had clients, including, you know, some of our professional athlete clients and such.

I mean, they have millions of Twitter followers. I’m not saying that like nonprofits of any size have to have huge, you know, social media followership. That’s not the case. If you have thousands of followers, my question would be when you speak to them, number one, do they listen and engage? And number two, can you move them to action?

Because you have such a fantastic relationship with them that if you know, they, they tell you to move, you know, two feet, you, you know, they move two feet. Right. And, and so that’s the, that’s what I’m talking about. I’m not talking in a gross sense, kind of, you know, that, that you have millions of Twitter followers.

That’s not what I’m saying. It’s it’s are you really, really good at communicating to the audience that you have and are you really good at building that audience?

Stu Swineford: Well, and then getting in, getting them to take an action. So. Yeah, because yeah, it’s just, it’s, it’s not the ego component or the ego metric.

That is the important one. It’s the, it’s the action metric.

Ken Ungar: Yeah. I mean, so if, if I’m on the sponsor side and I see a candidate that shows me how, you know, how they move people to action with every tweet that they make I stand up and, you know, I take notice of that and, and that’s important because then when they, when they retweet the sponsor’s content, we, we know that like, they’re the sponsors going to get great value from that if that audience pays attention because that non-profit, or for-profit knows how to speak to their audience and cause some action.

Stu Swineford: Can you share some tips for nonprofits in terms of valuating, a sponsorship opportunity? What are some things that they should be looking at, or, or that are measurable that they can kind of turn to, to when they’re in that negotiation phase of, of the, of engaging with the sponsor?

Ken Ungar: Yeah. So there’s a couple aspects to that.

So first of all, they’re going to know that the non-profits going to know from its audience information, how powerful a hand they haven’t in, in discussions with a sponsor. So, and that’s where things one thing that I strongly recommended is if through surveys, you’re able to understand what your audience, the buying habits of your audience.

That’s really important when it comes time to have conversations with for-profit sponsors. So for example, If you know that your audience that they’re inclined to buy new cars or they’re ready to buy, you know, new appliances and, you know, the timeframe like they’re in the market to buy a new apply, new household appliance within the next six months, when you talk to appliance retailers like Lowe’s and home Depot and you know, all those other you know, best buy, which is one of the largest seller of appliances still in the country, when you’re, when you’re having conversations with them.

If you know that your audience is ready to buy, you have a strong hand. And you can evaluate that, that you’re going to have a good relationship with that sponsor because you can deliver value to them. Right. The other thing you need to look at is kind of your ability to reach your audience with your message.

And so, again, knowing kind of the engagement rate that, that you have with, with the thing. The marketing opportunities that you use with your audience, again, that helps you really really evaluate whether or not you could provide value in the strength of that relationship. The flip side of that stew is you want to ask questions.

The nonprofit wants to ask questions of the sponsor. How are you going to promote us? And that to me is one of those threshold questions that divides advertising from sponsorship. Because if the answer is a blank stare, right there is we haven’t decided yet. They’re either looking at you as an advertising opportunity or a donation because, you know, donors don’t expect recognition, right?

Donors donate for, for the sake of impact and mission. So if a sponsor perspective sponsor answers that question with, I don’t know, they’re not going to be a good partner, right? If the prospect says, it’s funny, you asked, we have this entire campaign that we’re ready to launch. Should you become, you know, should we have a sponsorship relationship, then that’s a lot more valuable than not to the nonprofit, because you’re not only getting paid for it.

You’re getting free marketing. Right. So asking that question really, you know, not at the beginning of the discussion, but I’d say midway, like, Hey, we’ve, we’ve had two or three conversations. What do you think you’re going to do with our nonprofit and your marketing? That’s an important question and listen carefully to answer.

Stu Swineford: Yeah. I’m on the board of a local organization here that thinking back, you know, we, we essentially. We didn’t have those conversations with a few of our sponsors and those are really just logo placement opportunities, as opposed to those relationships that could really further the organization’s mission.

So there’s certainly some, some missed opportunities there. That’s a really really insightful to remind people to, to be having those conversations, you know, not necessarily at the onset of the, of discussion, but at least half of them at some

Ken Ungar: point. Yeah, exactly. And that’s so like a threshold question that I ask, like either talking to a for-profit or not-for-profit client is I’ll say, who are your current sponsors?

They’ll give us a list. And then we’ll go to the website of each of those sponsors and see if the nonprofit is listed is listed as a relationship. Right. If, if the nonprofit makes no appearance, either on the website, on the partner’s page or in a press release or in a social media feed, they’re not really a spot.

They’re not there. Isn’t really a sponsorship,

Stu Swineford: right. It’s just a a donation or, or a advertising opportunity that they

Ken Ungar: saw. Exactly. That’s again, my example earlier about galas or five Ks, like, let’s see if all those companies are promoting that. Right? Like, see if that company is promoting, Hey, we’re a sponsor, you know, of the younger nonprofit 5k.

So if the answer is no, they’re not really a

Stu Swineford: sponsor. Right? So as, as nonprofits are starting this conversation really thinking about all of the ways that the, that the sponsor could be. Engaged with that. Non-profit so really thinking through not just the, the monetary, you know, sponsorship piece, but what are the other ways that, that that the nonprofit could get some promotional opportunities alongside this partnership would be, would be a way to, to frame that initial contract and, and engagement.

Ken Ungar: Yeah. Yeah. Here’s the incredibly exciting opportunity of that. So right now, kind of what you and I do is to, there, there are 120 different marketing channels, right. Which is crazy when you think about it. Right? Cause the explosion of digital in the last 10 to 20 years has really just increased that exponentially.

So if a company has 120 plus ways to promote it, A home run. I mean, this never happens, but I’m just using, you know, exaggeration as an example, right. If the nonprofit is promoted in every one of those channels home run. Right. Right. But what, what you want to do is, is, is just ask, right. And it never hurts to ask it’s through the process of having the conversation, you’re going to learn, you know, this particular company they get the most bang for their buck through digital.

So the, the question that, that you want to ask is, Hey, in your, if you do banner ads, can you dedicate some of your banner ads to your relationship with us? That XYZ sponsor is the official, you know, and then list the categories, the official sponsor of the hunger charity. Non-profit right. And. You know, let’s say if like month of may.

So I’ll give you an example, the, the non-profit that I’m on the board as a skin cancer prevention and awareness nonprofit, and may is melanoma awareness month. So if, if that nonprofit is talking to a sponsor, may is really important to that sponsor or to that, to that nonprofit, right? You ask a sponsor, listen when you’re advertising digitally.

Cause I know that that works for you. Can you dedicate some portion of your banner ads to us, to the nonprofit to highlight your relationship with us. Right. And usually those conversations are slam dunks. As in like, of course we would, right? Because it aligns with what they do. They do digital marketing it a lot, you know, they’re doing average, you know, they’re doing their, their stuff in may.

So why wouldn’t they do it for us if they have a relationship with us. Right. And so you really kind of alone. With every channel possible that, that, that the for-profit does now. They’re not going to, you know, no, no sponsors going to give you access to everything that they do. Right. But if, if the, if the relationship is valuable, you’d be surprised by how many channels they will dedicate

Stu Swineford: to you.

Right. Right. So for, for a small nonprofit, that’s just kind of getting started in this. What, what are you aware, where do you think they should start in terms of, of trying to evaluate you know, their end of that, of that relationship?

Ken Ungar: Yeah. So if, if, if you’re just getting started, you kind of step back and you kind of look at your overall mission and how you’re creating impact, because listen, I, you know, nonprofits aren’t necessarily looking for revenue enhancement, they’re looking for revenue as a way to increase impact.

Right, right. So You know, you have generally, you know, two other major sources of revenue. You have fundraising and you have grants. And so if you want to, if you’re new to this and you want to add sponsorship as a third powerful way to kind of enhance your impact, the question number one is, can we handle it right?

Do we have bandwidth internally that we, we, we have people who can learn how to do sponsorship, who once they learn how to do sponsorship, they have time to do the exact same thing that, that fundraising development executives do. Do they have time to do that? And then finally, after they do the deal, do they, do they have time to fulfill it?

Right. And so having that conversation internally, you know, within the staff is really important, right? Then as you, as you kind of approach. With that we find our clients have to tee up that sponsorship policy discussion that we talked about, because I think you know, boards are generally of two minds, right?

You have PE board members who come from the for-profit sector who think that this is a fantastic idea because that’s where they come from. They see this as an opportunity to tap, you know, the markets that they come from. Then you have kind of board members who align mainly with the service side of the nonprofit, or they come from academia or they come from various ways and they’re more concerned about the advocacy aspect of it.

So they’re concerned about inauthentic relationships, hurting the nonprofit by aligning with sponsors that can hurt their image. And so. We recommend once the staff determines that they can handle it, tee up that sponsorship policy discussion early as in, Hey, we’re going to talk about a policy as a board and as a staff, before we even consider selling sponsorship, when you do that, you kind of inoculate that whole issue and you make that the sponsorship discussion much more open and much more honest because you kind of laid your cards on the table.

That sponsorship may not be for everyone we’re, but we’re going to have that discussion upfront. Right? And so after you do those two things, that the next part is if you’re not skilled at sponsorship, don’t start without training. And I’m not saying you need to contact you know, a consulting firm like ours.

There are how to books. There’s how to resources on the, on the internet. We even have. We have how to free, how to resources on our website on charge, sponsorship.com. And so get, get the help that you need to approach it. Kind of in the best foot forward with best practices, because like in a lot of areas involving sales, there’s a lot of ways to waste your time and money.

And, and the, the thing that we hate to see clients do is spin their wheels. Right? So find no matter whether it’s free resource or paid resource find the help you need to get started.

Stu Swineford: Yeah. It’s really funny. You, you mentioned the, the mind, the board mindsets and, and, you know, the, the first being, you know, why, why wouldn’t we do this?

It’s free, it’s free exposure and free money. And then the other group being like, well, how, how is this going to. Well, how is this going to become a problem for us? And then, you know, there’s probably a third group, that’s thinking, well, how are we going to screw this up? And, and so like trying to figure out where the Venn diagram of of the overlap of those three groups is that, that sweet spot of, of, you know, dubious concern and, and unbridled optimism you know uh, coupled with, with reality.

Ken Ungar: Right. And that, and that is the beauty of hashtag board life.

Stu Swineford: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well that yeah, it’s just amazing. I think that the teeing up the idea that sponsorship isn’t for everybody is really important because. It does feel like one of those things, it’s like, well, why wouldn’t we get a corporate sponsor?

But, but, but yeah, if you’re not, if you’re not teed up well, and you’re not ready for it, it’s, it could be a really detrimental engagement for, for you and your team.

Ken Ungar: And then, you know, it has to have the right mindset. So if that doesn’t exist and I’m not being critical, but there’s still to a certain extent, a little bit of I, I don’t know, there’s a little bit of us and them mentality in terms of for-profit and non-profit that some in the nonprofit space look at the for-profit side, you know, as, as evil money-grubbing, you know you know, people who hurt the cause that, that aren’t people who are out there to help the cause.

And so alignment with the. Why would I align with, why would I align with, you know, companies that do X, Y, Z, there’s still a little bit of that mindset, a negative mindset. So if that exists fine, like I’m not being critical, critical of it. If that exists, fine, sponsorship may not be right for you because it’s co-promotion right.

So if you’re not ready to promote the sponsor, then don’t do it right. There are plenty of, I mean, I know there, there are not enough hours in a day to operate a nonprofit as it is. So there’s plenty of plenty of things to keep you occupied without doing sponsorship. So don’t do it.

Stu Swineford: Yeah. There’s there, there are a lot of, a lot of other opportunities and I would say you know, as you’ve identified, you know, getting your house in order, in other aspects of your engagement you know, whether that’s marketing or know just polishing donor outreach You know, making sure that that things are, are firing on all cylinders would be the first step of this anyway.

And there, you know, that that’ll open up better, healthier sponsorship opportunities in the future. While also building that foundation, that’s going to just help you on a day-to-day day-to-day aspect as well.

Ken Ungar: Exactly. And, and as you do that, you remember the, you know, the golden ring and all, this is the fact that, you know what I want to get paid for use of my name and likeness and get free marketing.

Yes, I would. So that to me is the magic of sponsorship. That, that to me is different than fundraising and grants. And so if a non-profit can add that to their arsenal, they’re not only creating more impact through more revenue, but they’re, they’re also Th they’re doubling and tripling and quadrupling their marketing impact.

So you know, the, their ability to create impact and, and to further their mission CRI you know, expands exponentially. That’s the golden ring of sponsorship.

Stu Swineford: That’s amazing. Well, how can people find out more about what you guys are up to in this space and see if there if, if there’s a good fit to work with with them?


Ken Ungar: So you can find us at charge, sponsorship.com, one word charts, sponsorship.com. And for your audience stew, we have some free resources specifically tailored for nonprofits. So if they go to sh charge, sponsorship.com backslash freestyle, One word free stuff. They’ll find a variety of a free resource, including our nonprofit corporate sponsorship directory, which has a whole list of resources that we’ve created and that others have created around the internet to help nonprofits get started and to engage in best practices and sponsorships so they can make magic happen to

Stu Swineford: that’s a great, that’s a great resource for people to tap into.

I would encourage everyone to go check it out@chargesponsorship.com slash free stuff, and and see how you can perhaps engage in a, in a sponsorship that will be fruitful for your organization here in 2020.

Ken Ungar: That’s awesome. Tastes too. Thanks for the opportunity to, to chat with you. I had a lot of fun.

Stu Swineford: Yeah, me too. I do have one more question. So I love having conversations and on the show, I get to sit down with, with great experts in the space like you and learn so much and be able to share that with my audience. And one of the things I really want to do is make sure that it, that, that this podcast enables people to experience the idea of all talk.

And no action is, is maybe not the best policy. And so I always ask at the end of each show, if there was one thing that you wanted people to do, one takeaway or one action to take after listening to the show, what would you have them do

Ken Ungar: know your audience? I would want them to go back and I’d want them to survey their membership survey, the people on their email list, survey their social media followers and, and know their audience in and out and who they are, where they live everything about them.

So you can carry that audience to a sponsor and make magic


Stu Swineford: That’s amazing everybody out there, go get in touch with your audience, get to know them even better and leverage the opportunities that are, that are just hidden within that. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Ken. It was really fantastic talking with you.

I really

appreciate it. It’s due at a great time. So thank you. My

pleasure. Talk to you soon. Bye. And there you have it. Another great episode of relish this. Thanks again for listening. You can find past episodes of the show@relishthis.org. And remember if you liked what you heard today, please subscribe and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts for more information on purpose.

Grab your free copy of my book. Mission uncomfortable. How nonprofits can embrace purpose-driven marketing to survive and thrive. Get your copy now@missionuncomfortablebook.com. Thanks again for listening. Come back next week. Won’t ya.