Jul 02, 2009 at 03:59 PM
written by Joe Waters

Selling Sponsorships for Nonprofits: Prospecting Circles II

A cause is often the cornerstone of many sports and entertainment sponsorship platforms. Today's "key learning" comes from Joe Waters, who is the Director of Cause Marketing for Boston Medical Center, an avid blogger at Selfishgiving.com and a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. In addition to being a one-time winner of the SponsorPitch Friday Caption Contest, he has agreed to lend us his insights on cause marketing, which is more important than ever after Performance Research revealed that 41% of consumers believe sponsorships of nonprofits should increase to raise opinions of corporate America.

Part two of Prospecting Circles will focus on three areas: where to look for prospects, using social media for prospecting and better results with prospect management software.

Top ways Joanna, Holt and Ashley find prospects. Back to the circle strategy I discussed in part one. Just as some prospects are better than others, some prospecting strategies are better than others and should be used first. This is according to my three sales people on the team: Joanna, Holt and Ashley.

In the bullseye, not surprisingly is prospecting among current sponsors and donors. The latter has proven especially useful to me lately as we just landed a company we’ve been chasing for four years–but only after I found out one of our key donors was neighbor to the company’s president. It was a amazing how quickly things moved after she interceded on our behalf and we dealt directly with him, instead of dealing with his lieutenant and gatekeeper at corporate.

In the second circle, Joanna, Holt and Ashley put vendors and past business relationships. The former is not applicable to every nonprofit, but if you work for a large institution business partners can be powerful (although sometimes complicated) assets for sponsorship. It’s a minefield, but one worth crossing in our opinion.

In the third circle the gang put business journals, competing fundraising events, networking events, Google and the advertisers they see and hear on radio, TV and print.

Prospecting using social media. Blogging, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin are increasingly useful tools for some members of the team.

Blogging at Selfishgiving.com has given me an exclusive cause marketing platform to share with prospects. I can educate them about past programs, discuss trends in the industry and present myself as a credible thought leader on cause marketing. In short, blogging has been a great way to create, continue and steer cause marketing conversations with prospects.

After blogging comes microblogging using Twitter. Warning: I’m a Twitterholic so you can’t really take my word for it’s usefulness. You’ll need to try it out for yourself. And while there aren’t a lot of CEO’s twittering their days away on Twitter, there are a lot of marketing, branding and PR people to connect with. I’ve begun some good relationships that are just starting to lead to connections for sponsorship. Twitter has been another good tool.

While I’m not as active on Facebook and Linkedin as I am on my blog and Twitter, I can see the benefits of both in making new connections. I especially like how my activities in social media, whether it be a blog post or a tweet or link to de.licio.us become part of my Facebook or Linkedin page, which give my friends and connections new insights and perspectives on my work and interests.

Meet your new sales assistant: prospect management software. You probably feel like you ”tolerate” your prospect management software more than you use it. You certainly don’t feel like it’s working for you and that it’s there to help you raise more money. This may be a function of the crappy software you use, or, maybe, with the crappy way you’re using it. But recognize this: your prospect management software can help you sell more sponsorships and raise more money for your organizations. Period. The sooner you view your prospect management software as the valuable, money-making sidekick it is, the sooner you’ll be welcoming a new member to the team. Here’s your new employee orientation.

  • Whatever you use, develop a system. We currently use Raiser’s Edge, but I developed my system in basic Outlook. Current sponsors are designated a “Prospect +”. Companies that aren’t sponsors are “Prospects”. Hospital business partners that are sponsors are “Vendor A”. Partners that are good candidates for sponsorship are “Vendor B”. Former vendors that are neither are archived under ”Vendor C”.
  • Record everything. Any communication with or intelligence regarding prospects is recorded. Left a voicemail? log it in. Saw a recent story online on a company’s new product line. Paste the link into a note. Little bits of info may mean nothing, but a string information viewed together may reveal a useful direction or may point you to a more fruitful prospect.
  • Let the software do the work. Leave reminders, calendar updates, to-dos and institutional memory to the software–backed up, of course! But the software can only do these things if you enable the system to do this work for you in the first place!
  • Track your team’s progress. One of the things I do like about Raiser’s Edge is that I have a dashboard that track’s the progress of each of my sales people, chronicles their activities, tells me how they’re progressing toward goal, both in activity and revenue. Your software should allow you to track your team’s progress in some meaningful way as well.

    The next post in our series on Selling Local Sponsorships for Nonprofits moves from finding prospecting to pitching them. Considering that today is opening day for the Red Sox, a segue into pitching is fitting! I promise not to throw any curves, but that doesn’t mean everything I have to teach will be easy to hit.

    Joe can be reached at Joe.Waters@bmc.org and followed on twitter at @joewaters and at selfishgiving.com . If you are interested in contributing your key learnings, shoot us an email at info@sponsorpitch.com