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Dir-ACTION

Posted By Monte Abeler, Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, January 20, 2015
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You’ve probably heard the famous phrase, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.”  Undoubtedly, there is a lot of evidence proving the validity of that phrase.  Kodak would be one example, as the photography giant was completely overrun by digital photography. However, a plan doesn’t magically transform into success all by itself. That would be like trying to create water with hydrogen alone. You need the oxygen! It would be like a farmer having seed and a plan for what to do with it, but never actually sitting down in the tractor and making the effort to plant; there’s a component missing. You probably know where I’m going with this.  Yes, we truly need both direction and action.  So what is, “Dir-Action,” exactly? It’s an epic combination of direction and action, giving you an opportunity for success. 

Take some time to ponder the following questions:

  1. Do I (we) have a clear direction?

    If your answer is NO, I would recommend holding a strategic planning session.  You can find countless advice and opinions on the best way to conduct strategic planning, and there a lot of successful ways to do it. When it’s all said and done, just make sure you know the mission, understand the direction, and are clear on the goals set to move forward. If your answer is YES, continue on to question two. 

  2. Are you taking intentional action on your direction?

    If your answer is NO, I would encourage you to pinpoint the reason why action isn’t happening. Common causes include vagueness in regard to who is responsible for certain tasks, a lack of accountability to complete assigned responsibilities, apathetic volunteers, volunteer work overload, and the absence of a timeline. Once you have the reason pinpointed you should be able to reestablish forward progress.  Smartsheets, Basecamp, and ProWorkFlow are three resources you may wish to consider to help with project management and deadline completion. If your answer is YES, then congratulations are in order.

Tags:  clear direction  ewald consulting  kate madonna hindes  success  take action 

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Social Media, Associations and Libel: Do we need new laws?

Posted By Laurie Pumper, CAE, Friday, January 9, 2015
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social mediaIf someone says something negative about your association on Facebook, what action should you take? What if someone makes accusations about one of your members – perhaps that the member has acted unethically or illegally? How can associations protect themselves from unfavorable publicity?

Similar questions have been with us for as long as associations have existed, but social media platforms have made it much easier for bad news to travel fast. For instance, if a former member or disgruntled former staff member made allegations to a reporter, the reporter would typically ask the association for a response. If the response indicated that the accusation was clearly false or overblown, the reporter would likely kill the story. With Twitter, Facebook, and hundreds of other platforms that allow people to easily post derogatory – even libelous – comments on social media, the job of association staff and volunteer leaders is more difficult.

For comments that simply portray facts in an unflattering way but don’t rise to the level of libel, an association’s best defense is a robust presence on social media and in the community it represents. If your members know about the good work your organization does and are familiar with your Facebook page or LinkedIn discussion group, they are likely to come to the association’s defense with their own positive comments. If your association has been featured in positive news articles in the trade media or general media, the public is less likely to be swayed by a negative comment, especially if it comes from a lone voice.

Although still relatively rare in the association world, there have been many instances when someone posts false accusations against a certain person or against an organization. Even if an association decides to take legal action — which can be time-consuming and expensive — it’s possible that the person who made the damaging comment(s) has no or few resources even if a court finds the association had a provable economic loss. For an individual who has been defamed, the process of trying to correct the damage is usually even more daunting.

Although it was written more than 20 years ago, momentum seems to be building for states to enact a law making it easier for individuals and organizations to set things right.

Since 2013, two states (Texas and Washington) have enacted the Uniform Correction or Clarification of Defamation Act (UCCDA). The Council of State Governments (CSG) included the Act in its 2014 list of suggested state legislation. A commentary published in November 2014 in the StarTribune newspaper says that a bill to enact the UCCDA will be introduced during the 2015 session of the Minnesota Legislature. Among other elements, the UCCDA states that a person can make a request for correction or clarification from the defendant. Getting a correction could go a long way toward repairing a damaged reputation. The law would require that the wronged person/organization make a good-faith attempt to request a correction or clarification within 90 days after knowledge of the publication in order to recover anything more than provable economic loss. The UCCDA states that a request for correction or clarification is adequate when it:

  • is made in writing and reasonably identifies the person making the request;
  • specifies with particularity the statement alleged to be false and defamatory and, to the extent known, the time and place of publication; alleges the defamatory meaning of the statement;
  • specifies the circumstances giving rise to any defamatory meaning of the statement which arises from other than express language of the publication; states that the alleged defamatory meaning of the statement is false.

The fact that the proposed legislation allows for action up to 90 days after learning about false or misleading information is helpful; it could be difficult to uncover damaging information soon after publication when it is the work of an individual not known to an organization. Other aspects of the proposal would bring clarity and needed updates to the issue of defamation and libel. If enacted, the legislation will be very useful to associations, businesses and individuals trying to maintain a good reputation.

Sources:
The correct way to update libel law for the Internet age,” commentary article by Jack Davies, Star Tribune, published November 26, 2014, accessed January 2, 2015.
The Council of State Governments Knowledge Center, Uniform Correction or Clarification of Defamation Act, accessed January 2, 2015.

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Preparing Your Volunteer Leaders to Deliver Value

Posted By Shannon Pfarr Thompson, CAE, MPA, Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 30, 2014
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Everyone knows it is good practice to orient new board members. Annual new board member orientation sessions have become commonplace for the good reason that by getting new board members up to speed, they start off ready to succeed for your organization. Reviewing items such as the bylaws, policies and procedures, staff and board relationship, and other key items provides new board members with the tools and comfort level they need.

However, organizations often overlook training for their other volunteer leaders. Committee, special interest group (SIG), chapter and task force leaders are appointed by boards to implement important work for the organization, but frequently they are thrown into their roles without much guidance or training. This can lead to frustration and less-than-stellar results.

This year, one of the organizations I lead began biannual orientation sessions for new leaders, and I’ve been impressed with the difference it has made. The president and staff developed an agenda that takes volunteers through the most important aspects of the organization, divided up the list to best address each item, and then presented it via a webinar.

Using webinar technology allowed us to show organizational documents, demonstrate where leaders can find valuable information on the association’s website and also how to use the private part of the website specific to their committee, chapter or SIG. We had a chat available for questions during the meeting.

Here are some of the key things we included in our new leader orientation:

  • Organizational info – the tax status and what it means, the articles of incorporation, bylaws and policies and how they all relate
  • Key board and staff contacts – where leaders get support and who they should go to with questions
  • Important meetings – so leaders may plan ahead and see how these meetings benefit them
  • Financial policies – how their group fits into the budget and how to request funds
  • Communication tools – how to share information with their group, the board, and all members
  • Their responsibilities – to be a strategic leader, to consider leadership succession, to serve as an ambassador to members

By the end of the second orientation (after honing the original agenda), we found that leaders’ questions had been answered and they felt much more comfortable in their new roles as volunteer leaders. We hope it will also result in lower volunteer turnover and an enhanced willingness to step forward because leaders feel more supported. A small time investment has ended up providing a large benefit to our organization because we have volunteer leaders who understand their role, how it fits within the larger picture of the association’s activities, and they have the information and tools needed to hit the ground running. We look forward to the great results that these informed leaders and their teams will produce for our members!

Tags:  delivering value  ewald consulting  leadership  shannon thompson  volunteer 

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Sound Bite Friendly: Talking Points to Keep on Message

Posted By Jess Myers, Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Updated: Thursday, December 11, 2014
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When a reporter calls, the most important guideline you should keep in mind is: “don’t panic.” Once you’re calm and following lesson one, the next most important guideline is to have a goal for the interview/interaction with the media.

By having a goal, I mean to have a message you want to convey about yourself, your organization, your event, etc. When you talk to a reporter, speak in headlines. For example, if your dream headline for the story is, “Ewald Consulting is experiencing rapid growth,” I would make that sentence a talking point.

We hear the term “talking points” used frequently, especially during election season. Simply put, a talking point is a one- or two-sentence summary of your position.

Talking points are valuable to have ready before going into an interview — whether the medium is television, radio, newspapers or online journalism. You can use talking points not only as notes for what you want to say, but also as a way to refer to key messages you want to convey in the interview. And because many of us, when we get nervous, tend to ramble and say more than is needed, talking points are a great tool to keep us “on message.”

Here are some examples, brief talking points we put together for a retailer about its Black Friday weekend hours and specials:

  • Responding to incredible demand from shoppers, we are again offering extended hours on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, and are distributing a multi-page sale flier with hundreds of great deals.
  • The great deals for convenient online shopping started in the first week of November, with our company offering free shipping with no minimum throughout the holiday season.
  • For those who want to skip the checkout lines, we are offering a free “buy online, pickup in-store” option at each of the stores in our network.
  • Hundreds more great deals are available. Full details can be found in our sale flier

As you can see, none are too extensive or overly detailed; they’re just simple one-sentence talking points designed to help the interview subject get to the point, deliver key messages and convey the most salient information to a reporter. We like to say that the seven-word answer is always better than the 27-word answer.

If you anticipate a reporter’s call, it’s good to have a set of talking points on hand. Again, speak in headlines: think of the three to five main points you want to convey – your goals for the interview – and have them ready in bullet point form. If a reporter catches you by surprise, it’s OK to buy some time. Say that you need to call them back in 30 or 45 minutes, and use that time to craft some talking points for yourself.

Tags:  ewald consulting  jess myers  pr  public relations  talking points 

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Why Personal Connections Still Matter

Posted By Anna Wrisky, Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Updated: Thursday, December 4, 2014

Personal Connections

We live in a culture that spends more time communicating via email, text messages and social media than we spend talking to one another or meeting face to face. Although communicating digitally is convenient, it has major drawbacks.


Sending an email to someone is great when you need to outline a process or share documents or text. It also allows the sender and recipient to communicate on their own timeline, on their own terms. However, a personal connection is lost. I work with many volunteers, members and colleagues who I have only spoken with through email. I don’t know the sound of their voice, their hobbies or interests — and in some cases I don’t even know what state they live in. When you communicate only by email or text, small talk is lost. We may share tidbits of personal information, but it’s much more difficult to create a personal friendship or relationship in an email thread.


The best way to resolve conflict or to clear confusion is in person or over the phone.

  If a member or client is upset, give them a call to remind them you care as a company and as a person, and to remind them that they are working with actual people and not machines. Hopefully their anger will be diffused when the call clears up the issue, or when a sincere apology is given for whatever mishap took place.


Phone calls and meetings keep us productive.

  We’ve all tried to work with others via email. The problem with only communicating this way is that each email is one-sided. It takes longer to bounce ideas off one another. Miscommunication and misinterpretation is common. Make the phone call or set up a meeting, at least for the brain storming and problem-solving portion of the project. Save the emailing for sharing documents and project check-ins.


Emails and texts don’t contain emotion. And they don’t give memorable experiences.

  The short, abrupt, to the point email that you wrote from your phone to a member who had multiple concerns about their project or membership can come off as cold and disconnected. Sure, you can check it off your to-do list, but what was that experience with your association like for them? How likely are they to recommend your services to others? How likely is that member to become engaged on a committee or even renew? Even these quick little responses are a chance to sell your association membership and your services. Sell the value of being a member through their experiences of working with your association staff.


Sometimes when I have a simple question for someone, I choose to use the phone instead of email or texting. This allows for conversation and connection, and promotes member engagement! Member engagement leads to member retention. Social media, email, and text messages are all great tools and resources, but taking that extra step to really connect with members and colleagues and volunteers face to face or via the phone is also important. Think twice before hitting reply or comment; that phone call or meeting might be more beneficial to you both!




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The Board Speaks: Getting on the Same Page

Posted By Darrin Hubbard, Wednesday, December 3, 2014
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Imagine this scenario:

You’ve just completed your daylong Board Meeting preceding your Annual Convention. Aside from the usual business items covered in the meeting, there was a strategic plan check-in and several sensitive or maybe even contentious topics were acted upon. Fast forward to the next day at the conference at the opening reception. A Past President, partner in the tradeshow and interested colleague asks, “How was the Board Meeting?”. How do your Board Members respond? Do they vent about a decision that did not go their way? Do they give three different answers? Do they share an outcome of a vote that was to be kept confidential until all parties were notified?

You may have left the meeting in agreement, but it is easy to see how you can lose control of the message quickly.And it is completely understandable when you think about the other responsibilities your Board Members have such as their job, thanksgiving plans, their kids, the grocery list, vet appointments… you get the point.

So what do you do? Some of our clients publish a column on board activity in the newsletter. This works well because you can articulate, word for word, the messages you want to share. The problem with this approach can be the timing. If your e-newsletter has a monthly distribution, what are your board members communicating before the information is distributed? When they liaise with your committees or partnering organizations, what messages are they sharing in the interim?

One good solution that I have found is to develop talking points. Track important conversations and outcomes during the meeting; as the final order of business, ask the board to agree to three brief talking points that are ready to be made public. What do you want people to know about the time the board just spent together? Send the agreed-upon talking points to the board in an email so they can refer to them when it is convenient. If you are proactive in developing the messages your board shares, you can better manage the communication and perception of the work of the board.

A few tips on talking points:

  1. No more than three talking points – focus on the most important points you want to be made public.
  2. Paraphrase – empower your board to use their own voice, not recite them word for word.
  3. Keep them short – make it easy for your board to recall the talking points.
  4. Put them in order of importance – do the prioritization for them.

Here are a few sample talking points that have been used over the past few months:

  • Approved committee recommendations to make website more user-friendly
  • Appointed task force to investigate credentialing
  • Established Nominating Committee and revised its scope
  • Approved operating budget for the upcoming year
  • Approved proposal to develop a new chapter
  • This year’s conference has a record number of attendees, including 25 first-timers
  • Signed an extension with the current publisher of the magazine
  • Strategic plan for 2015-17 was approved
  • Established a new award recognizing emerging leaders in the organization
  • Approved the concept for a new fundraising campaign

What does your board do? I’d be interested to hear what approaches are being used by other organizations.

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The President’s Role at Conferences

Posted By Paul Hanscom, CAE, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development, Ewald Consulting, Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Annual Conference is the normally the largest assembly of your members in one location throughout the year. It is an opportunity for exchanging ideas, making connections, and advancing the state of the industry. As the “chief volunteer,” you have a unique role in facilitating each of these elements of the conference experience, all while allowing your conference planning team to take the lead in hosting the event.

 

Chief Ambassador

The annual conference draws new members, first-time attendees, and guest speakers from all over. These individuals likely do not have a well-established foothold in the association community and will seek opportunities to connect with anyone they recognize in the crowd. As the face of the organization, you are uniquely qualified to reach out to these individuals, welcome them to the event, and help them to make a connection with someone. Those who experience an event for the first time and develop a sense of belonging/connection will be much more likely to attend again in the future. Be sure to help these key individuals feel like an integral part of the conference community rather than experiencing it from a distance as an observer.

 

Discussion Facilitator

In the role of president, you become steeped in information and conversation about issues impacting the industry. You know your association members and conference attendees better than most and can serve to facilitate discussion between people who otherwise may not find a connection. Do not underestimate your ability to “grease the wheels” of industry communication by helping build relationships and foster ideas about how the industry you serve can grow, develop, and improve.

 

Steward of Recognition

Make time to connect with each sponsor and exhibitor representative and express appreciation for their support. This is also an opportunity to learn more about their interests and how they hope to continue gaining value from their support of the annual conference experience.

 

Find ways to recognize Past Presidents and industry leaders in attendance. You are one of the few people who know the full scope of contribution these people have made to the organization. Ensure that they are greeted appropriately and find a way to incorporate public recognition of their work as a way to inspire future leaders.

Tags:  association management  associations 

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Tell Me a Story: Using narrative to create more powerful messages for your association

Posted By Laurie Pumper, Friday, November 14, 2014
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From the time that we are young children, people everywhere learn how to make sense of the world through stories. I can hear some association executives now: “But how will that help our association’s bottom line? We need our board to focus on the numbers.”

My answer is that the power of narrative can help make sense of data. By adding context to numbers, your members are more likely to understand and retain the information. In addition to a spreadsheet, write a few short paragraphs about the monthly financial report: Is volatility in the stock market causing unusual swings in your investment portfolio? Were there unusual one-time expenses that make this month’s year-to-date figures seem completely off the rails — or do the expenses signal an important challenge that the board needs to address immediately?

If your nonprofit organization does fundraising, strong storytelling is absolutely essential to your success. Your annual report may show that 90% of funds raised go to directly improve the lives of young people…but without testimonials and pictures that show the story of your organization’s impact, your fundraising messages are likely to fall flat. I’ve volunteered for the Minnesota 4-H Foundation for more than a decade — and once we started including those success stories and photos of 4-H members doing interesting things, we saw better returns on our direct mail efforts. When we started using segmentation, so that (for instance) alumni donors who are especially interested in 4-H’s arts program get a story and photo related to that interest, results improved again.

More tips:

  • Include one or more case studies in articles that appear in your association’s publications. Getting the case study might be as easy as emailing or calling a member to comment on her experience.
  • If your organization does a survey to get feedback on your latest webinar, pull out a quote or two from an enthusiastic attendee that explains how useful the session was, or how it solved a problem — and use the quote(s) to promote your next webinar or your archives. This tactic also works well with promoting in-person events.
  • Rather than simply listing the names of the people in a photo, use the caption to tell a short story about what they were doing. Better yet, explain how it relates to your organization’s mission.

Additional resource:
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, by Daniel H. Pink, 2005. The book devotes a chapter to the importance of storytelling and provides exercises to improve your storytelling ability.

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How to Give an Effective Legislative Tour — and Boost Awareness of Your Organization

Posted By Becca Pryse and Nick de Julio, Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, November 5, 2014
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Every May when the legislative session comes to an end, many people believe that the window to connect with legislators or agency staff has closed, because no active lawmaking is taking place. However, summer and fall present great opportunities to connect with legislators and their staff, as well as the governor’s staff and others in the administration. One of the best ways make these connections and have a positive impact is to invite them out to your workplace or one of your association member's offices or locations. Scheduling a tour with your legislators or others is one of the most effective ways to connect with them on an issue. In addition, a tour of your facility provides an even better way to reach out to legislators, staff or others and educate them about your organization, what it is you do and why it should matter to them.

Scheduling and planning a visit may take a bit of time and thought. Following are tips for you and your organization to give an effective tour and leave a positive, lasting impression with your guests:

  • Inviting and Scheduling a Visit: The first step in setting up your visit is to send a formal invitation to your prospective visitors. An invitation may be extended via letter, phone, email or even in person. Make sure that you follow up with them or their staff to ensure that the invitation was received. It is also important to remember to leave a sufficient amount of time between the invitation and the proposed date so that it may work with their schedule. Keep your date somewhat flexible if you can. Be sure to talk with either them or staff to confirm the date and length of time.
  • Develop a Plan for the Tour: Once you have sent your invitation and have a date on the calendar, it is key to plan your tour accordingly. Make a list of items you want to cover, areas of concern you want to point out or success stories you want to promote.
  • Tour Guide: An effective tour is only as good as the person who will be giving it. Be sure to pick someone who is knowledgeable of the facility, the process and other areas. A number of questions could arise during the tour and it is best to be prepared. It is also a good idea to make sure that your guide is well spoken and personable.
  • Promote Yourself: Make sure that you use this time to promote your facility, association or members for the work they do. Let your visitors know about your good work and the successes that you have achieved. Don’t be afraid to involve others or even have your visitors participate in a project or activity. This is a great way for them to learn more about an area and gives them something to talk about the next time your association comes up.
  • Housekeeping: While it might seem like a no-brainer, make sure that your facility is clean and presentable. Those attending the tour will associate your facility with your organization. It is key that you paint the picture you want for them. As they say, appearance is everything!
  • Compliance: Make sure that you are compliant with laws and are meeting regulations. The last thing you want to do is be non-compliant and then invite representatives of the state to your facility. It could make for a hard time down the road in getting any changes to policy made.
  • Other Items to Think About: Consider possible media coverage, meals, transportation for a larger group, special accommodations such as handicap access, etc. It is best to talk with the point person for your guests to see what concerns they might have with any of these items. Some public officials welcome media involvement — and some don’t.
  • Follow-Up: Now that your tour is over and it was a success, there is one last step — to follow up with your guests. Make sure to send a note thanking them for coming to your site. Include your contact information so they can reach out to you at any time if they have questions or want to bring others back for a second visit. Also make sure that you get back to them with answers if any questions arose that could not be answered during the visit.

By following a few of these key steps in the planning process, any organization will be on the path to giving an effective tour that should leave a ringing endorsement with your guests.

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Nine Ways to Make Sponsorship Success Easy

Posted By Paul Hanscom, Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Updated: Sunday, October 26, 2014
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Whether embarking on a sponsorship campaign for the first time or reviewing sponsorship options that have been in place for a number of years, it is important to have a process in place that engages input, boosts value, and nurtures sponsor relationships over time. This process maximizes sponsor value for the organization and the sponsor’s feeling of being a valued partner. You can get there with these nine steps.

Why Should Someone Sponsor?

Sponsorship creates a meaningful partnership between a vendor and your organization. Through sponsorship, a supplier demonstrates commitment to advancing your organization and industry as a whole. Sponsorship builds a vendor’s credibility and develops a good rapport in the industry. It also diversifies your revenue sources, and can assure additional funding to allow your organization to better serve its mission.

When you seek sponsors, don’t be timid. You are offering them an opportunity that may be their best — if not only — chance to get the word out about their product or service to a very targeted market. The alternatives available may be expensive, impersonal, and/or have a low return on investment (e.g. mass marketing, cold calling, direct mail). Don’t undervalue what you can bring to a sponsor.

Identify Sponsor Prospects

Consider how your organization identifies sponsor prospects. Are you regularly branching out to new prospects or do you wind up contacting the same few vendors over and over again? While it is important to nurture and reinforce relationships with long-term supporters, you also want to cultivate new relationships. Ask yourself which vendors in your industry might benefit from getting their name in front of a targeted audience — your audience. Companies that have no previous involvement with your organization could see sponsorship as their vehicle to launch into the market.

An additional way to identify sponsor prospects is to research companies that are sponsoring similar activities at a different scale — be it local, regional, or national. Find organizations that are similar to yours and see who is supporting them. If they serve a similar demographic, it is likely that the sponsor will want to support you as well. Companies that have a history of supporting organizations in your industry will naturally benefit from sponsorship with your association.

Communicate Value to Your Sponsors

Start with the data you already possess. If you have demographic data on your group, share that with prospective sponsors to illustrate who they can reach. This concept also applies to event participant lists and the board of directors roster. Demonstrate the breadth and depth of your organization’s reach to decision-makers in your group. This is valuable and compelling information to companies, especially those with a limited marketing budget. By providing this information, you guarantee exposure that other marketing approaches may not be able to muster. Several analytics platforms track the number of hits that your website is getting as well as how many viewers clicked a specific sponsor’s link. This is another concrete measure of sponsorship value.

A key element of success in securing new sponsors is the person who makes the ask. Your organization needs people on your side who are influential and able to capture the attention of decision-makers. Think of the top five companies/leaders in your field and make sure you have a contact with each of them. Ask your board members to name leading companies and people they consider to be key thinkers. By securing support from known authorities in the industry, you demonstrate that you can likewise connect sponsors to these leaders. Establishing a connection to industry authority is very valuable; you will have an easier time getting the attention of a prospective sponsor if you can offer them this type of value.

Start the Dialogue

If any of the leaders in your organization already have a relationship with a prospective sponsor, they may be the natural choice to take the first step to make contact. However, for those sponsors who are being contacted for the first time, it is best to begin by familiarizing them with the organization. One way to do this is by adding the sponsor prospect to your newsletter or magazine mailing list. Send them a complimentary copy of your association’s special publication along with a personalized letter of introduction. Now your potential sponsor will have some frame of reference when you call about sponsorship rather than making a complete cold call.

Oftentimes we speak at a sponsor prospect by explaining what our sponsorship opportunity will give them before we ask what the sponsor is looking for. Get their interest, biggest challenge, and see if you can help them. Ask them, “Who are your ideal customers?” and, “What are you looking for in the sponsorship? How do you want your company to be thought of in this industry?” Ask the sponsor, “What is your biggest challenge?” For some, it is finding the decision-makers at industry companies. For others, it is a challenge to announce a new product launch. Some are looking for the right environment to help them network more effectively. In each case, your sponsors have unique challenges. It is your job to discern whether or not your organization is able to help them address these challenges and connect them with potential customers. These questions will tease out whether or not sponsorship is a wise investment. If the answer is a great big “No,” then it’s in everyone’s best interest that you move on. Don’t waste resources providing sponsorship benefits that are not appreciated or even wanted! If sponsorship does not appear to be a good fit for the organization, it is best to identify this early. If sponsorship has a lot to offer to the prospect, answering these questions makes their decision to sign up even easier. Sponsorship is a partnership, not a one-time sale. Nurture the relationship all year long and follow up to keep the value fresh in your sponsor’s mind.

Set Sponsorship Fees Right

When setting sponsorship fees, remember that you are selling an investment in the sponsorship experience, not just a one-time expense. Set your price to the market and don’t underestimate the value you can offer to a sponsor. If affiliation and sponsorship support with your organization generate sales and notoriety in the industry, your sponsors will come back every time. Communicate this value.

When estimating a sponsorship fee structure, there are a variety of elements to consider. First, if there are multiple levels of sponsorship, each fee must be less expensive than the sum of each smaller level to entice a sponsor toward a larger investment. Likewise, make sure to guard your ability to tailor a package to meet a large sponsor’s interests. If a prospect wants to give you money, make sure that there is a fitting way for them to do so.

Sponsor Recognition

You’ve secured your first sponsor. Congratulations! Who knows about it? Did you get the word out to members? Did you thank the sponsor in your industry magazine or newsletter? Sponsorship is an important decision for many companies and you need to provide some visible result right away. Sponsors need to feel the value of sponsorship as soon as possible and for the length of their support — be it for one event or five years. Make sure to get the word out about your new sponsor so they know they are appreciated from the very start of the relationship.

Be creative when acknowledging your sponsors in writing. Write a feature article that profiles the sponsor, why they are involved with your organization, and what benefit they offer to your readership. This is much better than simply listing them in the magazine or newsletter because it helps your members relate to the sponsor and it even further clarifies to the sponsor why your organization is the right fit. You could place a sponsor’s ad in the publication for free. As more organizations move to electronic publications that may not be as conducive to ads, having an exclusive e-newsletter sponsorship can be very valuable to the sponsor and lucrative for your organization. However, it is important to consistently tell your e-newsletter sponsor how often your website is visited. Certainly ask members if they are sensitive about giving out their electronic information before you provide this to a sponsor.

Make sure to recognize your biggest sponsors at your biggest event. A supplementary “Sponsor Thank You” event that will likely get low attendance from the people your sponsor wants to meet and is a poor use of the resources you’ve worked hard to secure.

The Multiplier Effect

The value of sponsors to your organization is not limited to the price tag you put on sponsorship packages. There are plenty of ways that you can partner with your sponsors to multiply the benefits to your organization, the people you serve, and the sponsor. If a high-level executive at your sponsoring company is the authority on a subject of interest to your members, you can include this individual as a speaker at one of your events or s/he could present an award to one of your members. This is a way for your sponsor to get exposure, your members to get cutting-edge information, and for your organization to be reinforced as an authoritative forum for such interactions. The sponsor will have a keen interest in helping you promote the event by distributing information to its own customers — people who may not know about your organization yet, but who could be prospective members. Don’t forget to ask your sponsor about the best way to let its customers know about the event and their support for it. Ask for a link from the sponsor’s website stating, “We are a proud sponsor of organization ABC.”

Follow-Up & Feedback

Send prompt follow-up to sponsors after an event is held or a publication is printed with statistics about the number of attendees/readers, any press exposure about the event/publication, and any measure of their exposure. Send a reminder of the cumulative recognition received as a sponsor for your organization: press releases, call for entries, registration piece, even a printed copy of an email promotion. It is compelling to see — in one place — all of the points where the sponsor received exposure through a consistently branded message.

Try to communicate feedback to your sponsors from the event attendees or publication readers. This can include testimonials from surveys or evaluations, focus groups, or interviews. Most importantly, ask the sponsor about the sponsorship experience, which is the first step to renewing support as a sponsor the next time.

Other nice extras

There are plenty of little extras you can use to help a sponsor relationship grow. You could offer to host one of your events or meetings at the sponsor’s facility. Most sponsors will be eager to show off their offices. Suggest they volunteer with your organization and/or join a committee so they can meet others who are passionate about your mission and learn more about the social culture of the group.

If this is your sponsor’s first time participating, provide personal introductions and guidance on how to make the most of their sponsorship. If there are sponsor representatives at your event, ask if they wish to meet a specific someone. See how appreciative sponsors are when you provide a personal introduction to someone they would like to meet for the first time.

Nurture the Relationship

Develop sponsorship packages with an annual renewal. This allows your sponsors and your organization the ability to build sponsorship into an annual budget and plan accordingly. Additionally, annual renewal means that you only have to ask each sponsor for a financial contribution once — and they get recognition all year long. Sponsors and fundraisers alike say that it is easier to ask once for a large contribution than to solicit smaller amounts every time your organization has a new initiative. Do not confuse this with a suggestion that you only approach each sponsor once per year. Remember to check in frequently and consistently throughout the year so your sponsor does not develop the sentiment that every interaction with you is a financial one. Make sure your sponsors are cognizant of their sponsorship and the benefits it affords them.
Send communication related to their business. Send congratulations if they receive an award or if one of their staff receives a promotion. Make a point to visit top sponsors at their own office once a year so they feel valued. Survey them and host a focus group of current and prospective sponsors to get new ideas for an established event. Never assume that the benefits you offered a year ago are exactly what sponsors want today.

Keep the Momentum

Set a sponsorship recruitment goal and revisit it often. Keep the board and pertinent committee members informed of your progress. While there are several methods to communicate sponsorship options to your prospects (including blast email, direct mail, or a template message from key volunteers), personal contact through phone calls or in-person meetings is often the most effective way to communicate because it conveys how important this support is to your leaders, your organization, and your cause.

Wrapping it up
Be sponsor worthy. Tell sponsors and prospective sponsors why your organization is a unique value to them. Show them the value. And write your own sponsorship success story.

This is a sample of the content in our e-book, Maximizing the Sponsor Experience. Download the full e-book now!

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