New Money: Three Ways to Boost Sponsorship Revenue

fundraising By: Samantha Whitehorne

A new IEG survey shows that the majority of associations saw an increase in sponsorship revenue in 2013. But to keep the growth going, they must look for new sponsors, have a dedicated staff, and streamline their sales efforts.

The economic recession of the late 2000s required associations to be more strategic and creative about generating nondues revenue, particularly from their sponsorship programs. But it seems the hard work paid off: 75 percent of surveyed associations reported an increase in sponsorship revenue in 2013 compared to 54 percent that reported an increase in 2011, according to a new IEG survey.

The report, "State of Association Sponsorship," assigns much of the credit for that increase to a rebounding economy but also attributes it "to partnerships

that offer higher value propositions, as brands are looking for associations to serve as strategic advisors to help engage members or other involved individuals."

But even with revenue increasing, associations still have work to do to maintain that upward climb. Here are three factors they need to consider to keep sponsorship revenue growing, according to the report:

  1. Larger pool of sponsors. Associations must look beyond endemic sponsors to brands that want to reach their members as consumers. The good news is that the survey showed that 24 percent of associations have only endemic sponsors, while 42 percent have both endemic and consumer-focused companies. "A mix of both types of relationships is often ideal—and can help associations maximize revenue," says the report.
  2. Greater staffing needs. As sponsors require more value from partnerships, the work involved in maintaining that high level of service will require more staff. According to the survey, organizations with more sponsorship revenue have considerably more staff, yet only 5 percent have a sponsorship team of four or more. In fact, 31 percent have only one full-time staff member or less, and 41 percent have two to three. However, 14 percent have plans to hire more staff.
  3. Streamlined sales effort. Related to staff is how many different internal departments or third-party companies are selling sponsorship packages. "Multiple parties may lead to challenges around coordination, communication, and efficiency," says the report. "Corporate sponsors may experience 'contact fatigue.'" Associations are mixed on the need for a streamlined approach: 45 percent currently have only one department selling partnerships, but 42 percent have two to four playing a role.

Associations also have other plans in place to increase revenue: 71 percent say they are developing new sponsorship packages, 57 percent are working on new programs that will require sponsors, and 79 percent plan to upsell existing sponsors.

Samantha Whitehorne is deputy editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email:[email protected]

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Making the Cut."]

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is deputy editor of Associations Now in Washington, DC.