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Christine Hawks with MRA Services

Takeaways provided by Christine Hawks with MRA Services

Our well-attended Knoxville American Marketing Association luncheon on September 11, 2013, featured a panel discussion on the topic of sponsorships between corporations and nonprofits.  The presenters were US Cellular and its nonprofit partners, the Bijou and Tennessee theatres, managed by AC Entertainment (local venues); and Jewelry Television and its nonprofit partner, the American Heart Association. Some takeaways were affirmations about what’s on par with trends, while others are grist for future programs and discussions.


  • The nonprofits from our luncheon panel referred to respective “sponsors” as partners, and to corporate support as a “partnership.”
  • Creating comprehensive custom packages is desired by both sides, the sponsoring corporation and the nonprofits.
  • Key to a great nonprofit-corporate match is to research the company in advance and ascertain whether it’s an all-around good fit. It will serve to get potential sponsors’ attention, and as a point of decision for whether that sponsor will invest in you.

Something New:

  • It’s important to have matching values. US Cellular said it wouldn’t consider a sponsorship that doesn’t somehow tie back into its #1 priority of customer experience and putting the customer first. US Cellular said that if a nonprofit cannot demonstrate that pretty quickly in its pitch, it’s a no-go. A similar response came from Jewelry TV. Its research indicates that JTV’s primary demographic is women. Since health is a central concern for its primary demographic, JTV created a campaign around that in its partnership with the AHA.
  • Long-term partnerships seem to be becoming rarer. Both corporations on the luncheon panel said that a majority of the time they commit to a one-year sponsorship, since they have to regularly demonstrate ROI each year, compared to the budgets they’ve been given.
  • Nonprofits can and should help corporates determine ROI. One of the best tools to sustain renewal is a fulfillment report. The AHA said it does this for every sponsor at the end of every year.  Jewelry TV confirmed that its evaluation of this aids in the decision whether or not to continue the partnership. Simple, measurable metrics are included with the report. The key is to understand upfront, during the negotiation process, the objectives for each parties’ success, available assets, what each side was willing to commit, and determining how to create a win for both sides.
  • The AHA offers only custom sponsorship packages, period. As the speaker described, AHA doesn’t offer any “precious metal” sponsorship packages (i.e. silver, gold, bronze). She said that AHA recognizes that not every company is a fit, so there is a conversation with each potential partner to create a custom package for that organization.

*Content generously provided by our own Christine Hawks with MRA Services!

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