When you attend an event, what do you notice first? Perhaps the décor or the sampling of food. Or maybe a scan of the crowd and room setup. But one place your eye should linger is a program, ad or signage – the names there are the reason the event can be held.
The benefit of sponsors for nonprofits can’t be overstated. In a recent blog, three event planners discussed the “How-to of how to get sponsors.” In this week’s blog, the same trio salute those sponsors for their willingness to support the Knoxville community.
“Obviously, it’s going to pay for your event,” said Mickey Mallonee, director of events for Historic Westwood. “You can project to the public that you are an organization that people are willing to promote. It says it is an event worth supporting.”
Susan Hyde, the director of development, for the Knoxville Museum of Art, cited two critical benefits of sponsors, including the “safety net” factor.
“Sponsorships, along with private gifts and government grants, allow the museum to continue to offer high-caliber exhibitions, excellent education programs, public programs and diverse community outreach programs,” Hyde said.
“Sponsorship dollars guarantee our success in fundraising events going in, therefore, allowing ticket sales and the auction, if there is one, to augment the success. We try to know that we can achieve our fundraising goal for an event before the day of the event through sponsorships. Sponsorships are our safety net.”
Mallonee’s organization, Knox Heritage, works to preserve structures and sites with historical or cultural significance. She delivered a direct and quick answer when asked if the nonprofit could survive without sponsors.
“Absolutely not,” Mallonee said. “You can’t bring in money you need to sustain your programs without sponsors. We couldn’t do it without them.”
David Byrd, the managing director for Clarence Brown Theatre, relies on corporate sponsorships, a program that is growing for the theater, to meet his budget. The theater has the dual purpose of educating students at the University of Tennessee and presenting top-notch plays for the community. That means attracting top talent for the stage.
“If we don’t meet those marks (in the budget), we have to adjust,” he said.
State funding for higher education across the country in in flux, so Byrd always is mining for new funding sources.
“That keeps me young,” Byrd said.
Byrd has noticed a paradigm shift in corporate giving with fewer philanthropic dollars and more marketing expenditures. That can be beneficial for the theater.
“They believe in the arts,” Byrd said. “They believe in a quality of life. The arts fill that void. And I use art in a broad sense.”
The payback for the sponsors is, of course, visibility on those programs and ads.
“They are attaching themselves to an arts organization,” Byrd said. “We have some amazing organizations in Knoxville and aligning with them is a good thing.”
Hyde makes sure she knows exactly what a sponsor is expecting so that the museum will deliver on its end.
“Some sponsors are looking for benefits while others are simply interested in supporting the organizations they believe in, and, as a fundraiser, it is important to understand and know what the donor or prospective donor is interested in,” Hyde said. “If funds are coming from a corporation’s marketing budget, it is important to show benefits that will give a business good recognition and a good return on their investment.
“If it is a corporate foundation, in many instances, they are neither allowed nor interested in receiving the benefits of attending an event, but could have interest in print and electronic media recognition.
“For individual sponsors, it is most often the reservations at an event and recognition in the event’s program that are important.”
Mallonee has a proven formula for keeping sponsors happy.
“Don’t ever over-promise,” she said. “Under-promise and over-deliver.”
Since Knox Heritage is involved in a lot of restoration efforts, Mallonee noted the organization offers an added benefit of a sponsor being able to see tangible results.
“People who are going to give you a sponsorship want to see what they have done,” Mallonee said. “We have to make them see and feel what we are doing.”
Historic Westwood has been a tremendous beneficiary of sponsors and fundraisers for nonprofits, a climate promoted by elected officials. She thanked Victor Ashe and Bill Haslam for “sticking with it” and Tim Burchett and Madeline Rogero for continuing their efforts.
“To their credit, they have been the driving force behind things happening,” Mallonee said.
Successful events attract sponsors so a track record is important for any organization. That means sponsors are likely to return, and a nonprofit also can find new ones.
“It’s like the pebble and the pond,” Mallonee said. “It’s a rippling effect.”
Maria Cornelius, a writer/editor for Moxley Carmichael, populates the EventCheck calendar. She is more likely to attend your event if it meets three criteria: cats and dogs present, sports on television and Miller Lite on ice in the vintage bottle.