Do you know the Difference between Sponsorship and Fundraising?

I notice that these words are often used interchangeably and that could land you in hot water!

Fundraising is connecting people to causes they love and wish to support with their personal (or business) donations. “No goods or a service” is the phrase that is used in the tax language on the receipts.

“Sponsorship is for the purpose of achieving commercial objectives. Philanthropy or monetary donations, on the other hand, are in support of a cause without any commercial incentives. Money is donated simply for the good of the cause with no ‘strings’ attached” (from nonprofnetwork.org)

Sponsorship has an expectation of some kind of commercial return, such as generating new business, brand recognition, or another measurable result. The primary piece to this relationship is access to an audience or group of people. In this type of relationship, a sponsorship “package” is offered and sold to a business, and they benefit from the reciprocal relationship. Whether its tax deductible is debatable but that is usually unlikely, because they ARE receiving goods or services at a certain value from you.

Sponsors have access to your audience

Putting a value on the sponsorship package or “deal” is when you determine how much a sponsor should pay for the activities, benefits, and the website and social media exposure they will get, all outlined in a proposal. This is not the same for every sponsor. Understanding the revenue model of the sponsor and what the motivation or benefit is for them is critical to this step. Always be sure you’re not offering something you cannot actually deliver.

This kind of relationship also requires you to provide data or statistics to show them the value they received, particularly if you’re asking for support again in the future.

Now, there are grey areas in between, for example, event sponsors.

An event sponsor is any person or company that provides something free (money, services, products) to increase the value of your event. Sponsors are key to your event because they add incentives that will draw people to your event or help you cover costs.

This could be use of a venue space, tickets or an art item for a silent auction, t-shirts for your gift baskets, or gift cards. They are freely given, they have a value, and what do they get in return? Publicity. Access to your donors, guests, and their family. So this is still a form of sponsorship and providing tax receipts and language in this case can be tricky.

I hear a lot of Parks & Recreation professionals saying that they need to get sponsors and donations. Yes. But I encourage you to take the time to get to know your donors, encourage philanthropic and big hearted gifts that are freely given because someone loves your mission and your impact in the community. These gifts and relationships are the path to the future.

Next, if you can find a business owner who will be a sponsor for an event because they strongly believe in your mission and your event, and want to support you and the audience you serve, then enter into that agreement and accept the sponsorship and happily promote their support to your audience. If you work with a business that is all about the numbers, their marketing dollars and what social media and print media exposure they expect in return, the stats and data they want to see, perhaps a request to access your mailing list or have major exposure at your events — consider passing on those. These companies know what they need for the dollars they are investing in the sponsorships, and unless you are a well-established enterprise who can devote someone full time to “sales” – which is what sponsorship amounts to – it’s a landslide of work and can really get out of control quickly.

This is just a little blurb to get you pointed in the right direction. I encourage you to read more about the differences between sponsorships and donations, and then set up the processes and proposals that work best for you. Good luck!

PS: Refer to IRS publication 1771 for information on tax language and always talk with your tax accountant or solicitor when you are unsure how to set up or word donation and sponsorship language.

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Are you ready for Fall Fundraising?

by Molly Hetrick

Fall is the peak time for falling leaves and for fundraising! Here are some ideas and helpful bits of info for you to consider this fall…

Why Fall? What about the Holidays?

Traditionally people give more in the second half of the year as the holidays approach. Here are the important parts:

  • Get your fall appeal letters and marketing out before Thanksgiving.
    • When do other non-profits and big fundraising organizations get theirs out in your community? Try to work around this…
  • Early December is a good giving time IF your appeal is already out. It’s an excellent time to send email or social media reminders that support your original letter to people with a gentle nudge.
    • If not, do not send an appeal letter in the beginning of December. People are busy, holiday shopping is looming, and it will end up in the recycling!
    • At this point, you’ve missed your chance, so, you can try this next idea…
  • December is an opportunity to re-route holiday giving… instead of giving someone a gift that they may not want, people like Alternative Holiday Giving! What options can you offer?
    • Instead of a gift…
      • Put their name on a brick!
      • Sponsor a kayak!
      • Put their name on a scholarship to send a child to camp!
      • Name a wild animal after them…
      • {Insert your unique creative idea here}
      • No ideas? Offer to either send a special holiday card to the person they are gifting for (this requires extra work for your staff, really tragic if you mix things up) – OR offer them a special fun card to give themselves to the person they gifted for.
  • The last week of December is the big giving week – a great time to support your appeal letter with follow up stories, image similar social media or emails, etc.
    • Motivation at this point is often tax breaks and getting final donations made before December 31. With tax law changes, this is not always possible. Many donors still give even if they cannot claim it on their taxes.
    • This is also when donors remember their Top 3 charities. Your work all year long helps to align you to be one of their top three. If it is the end of December and you haven’t done outreach, start planning for next year to connect people and their passions to your mission.

Other Ideas?

  • Remember all year long to collect emails and addresses so you have an easily accessible list to communicate with for fundraising.
  • Is it okay to send fundraising materials to your participant lists? Double check with your Director, Board, or Attorney, but usually the answer is yes. They participate in your programs and enjoy your parks, they care about your organization, so let them know how things are going and the projects you’re raising money for in the future.
  • Remember Donor Centered Language – if you forget, look back at my previous blog posts.
    • Compare:
      • “We can’t wait to build the new picnic pavilion and we need your help to fund it!” (ie: you are the ATM machine)
      • “Your generous support for the new picnic pavilion will provide a large multi-use space for hundreds of community activities!” (warm and fuzzy!)
      • “Your gift last year made such an impact on the children who attend summer camp, will you consider a gift again this year?” (you matter! You make a difference!)
      • How do these messages feel to you? Which one makes you want to support something?
  • If you can’t handle the details of a large Fall mailing, instead:
    • Set up easy online giving and promote it through social media and eNewsletters…
    • Ask your Board Members to write personal notes or make phone calls to ask for gifts…
    • Create a special giving group and call some donors you know to offer them a special opportunity to make an impact gift towards a particular project… (exclusive, small group!)
    • Send hand written New Year’s cards that include a warm message and “please consider a year end gift to support the programs and services your family loved this year.”

I hope these ideas were helpful and got you thinking about fundraising for the Fall. This is a great time to connect with people, keep them up to date on your programs and projects, and ask them to be part of the exciting upcoming plans.

If you’re still feeling stuck, please reach out to me or to Tim Herd, PRPS CEO, as we are always interested to know what resources would be most helpful for you.

Fundraising Review – DIY consultation

I recently had the opportunity at the invitation of a Board President to visit a local non-profit and review their fundraising, in order to make suggestions and help them take their donations to the next level.

What I found was a wonderful warm group of people with a small overworked staff who does amazing work, a super marketing coordinator who puts out some of the best materials I’ve seen in a long time, innovative new programs, ongoing vital community services, and a really exciting new grant funded construction project.

They are rocking! They’ve got this, what can I possibly add to help?

Well, the need to increase their donors and find ways to encourage participants paying program fees to also make donations, plus engage a wider audience to attract new donors.

It occurred to me in sitting down to write this post that what I prepared for them might also work for you. Here are some things to consider:

  1. How is your social media?
    • Consider adding video or images that show how it “feels” to be a donor. Make it look really exciting and enticing to be part of that group
    • Consider using donor centered language. Instead of saying “Help us serve preschool children” say “You can raise up a child by supporting preschool programs” or “You can be the hero for a child!” (See below for more on this)
  2. Do you have a donor database or list?
    • Gather “everyone”: recent donors, old donors, sponsors, program attendees, vendors, grant coordinators, newsletter lists, etc – AND then ask your Board members to each provide 10 names who can be contacted. (They give their valuable time to your organization, why wouldn’t they want others in their sphere to know about your organization too?)
  3. Define Audience or Segments: who are your audiences, or communication segments, and is your message different or the same for each?
    • Insiders – those connected to and active with your programs
    • Connected – those who are familiar with your programs (think grandparents, teachers, etc)
    • Community – maybe these folks don’t know about your programs but wouldn’t it be great if they did?
  4. Make Donating Easy: I’ll say this simply: WHERE IS YOUR DONATE BUTTON? If I can’t click on your website and immediately see it, fix that first. Don’t lose people on their way to give because its not easy enough. After that:
    • Do you allow facebook fundraisers to be held on your behalf? (Awesome when someone chooses you to support during their birthday)
    • Can people set up a monthly gift? (excellent for cash flow)
    • Do you have a wishlist or list of programs/services they can support?
  5. Use Your Board:
    • Having an event? They get four extra tickets to bring people with them.
    • Having a fundraiser? They call people and champion your cause
    • Sending a mailing? They write a personal note on the mailing before it goes out AND write the thank you note when that person makes a gift.
    • (If they don’t or wont – explore why… consider bringing a consultant in to train them)
    • Ask the Executive Committee of the Board to start a “Give or Get” Policy. Each member has 12 calendar months to give or get $1000… if they want to write a check Jan 1, great. If they are not able to or don’t want to, they have 12 months to get creative with their kids, friends, church, pets, neighbors to raise $1000. Sounds fun, right??

If you don’t have time for all of this, then skip it and just read the rest because I want to talk again (like my last post) about Donor Centered Fundraising. In my experience and training, this has been my main focus. It’s a philosophy, a practice, a physiological exploration, and more. AND, it works.

This is the Very Best graphic I have ever seen to clearly show what we’re talking about. Read through – do you see the difference? Does it make you want to give? If you make no other changes, use this and change your wording. The donor wants to know where THEY fit in to the fantastic things you’re doing, not just about the fantastic things you’re doing. The full article that included this graphic is available here, authored by Cathy Elton.

I hope these suggestions were helpful! Please reach out and ask for help if you need it. You can improve your fundraising in small ways, even if it feels impossible now. Good luck!

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