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Turning Intangible Benefits into Tangible Cash*

What's the value of association with your nonprofit?

A key element in delivering value to a corporate sponsor rests in placing the sponsor's message before a significant number of people. Advertising agencies in particular will want to quantify the number of impressions the sponsor will receive through a sponsorship, just as they would measure the number of people who would see an advertisement placed in a magazine. For example, how many people in the stadium will be able to see the sponsor's billboard? If the event is telecast, how many additional people will get a glimpse of the billboard? The anticipated audience for a message can be calculated and this tangible, measurable benefit compared to the cost.

The International Events Group (IEG) recommends that you enumerate both tangible and intangible benefits when preparing a sponsorship proposal. Begin a proposal by listing the tangible, i.e., direct, benefits you can offer a sponsor, including all of the places you can put the sponsor's name and what goods or services you can give the sponsor. The first category would include name/logo recognition on tickets, programs, brochures, lobby signage, Web pages, in advertisements, and possibly a projected announcement.

The second might include an opportunity to distribute product samples, free program book advertisements, complimentary tickets to the event, backstage passes, and food and drink for the sponsor or its clients in conjunction with a performance. IEG, through its seminars and valuation service, offers specific dollar amounts that are reasonable to charge for the tangible benefits you offer a sponsor. You may well find, however, that the number you come up with through any such calculation will be far below what you believe is the true worth of the exposure you will provide a sponsor. That's why intangibles also come into the sponsorship equation.

The prestige of the sponsorship property (that's your nonprofit) is the most important intangible you have. Start with your artistic excellence. Pull out your best reviews from the last couple of years and get quotes from prominent (and hopefully, recognizable) people in the field or your community to reinforce your artistic standing.

As important as your artistic quality and prestige is the audience you reach. Few sponsorship opportunities that a corporation receives will be able to compete with your access to high-wealth individuals and corporate leaders, just the people who banks, investment firms, car dealerships, high-end retailers, and others wish to reach. Hopefully, you have done an audience survey that will provide statistics about your audience and patrons. If not, rely on the recognition value of your trustee and donor names to emphasize your contact with this desirable demographic (and do that survey soon).


The consistency and loyalty of your audience, as evidenced through your subscription renewal rate, demonstrates how seriously your company is taken by your audience. The sponsor will expect some of that loyalty to rub off on them.

Of course, everyone who comes into contact with your company is not a millionaire, and to many corporations, that is important, too. Corporations that are working to overcome an image of exclusivity may well want to sponsor your free parks concerts or education outreach programs. A possible example would be a brokerage firm that was developing a low-cost retail brokerage. Sponsoring your programs for school children would provide the public image of doing good for those in need as well as the prestige that your artistic reputation carries with it, while reaching a new demographic (the parents of the school children).

Unlike a major sports team, you probably will not have dozens of corporate sponsors. This is actually a good thing in the eyes of many potential sponsors' there will be little corporate competition for their attention with your audience. In some situations, however, having one sponsor on board will encourage others, especially if your lead sponsor is willing and able to offer tangible benefits to other sponsors. For example, a city magazine might be willing to print a free ad acknowledging all the sponsors to your company.

So how do you assign a dollar value to intangible benefits? Carefully. Do all you can to discover what other organizations have received. Then pick a number that is high enough to be financially meaningful and worthwhile in relationship to what you will have to do to fulfill the tangible benefits. Most importantly, be willing to negotiate. If your fee is too high, a potential sponsor who is otherwise interested in reaching your audience will tell you so.

Sponsorship proposals should always be put forward as drafts subject to further negotiation and refinement. And always call to follow up. That way, if your number is out of line, you can immediately make a counteroffer. Obtaining corporate sponsorships is not easy, since you are in competition with schools, hospitals, social service agencies, and emergency response providers (to name but a few), not to mention every arts organization in your area plus for-profit enterprises such as sports teams.

The biggest mistake you can make regarding sponsorship is to think corporate sponsorship isn't possible for your opera company because you can't deliver the numbers that other event sponsorships offer. Above all, keep in mind that you are providing the corporation with an opportunity to enhance their image and reach a valued demographic through association with your company.

Another article you might find interesting: Sponsorship for Grant Writers

*This article is Copyright © 2006 by OPERA America. It originally appeared in that organization's April 2006 issue of Newsline and is used here by permission. 

Sponsorship and grants both involve an exchange of values. For a grant, the company offers you money to do good in a community, which satisfies the company's desire to do good and enhance its public image.

With a sponsorship, a company offers you money to provide the company with image-enhancing exposure in a community, which satisfies their desire to sell more product. For this reason, marketing departments rather than the company

Hallmarks of a Good Sponsorship Proposal

  • One-page cover letter

  • One-page summary of sponsorship offer that includes specific benefits and demographics of your audience

  • One-page company background

  • One-page summary of what you want sponsored (date, place, and event description)

  • Includes your contact information on each page

  • Includes a total of no more than three press clips or brochures

  • Does not include an annual report, video, CD, DVD, or any other media

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