Sponsorship is a game-changer when it comes to boosting membership engagement for associations. It's like having a secret weapon in your arsenal that can help drive growth, increase member retention, and provide exciting opportunities for your association.
If you are wondering how to create a strategic partnership that is effective and would boost your membership engagement, and help you to create sponsorship packages that are enticing and irresistible, then this blog post is for you.
In this blog post, we'll dive into the incredible potential of association sponsorship, explore how it can be harnessed to strengthen member engagement, and how you can give sponsors the needed chance to interact with members on an online member portal throughout the year using the super tool: Member Lounge.
What is Association Sponsorship:
Association Sponsorships are mutually beneficial relationships between an association and an external organization, typically a company or business.
The external organization most times provide financial support, resources, and other forms of assistance to the association in exchange for branding, thought leadership, and other promotional opportunities.
This alliance works to achieve the respective goals of each party, build a valuable relationship and ultimately drive growth if your association does it well.
What are Associations Doing Wrong?
While associations have recognized the importance of sponsorship, there are still areas where they often fall short of maximizing the potential of these partnerships.
Here is a list of what associations are doing wrong concerning sponsorship:
Not Knowing What Sponsors Need
Companies(sponsors) are looking out for business development opportunities, branding, and thought leadership, but associations are selling more transactional services, with so much focus on conferences.
One of the reasons associations do that is because they need to know what sponsors are looking for.
Associations need to focus more on what sponsorship companies need that is still in line with what members need, and ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction.
Lack of Strategic Alignment.
A mismatch between the association's mission and the sponsor's goal can result in disengaged sponsors and missed opportunities to provide meaningful benefits to members.
One -Time Transaction mindset with Sponsors
Associations often overlook the importance of ongoing communication and collaboration with sponsors. Instead of treating sponsorship as a one-time transaction, associations should focus on building long-term relationships that foster mutual growth and success.
Practical Ways to Engage Your Sponsors and Members Effectively
Engaging sponsors and members is crucial for associations seeking to maximize the benefits of sponsorship and foster a vibrant membership community.
The first step to doing this is to revamp your association's perspective to start thinking in the direction of 'what do sponsors also want, and how can we use that to also satisfy member's needs'.
Here are some practical strategies to effectively engage both sponsors and members:
Sponsors need to be given a chance to interact with members on an online member portal throughout the year. Member Lounge can do that for you. See Demo here
Leverage various platforms that allow for member engagement like Member Lounge to share relevant Information. Also, encourage sponsors to provide content specifically tailored to members. This would help you create personalized engagement that is beneficial to both members and sponsors
Understand Members Unmet Needs:
Ask the association staff weeks after the budget has been approved; what each department asked for that wasn't in the budget because there needed to be more money, you can find out unmet needs through this.
You could also ask board members and corporate partners what top issues they feel should be addressed from their vantage point.
Having all these helps you to only go for sponsors whose niche and expertise can solve your members' needs, and this would automatically create a flow for engagement.
Networking and Collaboration:
From surveys we've done, we noticed that sponsors and partners are dying to connect with members. Facilitating networking and collaboration opportunities between sponsors and members can help you greatly increase engagement and retention.
Organize dedicated networking sessions, mentorship programs, or industry-specific forums where sponsors can interact directly with members.
Recognition and Appreciation:
Recognize and appreciate sponsors and members for their contributions and involvement. Publicly acknowledge sponsors' support through shout-outs, testimonials, or dedicated appreciation events.
This will help you greatly enhance sponsor value, and nurture a mutually beneficial relationship that would drive growth.
Segmenting Members to Streamline and Serve the Needs of Members and Sponsors
Member Segmentation is a crucial strategy for associations to streamline their efforts and effectively serve both the needs of their members and sponsors.
Your membership base can be classified into distinct segments based on either psychographic level. Membership tiers, or by certain specific data. The idea is to segment according to what fits the kind of sponsors you are looking to attract and that can also serve your member's needs.
Securing Sponsorship When Starting from Scratch
Starting an association from scratch can be a challenging endeavor, especially when it comes to securing sponsorship without any prior track record. However, there are several strategies that can help associations kickstart their sponsorship efforts:
Do your research.
Before you start reaching out to potential sponsors, take some time to research your industry and identify companies that would be a good fit for your association. It is essential to clearly define the association's mission, goals, and target audience. This clarity will enable associations to identify potential sponsors whose values align with their objectives.
Outline the Benefits:
Associations should create a compelling sponsorship package that outlines the benefits sponsors can receive in exchange for their support. Highlight the unique opportunities for exposure, brand visibility, and access to the association's membership base.
Next is to reach out to them, and ask about their business goals and how each party can get a win-win. The idea is to position yourself as a solution to the sponsor's goals and needs. Hop on the call to educate the sell, not sell to educate.
How to Create Exclusivity and Facilitate Direct Sponsor-Audience Interaction in Your Association Events
The first way to do this is to creatively find ways in your program to help each sponsor to stand out by solving the needs of the members ( You have a list of member needs already).
Associations can offer dedicated sponsor showcase areas or booths, or sponsor-led sessions or workshops where sponsors can showcase their products, services, brand messaging, and thought leadership in a way that also solves members' needs.
Another way will be to propose a year-long partnership as this helps provide more avenues to solve members' needs, reduce the number of sponsors to only attract high-profile companies, and provide more exclusivity for the sponsors.
How to Integrate Event Sponsorship into Your Marketing Strategy
To effectively integrate event sponsorship into your marketing efforts, start by aligning your sponsorship objectives with your overall marketing goals. How will event sponsorship help you enhance brand awareness, or expand your audience, does the sponsor's goal serve your member need and help you increase engagement? If yes, then you are on the right track.
Once you've answered the above questions and secured event sponsorship, you should leverage your marketing channels to promote your involvement. This would help increase your branding and visibility and drive engagement.
During the event also, maximize your visibility by using branded signage, offering interactive experiences, or hosting engaging sessions. Don't forget to capture and share moments from the event through photos, videos, and live updates on social media platforms, and all other marketing channels.
After the event, it is also important that you follow up with attendees to nurture relationships and continue the conversation.
Best Sponsorship Practices to Boost Your Membership Engagement