Building a Supportive Internal Culture for Sponsorship

We work with many large public sector organizations on building and implementing their sponsorship programs. Where many of these initiatives fall flat is on the execution side – not because the strategy is flawed or the value proposition weak; but because the internal culture inadvertently or not, creates roadblocks along every step of the way.

I see the same scenario played out so many times: the immediate staff responsible for implementing the program are enthusiastic and ready to go, but they get bogged down by a “risk adverse” bureaucracy, unresponsive program managers, communication departments that don’t want to clutter messages and mediums with sponsor visibility, line staff that don’t execute sponsor deliverables with immediacy and enthusiasm and the list goes on…

The bottom line is that the department or individual responsible for implementing the sponsorship program can have all the enthusiasm, strategies and tactics in place to execute the program, but if the culture surrounding the program is not actively supportive, you’ll be spinning your wheels.

So, how do you develop a culture that helps you do your job instead of putting up roadblocks every step of the way? Here are a few ideas:

Education Needs to be the #1 Priority – By-in-large, most people who work in public sector and non-profit organizations do not understand the discipline of marketing and especially, today’s complex sponsorship environment.  Part of your implementation strategy needs to focus on educating your colleagues, senior managers, elected representatives and anyone else who will listen, about the level of sophistication that is now required to be successful at sponsorship and what they can do to help the organization be successful.

Address the Issues One-On-One – As the person implementing the sponsorship program, your need to identify all those individuals / departments within your organization that could be impacted by the program and meet with them one-on-one to address perceived or real barriers. In many large organizations, this often includes the finance and legal departments, as well as operations and communication departments.

Address the “What’s in it for Me?” Factor – If people see the benefit of what you’re doing and how it can help them, they are more likely to be supportive of your efforts. This is why it’s important to allocate some of the funds generated through sponsorship towards improving programs and services, and not just into a general revenue account (commonly referred to as the “black hole”).

Get Prior Approval on What Assets You Will Sell and What Baseline Benefits Will be Offered – Recognizing that today’s sponsorship agreements are highly customized, you can still get agreement on what baseline benefits might offered through any sponsorship package, so that you can feel confident that the benefits you discuss with potential sponsors are likely to be easily accepted by your organization; thus avoiding any surprises or event worse, embarrassment or loss of credibility when you can’t deliver what you promise.

Sponsorship Program Managers Need to be Leaders – Let’s face it, sponsorship is a new area for many public sector or not-for-profit organizations. As the person responsible for implementing a successful program, you need to be the champion that successfully guides the organization through the growing pains you are likely to experience. As an organizational change leader, you need to communicate the vision and challenge traditional thinking so that other persons in your organization step out of their “safe box” to support and even advocate on your behalf.

Developing a supportive internal culture for your sponsorship program will not just happen because the strategy is approved or when senior management declares their support. You need to build your support base one step at a time through a planned strategy and by creating some early success stories that will help establish credibility for the program.

Later, BC

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