Do you need or want corporate sponsors?

That is the question that you must answer before starting to seek money, products, services or media from companies.

If you think you need it, keep reading closely.

When interviewing clients who are seeking corporate sponsorship, this is one of the first questions I ask because it gives me insight into what they truly understand about the subject and how they are likely to approach a potential sponsor.

First, understand the difference between a want and a need.  Want is defined as having a strong desire for; need is defined as a lack of something necessary.

To get right to it: Do. Not. Need. Corporate. Sponsorship.

When you have this mentality, you are setting yourself up for massive failure.  Here’s why:

You will break your brand.

I know you don’t think so, but you will lose control of your brand if you think you need corporate sponsors to fund you.  Whether a nonprofit, event, blog, professional association, or some other endeavor, when you need corporate sponsorship for funding what you are admitting is that your other sources of income aren’t sufficient.  If you cannot afford to have whatever your endeavor is without the financial support of corporate sponsorship, DO NOT HAVE IT.  Ask yourself what will happen if you depend on those payments and the sponsors are late or worse, pull out? You have risked your brand’s reputation and your tribe won’t trust YOU. The purpose of corporate sponsorship is to lower the expenses, not to completely cover them or for you to profit from their financial support.  Those experiences are very rare and not the norm in corporate sponsorship.

Also, you will likely lose control in the negotiation phase.  If you’ve decided that you need corporate sponsorship funding because your other sources of income are insufficient or non-existent, you will end up handing over too much to a savvy corporate sponsor.  I can tell you from experience, I’ve negotiated amazing deals for my companies as a corporate sponsor because I knew someone needed our money, products, and/or services.  For the lowest level buy-in, I was able to get their top package because they needed us.  Do not be those people!

What to do instead:

  1. Evaluate your other means of funding.  Depending on your endeavor, how else can you accomplish the same goal? Do you need to increase your membership fee/ticket price? Can you bootstrap and self-fund?
  2. Gather your accountability partners/board of directors and explore if now is the right time to pursue corporate sponsorship.  Determine if your endeavor would better serve your membership/audience/tribe without the influence of corporate sponsors or if it should be done when your organization is in a more stable financial position.  There is nothing wrong with exercising a little patience!


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