Whether you are currently sponsoring, thinking about sponsoring, or being sponsored measuring return on investment is paramount.  According to IEG’s Sponsorship Report for 2016, spending is projected to be $612 Million on associations and membership organizations in North America alone.   This is an increase of 3.6% over 2015’s $591 Million.  If you are spending money in this area, how do you get the best return on your investment? As an association or membership organization, what can you implement to ensure happy and wealthy sponsors? By following the M.E.A.T. method, both sponsors and associations can achieve high returns on investment and partnership bliss.



Almost every organization connects with its members through various social media channels, a website, and events.  Measuring engagement is the responsibility of both parties.  As a sponsor, providing links, QR codes, and unique URL’s are easy ways to track the response to your call to action.  As an association, keeping track of which posts on your website and social media are performing well provides you with topics to share with you sponsors if they aren’t already their posts.  After events, send out an attendee survey includes questions about the sponsors’ participation and visibility.


img_9153(Volunteers, Sponsors, and Board Members of the San Diego AMA enjoying the Sponsor Recognition Event at The Prado at Balboa Park on October 5, 2016.  Photo credit: Shaun Wiley)

A significant portion of the strategy behind sponsoring a membership organization is to have a captive audience that shares a common interest.  As a sponsor, it is counterproductive to commit either cash or in-kind services and never attend an event or actually meet any of the members you are hoping to gain business from.  Securing a mailing list is not enough.  Commit to attending at least one event per quarter or send a proxy.  Remember, people do business with those they like, know, and trust.  Likewise, it’s a disservice to the organization and its sponsors to have leadership and a membership that doesn’t know about the sponsors’ core business and thus doesn’t understand the true value of having them as a partner.  Putting your sponsors front and center at events and allowing them to educate the membership about how their business can solve a common problem will increase engagement.


img_9218(Annual Partners Whova accepting an award from VP of Sponsorship and President of San Diego AMA. Photo Credit: Shaun Wiley.)

There are many ways for membership organizations to show their appreciation for their sponsors, including recognition on its digital properties and at events, gifts, and awards.  However, appreciation is a two-way street.  For many member associations, the leadership is comprised wholly of volunteers.   Keeping them in mind for opportunities outside of the organization (i.e. vendors, LinkedIn recommendations) and affording them some patience is always appreciated.



The saying goes those who measure, engage, and appreciate together, stay together, right? While that may not quite be the correct adage, following this formula will lead to a trusting relationship between partners.  For the member association, providing clear contracts, scheduling regular check-ins, and holding the organization accountable for providing a return on investment builds trust.  For sponsors, participating in brainstorming sessions, referring industry colleagues, and communicating what is working and what isn’t builds trust.  For both sides responsibility and opportunity exist. Working together will build return on investment year after year.

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