Think Different! (Can I trademark that?)

think different! (can I trademark that-)

I spent some time back when I was living in Waterloo volunteering for the Grand River Film Festival. Naturally I was best suited to help them with sponsorships, which I did. My experience in fundraising is mostly in direct response or face-to-face mid-level asks, so as much as I had skills to bring to corporate sponsorships, I also learned a lot.

One of the things that surprised me at first was that when I cold called a company to talk to them about sponsorship, I was directed to the marketing department. Most companies don’t have a corporate social responsibility arm, but I guess I figured I’d be redirected to somebody senior who controlled the budget. No – it was marketing.

But of course this makes sense – as warm & fuzzy as philanthropy can be, it’s also a way for companies to market themselves. “Look! We’re not just a company who makes tires! We also care about the community!” I don’t mean to take away any of the altruistic nature of giving, because there’s a lot of that, too. And I don’t blame a company for leveraging sponsorships for marketing purposes.

It did, however, make me look at corporate sponsorships differently. Rory Green has written a lot about this, and Chris Baylis writes about it all the time.

think different! (can I trademark that-) (1)

If companies see sponsorships as marketing, then we need to give them marketing value when we solicit them.

That means no more Gold, Silver, & Bronze sponsorship packages, folks! (Read this AMAZING post by Rory Green. She knows about this way more than I do.)

As for what want to say on this topic — think different!

I met two lovely women when I was in Winnipeg two weeks ago – Laura & Julie Mikuska of The Mikuska Group. Laura and Julie are fundraising consultants in Manitoba, Canada, and they shared a term with me that I’d never heard and just loved:

Operational Sponsorships

(I hope I got that term right.) Operational Sponsorships, put simply, are tangible sponsorships. Instead of being the Gold sponsor (what’s that?!), you could be the… cookie sponsor at a foster home! The chew toy sponsor at a pet charity! The MRI sponsor at a hospital! The sky’s the limit.

You connect the company with something that feels aligned with their business and/or mission, and then you make sure you can position it in a way that adds significant value to their company. Everybody wins!

The point is, the old ways aren’t working. Companies’ marketing dollars are precious and sometimes few, so we need to give them an ROI worth sponsoring for.

What are your best corporate sponsorship tips? Let me know in the comments!


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Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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Guest Post: How to Turn Your Words into Money – A Book Review

How to Turn Your Words Into Money - A Book Review (1)

I am not a great writer.  If I am being super honest, even writing this book review caused me a bit of stress. That is why I am so grateful for Jeff Brooks.

Do you know Jeff? He’s the smarty-pants behind Future Fundraising Now, and the author of some pretty awesome books – and his newest book, How to Turn Your Words Into Money: The Master Fundraiser’s Guide to Persuasive Writing, breaks down step by step exactly what you need to do (and NOT do) to write fundraising copy that makes donors want to give..

The book has great practical tips (more on that in a second) – but one of my favourite things Jeff does is little “what not to do” and “what to do” before & after style examples throughout. I found them to be super-duper helpful. Here’s one example….

jb1 jb2

So, what did I learn? For me the book boils down to this:


Audience is everything: Know your audience (donors), think about your audience (donors), love your audience (donors). Make content for your audience (donors) and no one else  – not your CEO, not your board and not yourself!


Giving is beautiful: Understand what giving does for the GIVER (the donor) not just what the gift does for the beneficiaries. Giving feels really good! And guess what?? That means that fundraising isn’t begging or annoying. When done right donors love well-written fundraising copy.


The Donor is the Hero: Writing fundraising copy well means putting the donor at the heart of your good work. Talk about them – what they have accomplished. What the donor has done – and can do – to help others in need.


Overall this book is easy to read (it only took me a day), incredibly informative and I really believe it will help you raise more money. It’s for sale on Amazon, and we may be giving away a copy or two at the #DonorLove Rendezvous. I promise you it is worth reading.


Written by Rory Green



Rory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

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