Imagine for a moment that your annual office holiday party was in the same restaurant each year. In exchange for this promotion, patronage, signage & acknowledgment during the event, food was free and there was a cash bar.
Now, after many years of having this relationship, suppose that, as the restaurant owner, I have decided to change the terms of the agreement. This year, I’ve decided I want instead:
• All attendees at the party to wear my restaurant logo t-shirt
• All attendees to make their own creative “Why I love the restaurant” slogan design on their t-shirt, prior to the party
• A contest for the best designed t-shirt. Participants need to post photos of their t-shirts on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, etc, with my restaurant name during the three weeks prior to the party.
• A three drink minimum for guests at the party
• The chance to go through each guest’s wallet or purse as they enter
• I’ll announce the t-shirt winners at the party and pay for their meals. I’m no longer paying for everyone’s food – just the top five t-shirt designers.
If you were in charge of arranging the office holiday party, what would your reaction be? Would you capitulate . . . or find another sponsor? This seems like a lot of extra hoops to jump through – for a lot less in return, doesn’t it?
Yet, I speak to so many nonprofit development officers on a regular basis who have signed up for similar deals. The chance to have a chance at something! Does it have to do with the mission of the organization? Nothing whatsoever. Does it ask your constituents to engage in repetitive – and meaningless – activity? Absolutely. And who comes out ahead? The so-called “sponsor.”
The reason I mention “going through the wallet or purse” in my analogy is to emphasize that you’re not just wasting your supporters’ time (and spending social capital on frivolity), but all of these social media campaigns obtain permission online to get followers’ personal and private data. This doesn’t just include such things as DOB, gender, etc., but most often pulls all of their friends’ information, too. It is essentially going through their wallet. Many are unaware of how much data they’re handing over when they click [I agree], but not all.
What’s more damaging beyond using your supporters to further the agenda of some unrelated corporate mission, however, is that with every one of these campaigns that nonprofits engage in, we are essentially telling corporations – encouraging them – to continue doing business with us this way in the future.
The more we fight like dozens of dogs in a pit over the same, single piece of meat, the less likely corporations will be in the future to stick to the previous model of sponsoring a single event – either as the lead sponsor, or one of several, for a nonprofit. Why should they bother?
Consider the future of sponsorship overall – both local, regional and national – when you contemplat engaging in one of these contests. The more you validate them, the more likely they are to become the single representation of what corporate sponsorship means in the future . . . and wouldn’t that be sad indeed?
Keep the base of the pyramid strong