How to turn sponsors into partners: October Nonprofit Bites Recap

october nonprofit bites workshop group with lewis flax

Last month, we hosted our October Nonprofit Bites at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, where we brought in a key expert in the nonprofit sector to lead a workshop specialized for nonprofit organizations.

Lewis Flax, President of Flax Associates and Sponsorship Consultant for Associations and Nonprofits, was our featured speaker for the morning. In a presentation called Generate Additional Revenue: STEP Up from Sponsorship to Partnership, Lewis provided nonprofits with tangible advice about how to revamp relationships with sponsors and, as a result, increase their revenue.

Flax opened the workshop by encouraging each group member to identify challenges that hinder their ability to secure sponsorship support. Members raised concerns including maintaining relationships with sponsors, explaining the value of their organization to potential sponsors, and bringing sponsors to the partnership level.

Thankfully, Lewis addressed all of these challenges during the presentation.

When he explained how nonprofits could start working up to the partnership level, he offered a unique analogy that involved his son, batteries and a toy car. His son received a toy car for Christmas one year and played with it for a few minutes before he grew tired of pushing it around. Later, he found the batteries for the car, and as soon as he put them in, the car lit up, played music and zoomed around on its own.

Lewis demonstrated that sponsorship is the toy car sitting without any batteries: a transactional, one-action situation that involves basic logo recognition or signage. Partnership, on the other hand, is the toy car with its batteries: a flourished relationship where both parties benefit.

Lewis Flax talking about partnership as attendees take notes.
Lewis Flax describes STEP Up, a methodology he uses to help organizations increase their revenue through meaningful sponsorships.

He added that in a partnership, corporations want effective linkages instead of inventory. They desire year-round relationships instead of one-off transactions, as well as customized arrangements that fit their needs and company style. He urged the nonprofit leaders in the room to personalize messaging to potential sponsors and partners to show they understand that different companies have different objectives, needs and challenges.

Lewis also talked about how a nonprofit organization’s events and programs should be both consistent and memorable. The more consistent an organization’s programming is, the more likely it is for it to build momentum each year it occurs. People forget easily, so the more unique and distinctive your programming is, the more people will remember it and connect it to your organization.

“It’s been proven that if you don’t take action in 21 days, nothing’s going to happen.”

21 days is all it takes, according to Lewis. At the end of the workshop, he challenged the group members to write down questions they could ask their partners in the next three weeks to make sure their needs are being met. Some of the questions included:

  • What are you excited about or interested in?
  • Do our partnership benefits still fit your company’s needs?
  • Are there other ways we can work together to meet your expectations for a partnership?

It’s important to check in with your partners often to obtain input from them and work together to make sure each party is getting what they need from the relationship. What will you ask your partners?


Missed last month’s Nonprofit Bites? Sign up for our November Nonprofit Bites in Alexandria on the 20th! If you aren’t able to attend, be sure to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for updates on future events for nonprofits.

For more information about Lewis Flax and his work, click here to visit his website, Flax Associates.