Volunteers are an important part of any organization involved in sponsorship. This is especially true for organizations that sell sponsorships, be they non-profits, charities, arts organizations, pro or amateur sport organizations, member organizations, conferences, municipalities, or tournaments. Over the years, volunteers have filled leadership roles on boards and planning committees. They have done grunt work like stuffing delegate bags and directing traffic. That pretty much remains the same.
From the sponsorship side, a lot has changed. Our clients who have volunteers have heard me say this before, but it is important to share. In the sponsorship area, we traditionally used to have volunteers “sell packages.” They would be out on the street selling everything from “brick campaigns” to naming rights. And typically, the results have been poor.
For our clients, I say, “Let the volunteers open doors, then get out of the way.” Volunteers are busy too. Having them to do multiple discovery sessions and then custom build proposals is just not going to happen—let alone successfully. KCI’s most recent Trending Report shows that the most effective (and most common) roles for volunteers are opening doors (89% of study respondents claimed this was a role volunteers fulfilled for them) and 86% said their volunteers help with prospect identification. The key here is to let volunteers identify prospects and open doors. From there, you (the professional) should carry the ball. When it is time to “close,” the volunteer should be brought back in to be part of that process—the glory!
Don’t get me wrong, if you are selling $250 and $500 packages above and beyond the $10,000, $50,000, and $500,000 sponsorship deals, let your volunteers sell those little ones, and yes, they can be stock packages. Right now, in the Town of Morinville (as they generate sponsorship revenue for their new recreation centre), we have an amazing volunteer sponsorship committee. Led by municipal staff and the mayor, this committee focuses on selling “seats,” and smaller philanthropic and sponsorship stock packages. They were very clear that, when the possibility of a larger contribution was either expected (based on prospect clearance) or revealed, the prospect would be transferred to the sponsorship account manager or senior administration. This volunteer committee wants to help. They want to raise funds. They want to make a difference. But they know their limitations and have been very clear about what they can and cannot do. To me, that is an amazing volunteer committee, and all around, this program will be successful.
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