Like most industries attempting to respond to the abundant challenges the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic created for how we do business, corporate giving has learned to pivot as well. The digital age has matured into virtual events for nonprofit organizations around the globe.

It’s important to note that the expectations for corporate sponsorship started to evolve before the virus emerged and created chaos for many corporate marketing strategies. Engagement is everything, and as a result of more consumers becoming online shoppers, the corporate sponsorship appetite to reach those buyers and build relationships with them grew exponentially.

As nonprofits attempt to pivot in the way they attract and retain corporate donations, it is important to assess the engagement opportunities you can create through those you serve, your donors and your social media and marketing responders. Doing good for the community is no longer enough. More than ever, market reach is a leading factor in securing donations. 

I recently served as a sponsorship strategy consultant for an international nonprofit association to support their first virtual conference. My team and I spent a lot of time reviewing former corporate sponsor surveys to understand how the expectations have changed. We learned that we are in a corporate giving environment where both old and new practices are the norm. For example, according to the surveys, corporate event sponsors still want signage opportunities, but the presentation platform is now digital only. 

Several questions came up:

  • Can your current virtual event software handle banners with corporate logos without obstructing presentation panel views?
  • How do you interrupt sessions to showcase corporate video presentations in a way without being disruptive?
  • How do you ensure that facilitators mention corporate sponsor names and any plugs like taglines? 

The new information sponsors want, according to the feedback from my recent client, are proven opportunities to engage with conference attendees. Social media becomes a great tool for pre-engagement and post-engagement for sponsors, but nonprofit event planners and marketing team members must co-exist in the delivery of these expectations. This shift may be proving to be a tough strategy to implement for most nonprofits.

An article published by the Journal of Audience & Perception Studies (Volume 12, Issue 1) studied the value of Twitter in providing insight into customer behavior as early as 2015. That insight is what corporate sponsors are looking for, and this goes far beyond the traditions of including corporate logos and website links on nonprofit web pages and social media pages. “Each 140-character post can contain unique insights into micro-level attitudes and opinions. The attraction of this data is that it is generated voluntarily, independently of any research and the biases of their research design,” the article’s authors, Matthew Reason and Kirsty Sedgman, said.

In my upcoming Candid webinar, “Navigating Shifts in the Corporate Giving World,” I will talk you through the strategies and practical opportunities to meet corporate partnership expectations related to digital signage and engagement shifts. The expectations apply to every aspect of corporate giving, and not just sponsorships, as more corporate entities look to merge their social responsibility goals and specifically their diversity and inclusion opportunities with how and where they give. Register for the webinar on Thursday, July 15.

About the Author(s)

Denise B. Lawrence (she/her) Owner, Charity Consultants, Inc.

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