This is the fourth in a series of interviews with not-for-profit leaders in partnership with Better Boards. Better Boards are holding their annual conference for non-profit leaders on 24-26 July in Brisbane. They are also holding Sprout Summit to equip emerging leaders to drive positive impact in Brisbane on 24 July 2015.
Abby is one of Australia’s foremost strategic sponsorship advisors to the Not-For-Profit Sector with more than 25 years experience in marketing, sales, adult education, communications, event management and corporate and cause-related sponsorship.
As Managing Director of Infinity Sponsorship, Abby’s proven pathways to infinite sponsorship success support Not-For-Profit organisations, charities and events to understand their value to corporate partners and make a compelling approach that allows them to diversify their income streams and continue their vital work in the community.
As Founder of the world’s first online Sponsorship University for Not-For-Profits and Charities, Abby is excited to bring an affordable, step-by-step, end-to-end sponsorship solution to the sector. Based on the work she has undertaken on behalf of Not-for-Profits as a sponsorship broker, the Sponsorship University provides fundraisers everywhere with a proven framework, including videos and webinars, ‘real life’ examples and templates to successfully plan, find, connect with and keep corporate partners.
She has authored a number of books that provide practical and easily implementable solutions for Not-For-Profits, including these FREE resources, which can be found on her website:
- ‘8 Easy Steps To Turn Cold Calls Into Hot Prospects’ https://www.infinitysponsorship.com.au/free-ebook/
- ‘8 Tips To Give Your Sponsorship Strategy An Unfair Advantage’ https://www.infinitysponsorship.com.au/free-ebook-checklist/
- ‘The 5 Myths of Non-Profit Sponsorship’
Every Not-for-Profit’s #1 challenge is finding ways to diversify their income streams to ensure their sustainability long into the future. [..] ..the challenge is then, overcoming the barrier that Not-for-Profits haven’t traditionally seen the need to spend money to make money.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
I had been working intensely with Not-For-Profit organisations for more than 5 years as a Sponsorship Broker. A Sponsorship Broker is a consultant that is hired by a Not-For-Profit to come in and create and implement an end-to-end sponsorship strategy for them, as well as seek and engage highly aligned corporate partners to help them diversify their income streams.
I love being able to do this for organisations – they have so many resource and time restrictions, that being able to outsource the whole process can be a very attractive option to them.
However, I noticed as I began to work with more and more organisations that there was a sticking point in my client’s journey into this process to really take ownership of the strategy I was undertaking on their behalf.
By and large, I was an ‘outsourced’ resource, and because of that, I was never seen as truly being part of the team. I was always ‘that consultant’, and because I also worked outside of their office, geographically, I had to work extra hard and hone my communication skills to make sure that they always knew where I was and what I was doing.
The role of a Sponsorship Broker is a very intensive one and I have worked with clients for a period of up to two years to implement a successful strategy – sponsorship is not a quick fix solution to diversify income streams! Because of the intensity and longevity of this process, I could only work with one or two clients at a time.
That was when I knew I had to do things differently. I knew that if I kept working in this model, I was never going to be able to help the number of organisations that needed support to become more sustainable. I created Infinity Sponsorship was because I wanted to affect positive change in the sector – in fact, I’m understating it, I want to create a revolution!
A revolution that sees Not-For-Profits realise that they were no longer a charity in need of handouts, but a valuable marketing partner to the right company. Not-For-Profits can offer a sponsor access to a target market that they are not currently doing business with, and what’s more a Not-For-Profit’s community of followers are not mandated to be with them. They stay because they trust and see value in what they receive from the charity. That is a compelling proposition to the right sponsor. Not-for-Profits are introducing companies and brands to ‘warm’ leads – inviting them to meet their family. What a powerful position to be in!
The more I worked, the more I researched – what were the barriers to abundance in the sector? Three big ones kept bubbling to the surface – time, budget and resources.
I knew that I had to develop a new business model for supporting these organisations if I wanted to truly empower these organisations to be successful on their own terms.
That’s when I began work on creating the 4 step pathway for infinite sponsorship success and from there the Sponsorship Foundations program (the flagship product of the Sponsorship University) was born.
Can you explain your business model to us?
We work with Not-For-Profits in a variety of ways.
I’m still a sponsorship broker for organisations and events and LOVE working at the coal-face and keeping my finger on the pulse between the corporate and community sectors.
We coach Not-For-Profit CEOs and fundraisers to seek and engage sponsors for their own organisations.
We have proposal design services where we will either review your current proposal, create you one from scratch. We also offer graphic design services.
Last and by no means least, we have just launched the world’s first online Sponsorship University for Not-for-Profits and Charities. It’s been a long time coming but it feels great to have it out there supporting the sector and allowing them to access the kind of sponsorship training I wish I had had when I started, including all of the templates I would have loved to just be able to follow a step by step process instead of nutting it out for myself!
We’ve even created a free Sponsorship Health Check assessment, where you can answer a series of questions that ask you to assess your organisation’s ability to plan, find, connect with and keep corporate partners. At the end of each section you are given results based on your answers so that you can see where your strengths lie and where your areas of development may be.
As part of the Sponsorship University, we are creating a Masters Series. I have harnessed the learning power of a select group of experts who specialise in Not-For-Profit funding strategies. We have someone working on a CSR (corporate social responsibility) series of online lessons, social media, grants – a whole suite of content and all of it specifically for Not-for-Profits!
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
Well!!! There are a couple of things that I can’t mention right now, but stay tuned because we are working on a massive project over the next year or two that will provide the sector with a depth and breadth of help they have never had access to!
For a long time I knew that truly supporting Not-For-Profits would mean flipping the sponsorship coin on its head and working on the ‘other’ side. I’m thrilled to be working on a platform that will help SME’s to understand the sponsorship relationship with the Not-For-Profit sector.
It’s going to raise the bar in every way! OK, enough said now. 🙂
How do you make ideas happen?
Hmmm, that’s a great question. I’m always thinking about what more we can do, how else we can help. I am forever speaking with Not-for-Profit Boards, CEOs and fundraisers and putting myself in their shoes.
My ideas are generated directly from the sector.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/ organisation in Australia?
I guess the two biggest struggles we have faced (I don’t know that it is necessarily an Australia-specific problem though), is working with the niche we have chosen to support. It is an ever evolving process of trying to work out the best way to let the sector know we exist and working to change perceptions around the value of money and investment.
Many Not-for-Profits still believe that being ‘not-for-profit’ means not making a profit at all and therefore being relegated to eternal struggle. But every Not-for-Profit and Charity is a business. They are in the business of service delivery – delivering programs, outcomes and projects to their community of followers.
Profit, simply means ‘surplus’. A Not-for-Profit distributes their surplus differently to companies – they don’t pay shareholders, but should be reinvesting back into their organisation – into their programs, projects, research, being able to attract and retain excellent staff, professional development opportunities for their team and so on. All these things are vital in any business, and it should be no different for a Not-for-Profit.
Every Not-for-Profit’s #1 challenge is finding ways to diversify their income streams to ensure their sustainability long into the future. We are constantly challenged to find ways to say to the sector ‘we have a solution that can help you with your funding streams – it’s proven and it’s simple’ – the challenge is then, overcoming the barrier that Not-for-Profits haven’t traditionally seen the need to spend money to make money. Of course, I’m speaking in general terms here, but with 700,000 Not-for-Profits and Charities in Australia, I would speak to at least three different charities a week and the psychology around the value and perception of money and investment is a complex one.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Just one?! Well, apart from being able to give away three books for free, I guess the two most critical things I would like to share are these:
- Sponsorship is not philanthropy. If you are truly seeking a sponsor, then know that the money will be coming out of their marketing budget. There is no separate bucket of money for sponsorship. As soon as you realise that, you will also realise that you are in competition. You sponsorship approach is competing with all of the ways they intend to promote and market their business over the next 12 months – so what are you doing to stand out and be a good decision for their marketing spend?
- In Australia there is about a 50-50 split around the timing of when a company’s marketing budget runs. 50% have a marketing budget that runs through the calendar year (Jan-Dec) and the other half run on the financial year (Jul-June). So many Not-for-Profits never think to ask when a company will be negotiating their marketing budget and therefore often miss out on having their proposal hit their desks at the right time.
If a company runs on a calendar year cycle, they will be looking at their negotiating their marketing in the previous Aug-Nov. If they have a financial year cycle, they will be wanting to look at opportunities in the Feb-April of that year.
I hope that helps!
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