Identifying Your Playspace Audience & Assets
Who and what in business
Identifying who to ask, and what to ask for
Why businesses sponsor
Developing your approach
Cultivating long-term relationships
Learn how to size up your project's potential from a business point of view. Remember, business sponsorship is a transaction, and you've got something valuable to offer!
Before sponsors get involved, they may want to know whether your list of clients overlaps with theirs. So if they ask "Who does your project serve?," don't just say "Children!" and let it go. Your playspace project also serves parents, grandparents, teachers, facilities staff, young couples, neighbors, volunteers, local officials, handymen...the list is endless! And each kind of person is a valuable customer for a variety of different businesses.
Start by sitting down with your project colleagues and brainstorming a list of all the kinds of people who may be involved in or affected by your project. Cast a wide net. What about out-of-town graduates and relatives? What about congregation and volunteer organization membership lists? Through one channel or another, you could probably involve everybody in town!
You have many things to offer a potential sponsor, from publicity and a good name to team-building opportunities for employees. Now it's time to flesh out those ideas and really start brainstorming more specific things you can offer.
To help, we've borrowed an idea from author Patricia Martin. She suggests dividing your assets into intangibles and tangibles. Look these over and then come up with as many ideas as you can; later on, when you're getting ready to approach individual businesses, you can use your list to devise a tailor-made pitch. The key to business sponsorship is finding the right button to push to get that 'yes.'
These are business outcomes that are valuable, but cannot be measured in dollars. Be sure to use them as keywords in your pitch; business ears will perk up.
This is where you really sell yourself...this is no charity case! Signing up with you is just a smart business move.
The media coverage and general attention that your build will attract is potentially worth thousands of dollars in advertising. Since you can't guarantee media coverage, brainstorm ways to get sponsors' names out there: project newsletters, promotional flyers, company logos on banners and T-shirts, radio spots, letters to the editor, a project website, buttons, ribbon-cutting programs, and more. And then there are the permanent thank-you's: a playspace plaque or sign, benches with nameplates, inscribed fenceposts, memorial bricks, or even a mural that incorporates the sponsor's name and products. For much, much more, visit the Public Relations section of the Toolkit.
Forum to showcase products
A company's product is its most valuable asset, and well-attended community events are yours. Invite a restaurant to cater your fundraising dinner with its newest dishes, or set up a food-sampling tent during Build Day. Allow a car dealership to park its flashiest model next to the build site for test drives, and ask a local hardware store to donate tools. Getting new products in front of receptive customers is a constant business challenge, so help them out!
Have you got your lists? Great! Jump ahead to the next two steps: who to ask, and what to ask for! Scroll to the bottom of this page, or download the printer-friendly version here:
Identifying who to ask, and what to ask for
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You may already have a list of potential sponsors: business owners you know personally, businesses you frequent, or obvious players like construction companies and food markets. That's great! To supplement that list, go back to your list of "clients" and brainstorm all the businesses that may serve those people.
Then look over this list to catch any you might have missed:
One final strategy is to get in your car, drive around town, and whenever you see a business sign, write down the name. These people are all part of your community and should all have an opportunity to get involved!
When you get closer to actually approaching businesses (we will get there, don't worry!), you can decide which businesses are most likely to donate a particular item. For now, just brainstorm a list of what your project needs. Here's a sample to get you started:
Local businesses might donate teams of volunteers for your build. Hardware stores and construction companies are particularly valuable as sources of skilled labor. If that's too much, businesses may be willing to pass your volunteer flyers along to their employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers. Get the word out!
In our experience, local businesses are some of the most generous donors to community-build playground projects. They have deep roots in the community, they're grateful for the success they've attained, and they're often happy to give something back when they can.
But nonetheless, it's important to remember this simple rule: when you're working with businesses, you need to think like a business. Unlike foundation grants and individual gifts, which are focused on your project's needs, business dealings can be a transaction in which you have something valuable to offer.
Here are some of the more selfish reasons that businesses have for getting involved in their communities, and how you can plan accordingly:
Businesses spend a significant amount of money on advertising because they need to reach more people and increase sales. And guess what you have...people! Lots and lots of people will join committees, attend fundraisers, receive mailings, build the new playspace, and use that playspace once it's built. So which businesses in your community cater to parents, families and children? Who caters to the handymen that will be working on Build Day? To a business owner, having the company name or company products displayed before a captive crowd like yours is valuable, valuable stuff.
And then there's the potential for free publicity when your build gets covered by the local newspaper, radio station, or TV news crew. Businesses hire pricy PR consultants with the hope of doing just that!
What would you think of a company that actively supported play? Wouldn't you want to support them in return? Businesses love being associated with positive images and feelings. Think of companies that may have nothing to do with play, but could always use a little image boost: tax services, law firms, insurance agents, car dealers, banks, and so on.
Businesses know that happy employees are loyal, hardworking employees, and their positive attitude means better service for the customer. One way to make employees happy is to build a sense of teamwork and a sense of meaningful contribution within the community.
Most KaBOOM! corporate sponsors come to us because they wanted just that kind of experience...why pay for a day of ropes courses and retreats when you can send employees to a playground build and make a real impact in your community to boot?
The best part is that your project needs labor, and they've got plenty of it. Remember, this is business: always look for the win-win!
For more about win-win proposals, view this PDF on setting sponsorship levels.
If you've read the rest of the guide, you have a firm knowledge base for really pitching your project. You know who your business audience is and what they stand to gain from being involved. Maybe you've already developed a straightforward, organized way for them to get involved.
The next step is to craft some written sponsorship materials. First, find out who makes sponsorship decisions for each of the organizations you plan to approach. Inquire whether that organization has a standard process for reviewing proposals. If so, just follow directions! If not, here are some sample materials that our community partners use as a template:
Always keep your writing short and sweet, and make sure to highlight the following information:
It's fine to float your proposal in writing initially, but you should never be satisfied with an email, snail mail, or over-the-phone response. Always, always arrange a face-to-face meeting (even after a "no") so that you can really sell the project and gauge why the person might be hesitating. It's harder to say no in person, and persistence is the most valuable asset you can have as a fundraiser.
A sponsorship relationship shouldn't end when the check is cashed, or even when the playground is built. True playspace friends will stay by your side throughout the life of the park, if you show them how. How about an annual playground clean-up event, or a seasonal fundraiser for upkeep and maintenance? Once mutual trust and confidence are established, you may want to collaborate on entirely new projects...the sky's the limit!
Follow these simple steps to make sure your sponsors become lifelong friends: