Are your sponsors a “summer romance?”

As the weather improves, so begins the peak season for music festivals, outdoor games, community fairs, road races, pet washes, duck races, and every kind of fundraising event that our sector can dream up to engage donors in an enjoyable and productive way.

So often these events need private-sector sponsorships to happen, and one of our longtime themes is the critical need to develop these connections over time in a lasting way.

You know how it’s supposed to work: you may have inroads with a business that begin with a transaction (the business donates product to you or buys a table at an event), evolves into a relationship (the business is represented on your board), and, ideally, eventually matures into a true partnership (formalized connections that extend beyond one contact person and into co-branding and includes a much broader base of volunteers/employees).

Here’s a wide-ranging checklist of ways that your existing transactions with a business can be strengthened into a lasting partnership—and not just a “summer romance” that fades with the seasons. Not all of these will be a fit for your organization, but the point is to think creatively about doing things differently so that all your hard work to garner sponsorships doesn’t have to be re-negotiated with every event.

1. Make sure that a senior executive of theirs is on your board. But you must also ensure that this person is not your only champion or contact on their team. People leave, retire, or have medical/family issues that can disrupt their involvement, so make sure your organization and a large sponsor are more “woven” together than just a thread to one individual.

2. Engage their employees as your volunteers, particularly in longer term assignments such as mentors matched with a client, etc.

3. Make sure the company knows where your locations/programs match where their customers and employees live and work.

4. Design a one-day event where their employees and your staff or clients do service work together (it’s a great photo and video opportunity).

5. Include their management team in your outreach/mission events (VIP table, have them help hand out awards, sign certificates, etc.).

6. Negotiate pooled (or donated) marketing dollars for baseball caps, T-shirts, water bottles, etc. with both logos. Later, plan to print shared holiday greeting cards with both logos, too.

7. Maintain a literature rack or kiosk about you at their location(s).

8. Maintain a literature rack or kiosk about them at your location(s).

9. Have reciprocal links to each other’s web sites (“Our top business partner,” “Our favorite nonprofit,” etc.)

10. Ask about the company offering a “half-and-half” drawing (their employees voluntarily make a $1 donation at a quarterly staff meeting, with half the money raised going to you and half to a winning name drawn from the donor pool).

11. Ask about ways to formalize and publicize that you are “the” nonprofit that the company has exclusively “adopted,” and incorporate this into your social media efforts.

12. Offer your youth clients to be of service to their employees: an onsite car wash; cook and serve a BBQ; present original handmade artwork.

13. Plan a joint summer picnic or BBQ for the employee families and your staff and/or the families you serve—create annual traditions together that everyone looks forward to.

14. Have a bowling tournament or softball game with teams from both entities (teams can be blended: their HR + your HR on one team competing with their communications staff + your communications staff, etc.)

15. Give them frequent, exciting program updates—fresh data for their internal newsletters and staff meetings.

16. Provide well-written articles (and visuals) about their support, the progress of their volunteers, and the outcomes over time made possible by this partnership.

17. Define opportunities for company literature to be in your goody bags, packets, etc.

18. Define opportunities for your mission brochure or card to be included with their customer bids, invoices, mailers, or packets/products.

19. Share paid media together—including professionally produced video, radio/TV spots, a billboard, print/electronic ads, or trade show booths.

20. Nominate them for awards in their industry or honors hosted by the local chamber of commerce, nonprofit association, regional Philanthropy Day, etc.

21. Set up a donor matching program (the company matches what its employees give to you).

22. Have an annual letter of agreement that covers a range of events, activities, participation, etc.

23. Incorporate the re-commitment event (i.e., signing of the next year’s agreement) as a mission celebration, press conference, or part of an awards banquet, etc.

24. Make sure you are open to candid feedback about what does (and does not) work for the company and what they need to make their involvement more successful.

25. Hold your board meetings in their conference room, and reciprocate if your facility accommodates their customer thank-you reception.