Survey Reveals Sponsorship Challenges for Associations

By Bruce Rosenthal and Dan Kowitz

A recent survey reveals that 45% of associations and not-for-profits are seeing increased difficulty in securing sponsorships for their conferences and events.

Furthermore, the challenge in securing sponsors is compounded by a decrease in what sponsors are willing to spend, according to 41% of the respondents to the survey conducted by The Eastside Rooms, a conference center in England.

Plus, there is a reduction in available sponsorship opportunities from associations and organizations; 29% said they are finding it harder to identify and offer sponsorship opportunities, in part due to lower attendance numbers and smaller exhibitions.

“Difficulty securing sponsors, reduced sponsor spending, and challenges in identifying sponsorship opportunities are a trend we’ve seen for the past decade that has been compounded by Covid,” explained Dan Kowitz, Founder & CEO of JSB Partnership Consultants. “There are ways to mitigate all three of these challenges.”

Difficulty Securing Sponsors

Bruce Rosenthal, a JSB Associate, noted “Since most association sponsorship programs have focused on conferences, the cancellation of those conferences during the Covid lock-down pushed companies to find other ways to achieve their marketing goals. And many of those companies aren’t coming back as association conference sponsors.”

Interviews that JSB has conducted with more than 100 corporate sponsors show that companies want to be more engaged with the organizations they sponsor. As one company noted, “we don’t want to just write a check – we want to bring value and be a partner.” Mere logo visibility and recognition are of far less value.

Reduced Sponsor Spending

The sponsor interviews conducted by JSB reveal that many companies are not cutting their sponsorship budgets. As one corporate marketing executive said, “my sponsorship pie is the same size this year as last year, however, this year I’m cutting bigger pieces.”

In other words, Rosenthal explained, associations that offer greater value for companies will get more sponsorship money while other associations will get less or none.

Challenges in Identifying Sponsorship Opportunities

Many companies want year-long partnerships with associations and not-for-profit organizations. A sponsor executive JSB interviewed said, “We’re absolutely interested in a year-round model and less of a piece-by-piece, ad hoc model.”

“A great way to create year-round partnerships with companies,” Kowitz noted, “is to position companies as knowledge leaders. Step 1: identify information and analyses members need. Step 2: work with corporate sponsors to provide non-commercial webinars, podcasts, white papers, etc. on these topics.”

Achieving the Win-Win-Win

“By creating corporate sponsorship programs that address member needs, focus on year-long engagements with companies, and position companies as knowledge leaders, the result can be a win-win-win for members, sponsors, and the association,” Kowitz explained.

The Eastside Rooms, a conference center in England, conducted the survey of 125 event professionals in October 2023. 80 respondents were from associations and no-for-profit organizations; 40 respondents were from corporations; 5 respondents were industry suppliers.

For more information on how JSB Partnership Consultants is helping associations and not-for-profit organizations increase sponsorship revenue and member value, contact Dan Kowitz or see the JSB website. Dan Kowitz and Bruce Rosenthal and Co-Conveners of the Partnership Professionals Network.