Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sponsorships versus Grants

When someone asks for financial support of his book, usually asking for grants, I tell him not to forget sponsorships. However, most of these searchers ignore that part of our discussion. Sponsor? What does that mean?

Grants are free money, offered by government or non-profit groups. Sponsorships are conditional, and originate from businesses or individuals.

I've approached my dentist before for a donation for my son's hockey team. He behaved as if it was a sponsorship arrangement, asking for something in return for his "investment" in the team. He designed a tooth logo and asked us to put it on the shoulder of each jersey. He saw his sponsorship as a form of advertisement. We had our money for an out-of-town trip to a hockey tournament. Win-win.

Why would anyone consider paying someone like a kid's team, or a book author, or an online blog columnist via a sponsorship arrangement? Several reasons, such as:
  • Sponsorship is cheap advertisement. Ads costs hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. If you obtain multiple sponsors, you can offer cheap advertising on your book, on your website, in your blog. Need $2,500? Ask for fifty $50 sponsorships, twenty-five $100 sponsorships, or any combination.
  • Value-added networking. What do you offer in return for that sponsorship? You don't want to be a welfare case. Nobody wants to donate and receive nothing in return. What's in it for the sponsor? Then stay in touch with that sponsor, updating him periodically, always praising his support. He needs to feel you haven't taken his money and run. And you need to support him and his business as well.
  • Shared partnership. Your clients become his and vice versa. It hasn't cost him much, and he has in essence, gambled that you will become successful in what you're doing, giving him an excellent return on his investment. You receive financial support you wouldn't otherwise have.
What can sponsors pay for?
  • Self-publishing
  • Conferences (attending)
  • Conferences (hosting)
  • Retreats (attending)
  • Retreats (hosting)
  • Book release parties
  • Website development
  • Travel for research/interviews
You can get sloppy with this, however. Make sure you do it with finesse. You don't want your blog, book or website to look like the back of a 10-K race t-shirt, with 47 sponsors listed. But then, that type of sponsorship has its place as well. Depends on your project.

Rick Smolan supports his gorgeous, expensive collaborative photography books via sponsorship by IKEA. He is best known for producing America 24/7, a book chronicling one week in the life of the U.S. with 1,000 top photojournalists. He also has a website where he sells his book, giving the individual the option of paying more to have a personal family photo on the cover.

You can even hire someone to find sponsors for you. What do you think PR Reps do? Linda Hollander is a sponsorship finder. Her nickname is the Wealthy Bag Lady. She finds sponsorships for anyone and was recently featured on Avil Beckford's Blog Invisble Mentor.

Ever seen a charitable event, concert, festival, sporting event or conference bulletin? Notice all the donors and supporters? Call it charity, advertisement or sponsorship, they endorse with money, space, equipment, supplies or food. And all it took was someone knocking on their office door and asking.

Ask those you know or businesses throughout the state. Your call. The bottom line is how bold do you feel about your book? Do you feel confident enough to convince others it's a great deal? Come to think of it, that might be the barometer in determining whether the book is good enough at all. What do you think?

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