Thanks to a retooled sponsorship strategy, the Assn. of School Business Officials Int’l has more than tripled its sponsorship revenue over the past four years, rising from roughly $400,000 in ’06 to a projected $1.3 million for its ’10 fiscal year.

Sponsorship income is expected to represent 27 percent of the association’s total revenue this year, up from 11 percent in ’06.

ASBO Int’l, whose nearly 6,000 members work in business functions for school districts and institutions of higher learning, embarked on a new sponsorship strategy to maximize the program’s value for the organization and its corporate partners.

Prior to adopting its new approach, ASBO worked with roughly 35 sponsors through low-level ala carte deals centered on two of its annual meetings. The packages—some of which were priced in the low four figures—were for sponsorship of an awards program, coffee breaks, badge holders, etc.

Those efforts were structured to help offset hard costs of the meetings, rather than viewing sponsorship as an unrestricted revenue stream that could be used to support the organization overall.

“Everything was based on our costs; we were leaving money on the table in terms of the value we bring,” said Ron Skinner, ASBO’s assistant executive director.

The low point of the old strategy came about when the association let a company create and sponsor an award despite there being little value for members, he said.

“We let the sponsor control the agenda because the dollars were there. We invested a lot of time and money in the partnership, and we walked away with a bad taste in our mouth because sponsor dollars were there but our members didn’t see it as a benefit.

“If you don’t have a system for dealing with that, you end up letting sponsors drive the bus.”

Below, IEG SR highlights three steps ASBO took to get its sponsorship program on track:

Bundle disparate benefits into integrated packages. Rather than working with a large number of small sponsors, ASBO has taken a “less is more” approach by working with a limited number of partners.

The association now offers three packages: strategic partners, event partners and affinity partners. ASBO created the packages based on the benefit needs and general budget sizes for different types of sponsors.

The top-tier strategic partner packages—which require a three-year commitment—provide year-round exposure through the association’s meetings and publications. They also include access to ASBO leadership, sponsorship of an award program and other platforms, as well as other benefits.

The organization has secured seven strategic partners—including a new tie this year with Office Depot, Inc.—and has capped the number of partners at ten.

Event partner packages are focused on ASBO’s annual meeting in September, include fewer benefits than are granted strategic partners and are limited to a three-month window surrounding the meeting.

Benefits include sole sponsorship of a component of the meeting—such as the email kiosk and coffee breaks—as well as exposure in the association’s magazine, newsletter, email blasts and Web site prior to the confab.

ASBO has secured four sponsors for the packages and will limit the number of partners to eight.

ASBO’s third sponsorship level—affinity partner—is targeted at companies that provide discount products and services to association members, with the organization receiving a royalty on each product purchase.

ASBO asks each affinity partner to guarantee a minimum donation, a requirement that provides a litmus test regarding the viability of aligning with a particular company, Skinner said, noting that associations are routinely approached by companies looking for ‘win-win-win’ royalty arrangements, but the deals often can be time consuming and generate little money.

ASBO has thus far brought on one company—mail order prescription drug provider Scriptsense, Inc.—as an affinity partner.

Establish dedicated position to manage ties. Demonstrating its commitment to the new strategy, ASBO created a new full-time position—corporate partnerships manager.

The position is held by Sabrina Soto, who previously worked as an events coordinator in ASBO’s events department.

Her charge: upsell existing corporate relationships on the new partnership packages and, once on board, serve as a concierge for corporate partners.

In her position, Soto collects and compiles information for post-sponsorship fulfillment reports, which the association also uses as a sales tool to secure new partners.

Have packages valued by third-party. ASBO credits part of its success to having the fees for its packages valued by an independent consultant.

“It has been extremely beneficial,” Soto said. “It’s so much easier to speak to the benefits of a package when prices can be explained.”

IEG SR publisher IEG, LLC’s Sponsorship Consulting division helped ASBO develop its new sponsorship strategy, while the IEG Valuation Service assigned a fair market value to the packages.