While dinosaurs, history and education may rule the roost at the National History Museum of Los Angeles County, the nonprofit’s sponsorship program was until recently in serious need of updating.

Since implementing a new strategy a year ago, the museum has doubled sponsorship revenue and is on track to triple earnings by 2014. Recent deals include a multiyear partnership with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and expanded ties with Farmers Group, Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp.

NHM redesigned its sponsorship strategy in 2012 to support a $135 million capital campaign and kick start its 100th anniversary in 2013.

“We wanted to build up our sponsorship platform to take us into the 21st century,” said Katie Adams, NHM’s director of corporate and foundation relations.

To accomplish that goal, NHM in March 2012 hired IEG to overhaul  its sponsorship program. That included identifying assets across the museum’s multiple campuses and developing new packaging and sales strategies.

Below, IEG SR highlights four steps the museum has taken to contemporize its sponsorship program:

Offer holistic marketing alliances. While NHM had a healthy roster of partners, most were low-level relationships centered on new exhibits and other one-off programs.

To take its offerings to the next level, NHM bundled assets from across its campuses to create annual or multiyear integrated marketing packages.

“Sponsorship is more than stamping a name on a random thing. We want to create partnerships that integrate sponsors and give attendees something they can remember,” said Danielle Lacharite Brown, NHM’s vice president of annual giving.

Provide targeted activation platforms. As part of its new packaging strategy NHM now offers targeted activation programs to prospects and partners.

While the museum previously helped sponsors activate—such as aligning Toyota with a butterfly pavilion to promote clean air—NHM now takes a much deeper dive to support its partners’ objectives.

Case in point: Farmers Insurance previously activated NHM by sponsoring specific days at the museum as a platform to engage agents. The nonprofit has since taken the relationship a step further by providing deeper one-on-one engagement opportunities. That includes car seat safety inspections and events that support Farmer’s partnership with m.i.l.k. (Managing Information on Lost Kids). 

“We’re trying to drill down into their marketing objectives and the exact audiences they’re trying to reach. We used to address that in a more general way—now we’re getting more specific,” said Adams.

As part of that intiative, NHM offers turnkey activation platforms to make it as easy as possible for partners to activate, she added.

“They have to do very little—we do most of the work.”

Establish steering committee. To ensure buy-in across internal stakeholders, NHM has created a steering committee comprised of representatives from advancement, education, exhibits, public programs, membership and art.

The goal: break down internal silos, spur activation ideas and gain internal approval for a partnership before a deal is sold.

“In the past, we might have sold a sponsorship and forced program directors to put logos on marketing material. Today it’s more about sharing prospects with the group and asking what they may have to offer to fulfill a partnership.”

The committee meets once a month, said Adams.
Price packages based on fair market value. Using IEG Valuation Service, NHM now assigns a fair market value to sponsorship packages.

The valuation helps the museum demonstrate the worth of its packages and ultimately secure larger deals.

“It has helped us set our sights higher. We had been talking to big companies, but we weren’t asking for the right amount, or we weren’t sticking to our numbers. As a result, we often ended up negotiating down.”