Although the budget sources, decision-makers, goals and metrics are fundamentally different for corporate giving programs than they are for sponsorships, most nonprofits treat them similarly.

According to IEG’s ninth annual survey of nonprofit fund-raising professionals, 68 percent say their organizations view sponsorship no differently than philanthropy or simply as a category of funding for events and programs. Less than one-third (32 percent) recognize the need to treat sponsorship differently from donations given that it is designed to achieve marketing objectives.

The 32 percent figure is a decline of eight percentage points from the previous survey, conducted in November 2011, a surprising decline in the face of conventional wisdom that nonprofits have been getting more sophisticated and multi-dimensional in their approach to corporate partnerships.

Chart 1: Recognizing that more than one of the following statements could be applicable, please select the one that best describes your organization’s approach to sponsorship.

With a growing number of nonprofits seemingly unclear about what sponsorship is and what it is not, it is not surprising that two-thirds of survey respondents reported difficulty getting in the door with corporate personnel outside the corporate contributions department.

That figure is up from 59 percent in the previous survey.

Chart 2: Do you have difficulty securing meetings/conversations with corporate contacts in marketing and other departments outside of corporate philanthropy?

Asked about other potential roadblocks to sponsorship success, this year’s respondents also reversed course in a critical area. While the number of respondents who had “difficulty in identifying marketable assets” had declined to 42 percent in the last survey, it jumped up to 57 percent this year, putting it at the top of the list of seven potential obstacles to increasing income.

On a positive note, internal issues such as turf battles and opposition to sponsorship continue to diminish, with less than a quarter of nonprofits citing them as notable challenges.

Chart 3: What challenges do you face in growing sponsorship revenue?

Returning to the idea of not distinguishing between philanthropy and sponsorship, some of the blame can be placed at the feet of corporate contributions staff and foundation personnel who seek benefits beyond the standard recognition typically afforded donors.

58 percent of nonprofits reported that half or more of their donors sought marketing-related benefits in exchange for gifts or grants.

Chart 4: What percentage of your corporate donors request marketing-related benefits?

According to nonprofits, at least half of the people they deal with on the corporate philanthropy side don’t understand the value of what they are asking for.

Chart 5: Do you believe that your corporate contacts in traditional philanthropic positions/departments recognize the value of marketing benefits you offer?

Not surprisingly, the ability to be incorporated into a nonprofit’s social media efforts moved up the list of marketing benefits that donors most often asked for, sliding right behind being identified on collateral materials. Seven out of 10 nonprofits cited “inclusion in social media” as a benefit asked for by donors, up from 61 percent in the last survey.

Conversely, both category exclusivity and additional tickets and hospitality benefits proved not as popular as in previous surveys. Category exclusivity was mentioned by only 48 percent of respondents, down from 62 percent; while tickets and hospitality dropped from 54 percent to 45 percent.

Chart 6: What kinds of marketing-related benefits are corporate donors seeking?

One indication that nonprofits are becoming somewhat savvier is the fact that fewer are giving away marketing-related benefits to donors. While a majority still doesn’t require an additional fee for such benefits, the percentage is the lowest in the past four years—58 percent, down from 64 percent last year and from 79 percent at the height of the recession in 2009.

Chart 7: Do you provide corporate donors with marketing-related benefits without requiring any additional payments or fees?

In terms of non-cash payments for sponsorship status or benefits, this year’s survey revealed significantly more interest in receiving promotional or advertising assistance from corporate partners, with 79 percent of nonprofits saying they would accept such commitments in exchange for benefits, up from 62 in the previous survey.

Chart 8: Do you allow sponsors to “pay” for part or all of their sponsorship commitment in the following ways?

The number of nonprofits that concentrate responsibility for working with business partners in one department remains low, with less than one in four having a single point of contact for corporate relationships, and a nearly equal percentage that have four or more departments interacting with for-profit partners.

Chart 9: How many departments within your organization have corporate relationships?

Similarly, less than one in five nonprofits have a dedicated sponsorship department, slightly more than the 14 percent that reported having one in the last survey.

Chart 10: Which of the following best describes where primary responsibility for sponsorship resides within your organization?

The breakdown between the types of corporate relationships and how they relate to the total number of deals and corporate revenue remained relatively stable from the last survey, with just about half of nonprofits reporting that most of their relationships with corporations were philanthropic in nature and a third of nonprofits reporting they receive the bulk of their corporate revenue from sponsorships.

Chart 11: In terms of number, which of the following accounts for the majority of your corporate relationships?

Chart 12: In terms of income, which of the following accounts for the majority of revenue from your corporate relationships?

A decline in the types of relationships defined as “strategic philanthropy”—donations supported by marketing, advertising or promotional efforts—continued in this year’s survey.

The percentage of respondents who reported that half or more of their deals fit the definition of strategic philanthropy fell from 35 percent in the last survey to just 28 percent this year. In 2010, the figure was 42 percent.

Chart 13: What percentage of your corporate relationships involves the company providing a philanthropic donation and supporting the relationship with marketing, advertising or promotional efforts?