Kiwanis International has generated more than a threefold increase in unrestricted revenue since adopting a new sponsorship strategy.

Working with IEG, the nonprofit in late 2011 replaced ad-hoc sponsorship of lanyards, tote bags and activities as its annual conference with four packages that offer a defined set of benefits and year-round exposure.

“We call it the blue print for partnership success. We moved from a reactive mode to a proactive approach by bringing structure to our program,” said Pam Norman, Kiwanis’ director of corporate relations.

New partners include The Hershey Co., Landscape Structures Inc., Scholastic Books Inc. and Rustic Pathways, a student travel company.

Below, the breakdown of Kiwanis’ four sponsorship packages:

Vision partners. The top-tier package affords year-round exposure in front of the nonprofit’s nearly 600,000 members. Benefits include a toolkit of promotional rights and benefits, access to Kiwanis members and a showcase of the sponsor’s involvement and support of the nonprofit’s mission.

Partners include Landscape Structures, Nickelodeon and the U.S. Army.

Service leadership program cosponsors. The SLP cosponsor packages are designed for companies that want year-round exposure in front of specific audience segments through an affiliation with one of Kiwanis’ five service leadership programs.

The programs provide access to elementary (K-Kids), middle (Builders Club) and high school students (Key Club International), college and university students (Circle K International) and adults living with disabilities (Aktion Club).

“No matter what population a sponsor wants to reach, we have the club,” said Norman.

Hershey last year aligned with Key Club International to build awareness of the Hershey’s Track & Field Games among high school students. The company this year expanded the partnership to engage Key Club members and brainstorm ideas on how to expand the youth sports program.

Kiwanis plans to align a maximum of three sponsors with each SLP program, said Norman.

“We intend to have deep relationships with a limited number of partners rather than cluttering the space.”

The “less is more” strategy also helps secure buy-in among Kiwanis clubs, many of whom are charged with helping sponsors activate, she said.

 “We want our club members to support sponsorship activation and the best way to do this is to align with a limited number of brands focused on supporting current club activity.”

Promotional partners. Promotional partnerships are designed to build awareness of Kiwanis and the nonprofit’s community outreach initiatives.

Case in point: Scholastic Books, Inc. helps support local literacy programs.

“Many clubs are interested in assisting local literacy programs through our Read Around the World literacy initiative, but there was no structure to those efforts under our previous program. With Scholastic we can provide a menu of activities each club can participate in.”

Preferred charities. Kiwanis places its charity partners into the preferred charity category. The recognition level help bring more structure to the relationships, said Norman, noting that each charity (Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Boy Scouts of America, etc.) provides in-kind support in exchange for preferred status. 

“We’re seeing more two-way relationships. It’s not just about our clubs performing service projects and raising money. We are now seeing marketing support and recognition for these efforts.”

Norman credits the success of the program to focusing on companies that can support Kiwanis clubs through financial support or relevant goods and/or services.

She points to Landscape Structures as an example. The playground equipment manufacturer supports playground builds by local clubs.

“We don’t want to go after companies that just want to access our members. We want companies that will resonate with member activities.”

Kiwanis earlier this year helped Landscape Structures activate the partnership with a contest that dangled a playground build in a local community. The promotion generated roughly 350 leads for the company, said Norman.

“It was a great way to launch the program and have them see ROI very quickly.”

A Commitment To Sponsor Servicing
Another factor behind the program’s success: a staffer dedicated to sponsor servicing.

“At the end of the day, partnership magic lies within the day-to-day service we give sponsors,” said Norman, adding that the staffer is charged with fulfilling deliverables, supporting sponsors’ changing marketing priorities, creating post-event recap reports and other servicing responsibilities.

The long-term goal: to give partners a reason to renew.

“If you make their priorities your priorities the relationship becomes less transaction oriented and more partnership oriented. That helps create long, mutually beneficial relationships.”

As part of the servicing initiative, Kiwanis this month held its first sponsor summit. The nonprofit used the event to celebrate a cross-promotion between Nickelodeon, Landscape Structures and Scholastic Books, all of whom teamed up to benefit a Florida elementary school.

Norman initiated the partner introduction, which led to a playground build followed by a reading program installation at a local school.

“That is the type of thing that sponsors will remember. The introduction may not have happened if they didn’t have a relationship with us.”