After launching its first formal sponsorship initiative earlier this year, Canine Companions for Independence has generated close to $3 million in cash and promotional support. 

The nonprofit—which trains and provides assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities—generated roughly $130,000 in sponsorship revenue in 2012.

The new strategy has helped Canine Companions secure new sponsors (Mattress Discounters) and upsell existing partners (Prudential Group Insurance, PetSmart, Inc., and The Procter & Gamble’s Eukanuba pet food line) on larger ties.

Case in point: PetSmart expanded its partnership from a $30,000 donation to an annual event to a five-year $1.1 million tie.  

Canine Companions previously relied on charitable donations and one-off sponsorships, a practice that often resulted in the nonprofit giving away benefits for free. The nonprofit’s new sponsorship packages—and third party valuation—helps ensure it is maximizing the value of its sponsorship inventory.

“Before we were making it up as we went along. Our partners now know what they can expect from us and we have a clear understanding of what we need to deliver,” said Susan Lee Vick, Canine Companions’ national director of advancement.

The sponsorship initiative also gives Canine Companions the opportunity to say no.

“In the past we waited for organizations to contact us, and no matter what they proposed we almost always said yes. We didn’t have any guidelines to talk about the benefits a corporate partner could receive,” said Jeanine Konopelski, Canine Companions’ national director of marketing.

In addition to the absence of formal sponsorship packages, the nonprofit also had been challenged in securing significant sponsorship revenue due to a lack of consumer engagement opportunities. Those largely center around dog training and the roughly 250 consumers who receive the dogs each year.

Working with IEG Consulting, Canine Companions identified an asset the organization had not previously leveraged: its organic, relevant story lines. Companies can now use the partnership to discuss the services that Canine Companions provides and how they play a role in supporting that effort.

In addition to identifying a new asset, IEG Consulting also conducted a soup-to-nuts audit that resulted in the following four sponsorship packages:

Tier one packages. Top-tier partners receive brand integration at Canine Companions events and exposure on, marketing materials and other communication vehicles. Partners also gain rights to intellectual property, organization-wide category exclusivity and the opportunity to survey the nonprofit’s support network.

Tier two packages. Tier two partners receive similar benefits as tier one sponsors, albeit at a smaller level. Partners also gain exclusivity within their sponsorship tier.

Cause marketing partners. Cause marketing partners gain Web site exposure and other benefits in exchange for a minimum $50,000 guarantee. 

The minimum guarantee significantly elevates the nonprofit’s revenue potential and helps the organization better manage staff, said Vick.

“In the past a company might say ‘We’ll give you $1 for each unit we sell if you promote us on your website and email. We might end up getting $300 after all of that work.”

Promotional partners. Promotional partners provide advertising space and other inventory valued at a minimum of $100,000 in exchange for marketing assets.

Promotional partners play a critical role in raising visibility for the nonprofit in front of donors and potential dog recipients, said Vick.

“Promotional partners that help share our mission are priceless,” she said, noting that Prudential promoted Canine Companions on its website homepage with a banner ad that highlighted the nonprofit in front of tens of thousands of visitors.

The banner ad included a link to, she added.