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Partnering with the Business Sector

A Guide for the Arts: How to Approach a Potential Business Sponsor

March 8, 20078 March 2007

Business Contributions to Non-Profit Organizations

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Designed for arts organizations, this brief guide to business partnerships outlines partnership benefits for businesses, how to find business partners, and key messages to convey. The report defines sponsorships as “a cash or in-kind fee paid to an organization in return for access to exploitable commercial [and] intangible benefits available through [association] with that organization or its programs”.

Why do businesses sponsor? Over two-thirds of respondents to a survey noted the importance of enhancing the company’s image and reputation, while more than half cited the importance of reaching a large public audience and targeting important constituents. Other benefits to businesses include branding, awareness, visibility, niche marketing, community responsibility and more. The report cites some “recurring messages” from business CEOs, including “inspire me … with your creativity, energy and humanity” and “help me find a proposition that my employees, communities and customers care about”.

Some unique attributes that arts organizations can offer businesses include: opportunities for many layers of participation; the fact that association with an arts organization conveys creativity, forward-thinking and innovation; and the fact that many arts sponsorships are reasonably priced compared with other sponsorship opportunities.

Key social benefits of the arts include enhancing individual and community identity, developing social capital, building community engagement and supporting multiculturalism. Other intangible benefits include creating a distinct “brand identity” for Canada, attracting talented individuals and strengthening the education system. The report also presents select results of a recent economic impact study.

The report encourages arts organizations to define their needs, be proactive, define their target group, and base their approach on benefits and value, not the organization’s own needs. To do this, arts organizations should assess the benefits that they can offer businesses, consider many prospects, “think like them”, listen, be flexible, ask what businesses need, and customize their approach to the target business. The report reminds organizations that successful partnerships are based on mutual respect, real engagement, real cooperation, and a real value proposition for both partners.

Overall, the report notes that “an investment in the arts provides significant benefits to society and allows businesses to align with the interests of key stakeholders: employees and customers”.

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