How To Use Association Sponsorship to Boost Membership Engagement

Association Sponsorship Checklist

This tool will help you with obtaining sponsorship for your association and utilizing it to enhance your membership engagement

Sponsorship is a game-changer when it comes to boosting membership engagement for associations. It’s like having a secret weapon in your arsenal that can help drive growth, increase member retention, and provide exciting opportunities for your association.

If you are wondering how to create a strategic partnership that is effective and would boost your membership engagement, and help you to create sponsorship packages that are enticing and irresistible, then this blog post is for you.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the incredible potential of association sponsorship, explore how it can be harnessed to strengthen member engagement, and how you can give sponsors the needed chance to interact with members on an online member portal throughout the year using the super tool: Member Lounge.

See Demo Here

What is Association Sponsorship:

Association Sponsorships are mutually beneficial relationships between an association and an external organization, typically a company or business​​.

The external organization most times provides financial support, resources, and other forms of assistance to the association in exchange for branding, thought leadership, and other promotional opportunities.

This alliance works to achieve the respective goals of each party, build a valuable relationship, and ultimately drive growth if your association does it well.

What are Associations Doing Wrong?

While associations have recognized the importance of sponsorship, there are still areas where they often fall short of maximizing the potential of these partnerships.

Here is a list of what associations are doing wrong concerning sponsorship:

1. Not Knowing What Sponsors Need:
Companies(sponsors) are looking out for business development opportunities, branding, and thought leadership, but associations are selling more transactional services, with so much focus on conferences. Associations need to focus more on what sponsorship companies need that is still in line with what members need, and ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction.

2. Lack of Strategic Alignment:
A mismatch between the association’s mission and the sponsor’s goal can result in disengaged sponsors and missed opportunities to provide meaningful benefits to members.

3. One -Time Transaction mindset with Sponsors:
Associations often overlook the importance of ongoing communication and collaboration with sponsors. Instead of treating sponsorship as a one-time transaction, associations should focus on building long-term relationships that foster mutual growth and success.

Practical Ways to Engage Your Sponsors and Members Effectively 

Engaging sponsors and members is crucial for associations seeking to maximize the benefits of sponsorship and foster a vibrant membership community. 

The first step to doing this is to revamp your association’s perspective to start thinking in the direction of ‘what do sponsors also want, and how can we use that to also satisfy member’s needs’. 

Here are some practical strategies to effectively engage both sponsors and members:

  • Regular Communication: 
    Sponsors need to be given a chance to interact with members on an online member portal throughout the year. Member Lounge can do that for you. See Demo here.

    Leverage various platforms that allow for member engagement like Member Lounge to share relevant Information. Also, encourage sponsors to provide content specifically tailored to members. This would help you create personalized engagement that is beneficial to both members and sponsors
  • Understand Members Unmet Needs:
    Ask the association staff weeks after the budget has been approved; what each department asked for that wasn’t in the budget because there needed to be more money, you can find out unmet needs through this.

    You could also ask board members and corporate partners what top issues they feel should be addressed from their vantage point.
    Having all these helps you to only go for sponsors whose niche and expertise can solve your members’ needs, and this would automatically create a flow for engagement.
  • Networking and Collaboration:
    From surveys we’ve done, we noticed that sponsors and partners are dying to connect with members. Facilitating networking and collaboration opportunities between sponsors and members can help you greatly increase engagement and retention.

    Organize dedicated networking sessions, mentorship programs, or industry-specific forums where sponsors can interact directly with members.
  • Recognition and Appreciation: 
    Recognize and appreciate sponsors and members for their contributions and involvement. Publicly acknowledge sponsors’ support through shout-outs, testimonials, or dedicated appreciation events.
    This will help you greatly enhance sponsor value, and nurture a mutually beneficial relationship that would drive growth.

Segmenting Members to Streamline and Serve the Needs of Members and Sponsors

Member Segmentation is a crucial strategy for associations to streamline their efforts and effectively serve both the needs of their members and sponsors.

Your membership base can be classified into distinct segments based on either psychographic level. Membership tiers, or by certain specific data. The idea is to segment according to what fits the kind of sponsors you are looking to attract and that can also serve your member’s needs.

Securing Sponsorship When Starting from Scratch

Starting an association from scratch can be a challenging endeavor, especially when it comes to securing sponsorship without any prior track record. However, there are several strategies that can help associations kickstart their sponsorship efforts:

  • Do your researchBefore you start reaching out to potential sponsors, take some time to research your industry and identify companies that would be a good fit for your association. It is essential to clearly define the association’s mission, goals, and target audience. This clarity will enable associations to identify potential sponsors whose values align with their objectives.
  • Outline the Benefits: Associations should create a compelling sponsorship package that outlines the benefits sponsors can receive in exchange for their support. Highlight the unique opportunities for exposure, brand visibility, and access to the association’s membership base.
  • Reach Out: Next is to reach out to them, and ask about their business goals and how each party can get a win-win. The idea is to position yourself as a solution to the sponsor’s goals and needs. Hop on the call to educate the sell, not sell to educate.

How to Create Exclusivity and Facilitate Direct Sponsor-Audience Interaction in Your Association Events

The first way to do this is to creatively find ways in your program to help each sponsor stand out by solving the needs of the members ( You have a list of member needs already).

Associations can offer dedicated sponsor showcase areas or booths, or sponsor-led sessions or workshops where sponsors can showcase their products, services, brand messaging, and thought leadership in a way that also solves members’ needs.

Another way is to propose a year-long partnership that provides more avenues to address members’ needs. It reduces the number of sponsors, attracting high-profile companies, and offers greater exclusivity for sponsors.

How to Integrate Event Sponsorship into Your Marketing Strategy

To effectively integrate event sponsorship into your marketing efforts, start by aligning your sponsorship objectives with your overall marketing goals. How will event sponsorship help you enhance brand awareness, or expand your audience, does the sponsor’s goal serve your member needs and help you increase engagement? If yes, then you are on the right track.

Once you’ve answered the above questions and secured event sponsorship, you should leverage your marketing channels to promote your involvement. This would help increase your branding and visibility and drive engagement.

During the event also, maximize your visibility by using branded signage, offering interactive experiences, or hosting engaging sessions. Don’t forget to capture and share moments from the event. Use photos, videos, and live updates on social media platforms, and all other marketing channels.

After the event, it is also important that you follow up with attendees to nurture relationships and continue the conversation.

Best Sponsorship Practices to Boost Your Membership Engagement

Sponsorship plays a crucial role in the success and growth of associations. To make the most out of sponsorship opportunities, associations should follow these best practices. It will help build strong partnerships and deliver value to both sponsors and members. 

Here are some key sponsorship practices for associations to consider to help them boost their membership onboarding, engagement, and retention:

  • Establish Defined Objectives: 
    Outline the goals of your association’s sponsorship. Recognize the objectives you have for sponsorships, whether they be monetary assistance, resource access, or improved member experiences. Align these aims with the association’s overarching mission and member benefit
  • Member-centric Sponsor Selection: 
    Pick partners who share the values, target market, and objectives of your members. Search for sponsors whose goods, services, or knowledge might offer real advantages to your members. A collaboration like this ensures relevance and increases the possibility of higher member engagement.

Learn how to develop a member-centric approach that can help you serve your members better.

  • Create effective Sponsorship Packages:
    Your sponsorship packages should offer a range of benefits and opportunities to sponsors that align with their business objectives alongside your member’s needs.  Consider including exclusive perks such as branding opportunities, speaking engagements, or member connections. This will help you to meet sponsors’ specific needs and objectives while providing a solution to members’ needs.
  • Active Communication and Collaboration: 
    Keep in constant contact with sponsors and collaborate with them as often as possible. The best ideas way to do this is to focus on building long-term relationships with sponsors. Treat sponsorships as more than transactional arrangements and prioritize ongoing engagement. Inform them of association news, activities, and possibilities. Involve them in decision-making processes and actively seek out their opinions to foster a sense of cooperation and shared responsibility.
  • Measure and Report Results: 
    Implement a system to track and measure the impact of sponsorships. Collect data on sponsor engagement, member feedback, and any specific goals achieved. Regularly report these results to sponsors, demonstrating the value they receive from the partnership and reinforcing the return on their investment. ​


Farhad Khan, CEO

A tech entrepreneur specialized in creating membership websites for professional associations to increase member engagement. My background is as an engineer for Nortel and Ericsson. I started my own tech company in 2009 to help associations and nonprofits solve their challenges with my digital technology skills.