How This Nonprofit Added Four Six-Figure Event Sponsors In 18-Months [SPONSORED]

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Elyse Meardon is proud of her work with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN) - and rightfully so. As managing director of CMN’s signature dance marathon program, she and her team are stewards of the fastest growing peer-to-peer fundraiser in the country!

Hundreds of colleges, and a handful of high schools, participate in the program each year. In 2017, dance marathon fundraisers collectively raised a whopping $38 million dollars for CMN and its children hospital affiliates across North America. 

But even with the programs incredible success, particularly with peer-to-peer fundraising from event participants, there was a clear area for growth: sponsorship. 

Elyse Meardon, Children's Miracle Network

Elyse Meardon, Children's Miracle Network

“The dance marathon program has been around since 1991 and involves two of the most coveted consumer groups, Millennials and Generation Z,” said Elyse. “But we’ve never had any large corporate sponsorships for it.”

Obviously, CMN was leaving a lot of money and opportunity on the table. 

“Only 10 percent of the total dollars we raised came from sponsorship,” explained Elyse. “We wanted to boost that number to 25 percent. This would mean more money for our partner hospitals, and would bring the program more in line with the standard 75-25 split common to other peer-to-peer fundraisers.”

For Elyse and her team the challenge was where to begin. Where would sponsorship package levels start? What types of assets would they offer? Should they pursue multi-year contracts? Should they first target new partners or existing partners?

CMN’s aspirations were both national and local. With so many successful events across the country, CMN wanted to teach event organizers how to target local companies for sponsorship.

“Most organizers were focused on getting in-kind donations to offset expenses, which is great,” said Elyse. “But we saw the opportunity to teach organizers about sponsorship and equip them with the leads and packages they needed to recruit local sponsors.”

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That was 2016. Fast forward to today and CMN has four multi-year, six-figure national sponsors for its dance marathon program. After raising $38 million last year, Elyse and her team are on track to raise between $43 and $45 million in 2018, a major increase for the program.

Local programs have also had success. For example, organizers of Temple University’s dance marathon - affectionately known as “HootaThon” - has landed several corporate partners that have invested $1,000 in sponsorship. Last year, HootaThon raised over $456,000 for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a CMN affiliate.  

I asked Elyse how she had realized such great success in less than two years. “In a word, Catalist,” she said.

Catalist gave us an edge in the markeplace. “They know the landscape so well from both the for-profit and nonprofit side, and they know the questions to ask your particular organization,” said Elyse. “Catalist didn’t need to ‘get up to speed.’ They contributed right from the start.”

Catalist prepared us for success. “Some of the best feedback Catalist gave us was not about the external pitch or selling,” said Elyse. “But about setting up systems internally to track partner engagement so we could execute at 100 percent.”

Catalist uncovered new opportunities. “The psychographic report they gave us was amazing. Catalist  analyzed purchasing decisions, behaviors, influencers, even hobbies of our constituents - all to help identify smarter corporate partner or sponsor targets," said Elyse. “Catalist allowed us to make a compelling case to partners that frankly made our outreach and pitching a lot easier.” 

Catalist translates the data so you don’t have to. “I’m far from a data expert so raw data isn’t very helpful to me,” admitted Elyse. “Fortunately, with Catalist, I had someone who knew how to collect and analyze the data and then could share the insights with me.”

A great partner who helps you find great partners, I interjected.

“Exactly,” said Elyse. “Time and money are important; Catalist helped us maximize both.”

This post is sponsored by Catalist. Catalist uses smart technology, insightful data and industry expertise to match companies with causes in partnerships that accelerate social change. Learn more about Catalist.