M.E.A.T. Method Solidifies Nonprofit/Sponsor Relationship

Return on investment is key to a successful partnership between a nonprofit association and its sponsors.

According to IEG’s Sponsorship Report for 2016, sponsor spending on associations and membership organizations is projected to be $612 million in North America alone. This is an increase of 3.6% over 2015’s $591 million.

If you are an enterprise spending money in this area, how do you get the best return on your investment? As an association or membership organization, what can you implement to ensure happy sponsors? By following the M.E.A.T. method, both sponsors and associations can achieve high returns on investment and partnership bliss.



Almost every organization connects with its members through various social media channels, a website, and events. Measuring engagement is the responsibility of both parties. As a sponsor, providing links, QR codes, and unique URL’s are easy ways to track the response to your call to action. As an association, keeping track of which posts on your website and social media are performing well provides you with topics to share with your sponsors. After events, associations should be sending out attendee surveys that include questions about the sponsors’ participation and visibility.

Sponsor Frank Scarpacci and VIANOVA at the 2016 Cause Conference.

Sponsor Frank Scarpacci of VIANOVA at the 2016 San Diego AMA Cause Conference™.

A significant portion of the strategy behind sponsoring a membership organization is to reach an audience that shares a common interest. As a sponsor, it is counterproductive to commit either cash or in-kind services and never attend an event or actually meet any of the members who could be prospects for you. Securing a mailing list is not enough.

Commit to attending at least one event per quarter or send a proxy. Remember, people do business with those they know, like, and trust. Likewise, it’s a disservice to the organization and its sponsors to have leadership and a membership that doesn’t know about the sponsors’ core business and thus doesn’t understand the true value of having them as a partner. Putting your sponsors front and center at events and allowing them to educate the membership about how their business can solve a common problem will increase engagement.

Attendees at San Diego AMA sponsor appreciation event Oct. 5 at The Prado in Balboa Park

Attendees at San Diego AMA sponsor appreciation event Oct. 5, 2016 at The Prado in Balboa Park

There are many ways for membership organizations to show their appreciation for their sponsors, including gifts, awards, and recognition at events and on their digital properties. However, appreciation is a two-way street. For many member associations, the leadership is comprised wholly of volunteers. Keeping them in mind for opportunities outside of the organization (i.e. vendors, LinkedIn recommendations) and affording them some patience is always appreciated.



As the saying goes, those who measure, engage, and appreciate together, stay together, right? While that may not quite be the correct adage, following this formula will lead to a trusting relationship between partners. For the member association, providing clear contracts, scheduling regular check-ins, and holding the organization accountable for providing a return on investment builds trust. For sponsors, participating in brainstorming sessions, referring industry colleagues, and communicating what is working and what isn’t builds trust. For both sides responsibility and opportunity exist. Working together will build return on investment year after year.

About Anetra

Anetra Henry-Hunting is a marketing strategist and founder of The Hunting Group, a consultancy focused on creating and implementing sponsorship strategy. She is known as the ROI Reinforcer. Prior to starting The Hunting Group, Anetra made a career in Operations and Marketing in various industries being the primary decision maker for strategic partnerships. In her spare time, she volunteers as the VP of Sponsorship for San Diego AMA and enjoys spending time with her husband and spunky American Cocker Spaniel, JT. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.