Corporate partners are critical to the success of associations today. They provide much-needed revenue that makes programming possible, and they also bring considerable expertise and content that help members develop as professionals. The challenge, however, is ensuring the association is providing meaningful ROI on the investment partners make and doing it at a time when competition for time, attention and dollars are at an all-time high.

We know the partnership riddle is real, and many, if not most, FPA chapters (and FPA!) are trying to solve it. The first step in addressing any problem is to step back and understand why the problem exists and how it can be addressed in the most impactful way possible.

On June 18, we invited the 11 OneFPA Network beta-test chapters to a virtual discussion with Bruce Rosenthal of Bruce Rosenthal Associates, LLC. Bruce is a strategic advisor and consultant to associations and non-profit organizations specializing in developing successful corporate partnership programs that increase revenue and member value. He is also Co-Convener of the Partnership Professionals Network, a national organization devoted to improving sponsorship programs.

Bruce offered his insight into the ongoing partnership challenges many associations face and how to thoughtfully integrate sponsors and partners given the current landscape.

The session kicked-off with Bruce’s view of the four key trends impacting association partnership programs. What Bruce made clear is that these trends have been around for a while, are not the result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and will likely be the same issues facing associations for the foreseeable future:

  • Associations need more revenue in a challenging environment.
  • There is a growing demand by members for more content and expertise.
  • Partners and sponsors want greater ROI for their financial investment.
  • Companies can use social media and video conferences to reach members without involving associations.

Based on Bruce’s decades of experience in helping associations develop impactful partnership strategies, he offered 13 critical strategies FPA chapters should employ today. These strategies are especially relevant due to the implications of the pandemic for associations, members and partners.

  • Partners need to align with the mission. What is our mission, and how does this partner align with it?
  • Maximize revenue – don’t leave money on the table. Is there an opportunity for this partner that could lead to a more substantial investment with us?
  • Value in partnerships can be derived from more than revenue. Is there a way for this partner to provide research, education, and content for members?
  • Be sure the association’s Board and staff are engaged and supportive. Do this partner and the program have the support of our stakeholders?
  • Specifically address each partner’s business needs and objectives. What is this partner trying to achieve for their business, and how does the opportunity with us support it?
  • Don’t focus solely on branding and logo recognition. Will this partner get meaningful value from this partnership and not just the usual branding opportunities?
  • Think like a marketer. Are we asking the right questions of this partner to understand their goals and what we need to offer to drive value?
  • Don’t think short-term. Think long-term. Can we devise a program for this partner that ties them to the association for the year (or longer) and not just for a single event?
  • Price partnership based on ROI value. Companies will pay what something is worth. What can we reasonably charge this partner for this opportunity we are providing them and their business?
  • Align with partner budget cycles. When does this partner determine their marketing and sponsorship budget for the next year?
  • Know your competition. Where else will this partner be investing their marketing expenditures, and what are they receiving?
  • Measure and report back to the partner. What does this partner need to know in terms of metrics, and when do they need the information?
  • Renewing partners is an ongoing process. How often does this partner want to check-in throughout the year, and what will they need to know to assess performance?

This session on partnerships is precisely what we are aiming to achieve through the OneFPA Network beta-test. It’s an opportunity to explore ways the association can improve at all levels and how we can make meaningful change—together as an association. We will continue to keep all FPA chapters and leaders apprised of the progress we are making throughout the beta-test and how new strategies are working for beta-test chapters.