I had no idea what I was doing.
It was late 2019, the Coworking Convos model had been proven—people were showing up and spreading the word—and I was looking for sponsors to support Convos as an ongoing virtual event series.
My friends Liz and Stormy at GCUC gave me a crash course in using a sponsor model and off I went to find some sponsors.
My first attempts were very, um, so-so.
I’ve learned a lot since then and we now have a robust Convos sponsor community full of industry-leading organizations, including GCUC Community, included.co, Deskpass, Metigy, Anytime Mailbox, Allwork.space, Satellite Deskworks, Think Board and Vari.
But there were some growing pains along the way.
Here are nine things I’ve learned about working with sponsors. Take what resonates with you and get creative about how you can partner with amazing organizations on your projects, space and events.
Your mission and values must be aligned. If you’re all about purpose and community and your sponsor is about growth at any cost, it might not be a good fit. Take the time to learn about your potential sponsor’s company values and vision. Misalignment can be painful and reflect poorly on your brand; alignment can help supercharge your own vision and values.
2. Build Relationships, Not Transactions
Best case scenario, you build a rich, mutually supportive relationship with your sponsor. This is not a one-off transactional type of thing. This is the groundwork for what could potentially be a years-long collaboration and partnership. Are these people you’d like to be connected to for years? Focus on the relationship, not the transaction.
3. Good People
Building on the above, make sure your sponsors are the kind of people you could hang out with. Are they good people? Do you enjoy your calls and conversations? Are you happy to represent them? Watch out for red flags. If you’re not sure about them, the last thing you want to do is place their logo all over your project or space.
4. Great Product or Service
When you bring on a sponsor, it tells your community that you know, like and trust this organization. Can you say that about your potential sponsors? Only approach organizations that offer great products, great services and great support. Sponsors want to be associated with your brand. Make sure you’re representing top-quality companies.
5. Value for Your Community
What can your sponsor offer your community? Can they give members a discount? Do they provide resources or valuable information? Can they give a free trial for your members? Are they available for calls and emails from your community? Are they open to joint venture events? Can they meet your community in-person to field questions and brainstorm ideas? Your sponsors can increase their engagement with your community members by sharing valuable offerings with them.
6. They Understand and Care About Coworking
Coworking is white hot right now and a lot of people are coming to get a piece of the pie. Make sure the people you approach for sponsorship are all-in on coworking—not because it’s an industry on a massive growth curve, but because they understand the potential of coworking to transform lives and communites. Potential sponsors may not grasp every nuance of what you’re doing with your space or projects, but they should have a good grasp of the fact that coworking is ushering in the future of work.
7. Love the Community Aspect of Your Work
You’re different. What we’re doing with Coworking Convos is different. Coworking is different. We are a community-focused, human-powered movement-now-industry that is changing the way people work. Without community, coworking is just boring old office rental—nothing new, nothing exciting. Make sure your sponsors understand just how deeply invested you are in your community, and that they feel the same about their own.
8. Believe in Your Vision
What are you trying to do with your space and community? Are you focused on supporting entrepreneurs? Incubating startups? Providing access to digital media tools and workspaces? Supporting women in business? Growing your local economy? Supporting underestimated communities, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, older and younger people? Providing workspace for parents? Find sponsors that believe in your vision and are open to finding ways to further that vision.
9. Grow with You
I like to work with sponsors that are focused on growing in all the right ways—in contributing something awesome to the world. Seek out sponsors that are growing along with you. It is an absolute thrill to celebrate wins together and work for a better future together.
Coworking Convos would not be possible without our amazing sponsor community. Thank you to our partners, GCUC Community and included.co; our supporters, Deskpass, Metigy, Anytime Mailbox, Satellite Deskworks and Think Board; our media sponsor, Allwork.space; and our community sponsors, Vari, Women Who Cowork, PitchHub and IP Society. We love you!
Over to You
What have I missed? What have you learned about working with sponsors? Connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s chat about it. And please join us for this month’s Coworking Convo. The topic is Growing Your Business with Instagram.