In 2011, Agentis brought a new client on board that was interested in beefing up its sponsorship program. Under their previous management company, their sponsorship funding had been slowly decreasing from year to year. As the drop in sponsor funding was not related to an industry decline, Agentis felt that there was ample support from the community for the client's events—it was simply a matter of reaching out to the right contacts, with the right sponsorship package.
Agentis took the following steps to improve the client's sponsorship funding:
- Develop a List of Potential Partners
While the client had a list of marketing contacts already, the list had been prepared years ago, and many of the contacts had moved to different positions or retired. This list was cleaned up through a combination of online tools and phone calls. Next, Agentis queried the Board of Directors for a list of industry contacts. Additional contacts were found via online searches, and member suggestions.
- Create a Sponsorship Program
Agentis helped the client develop a tiered sponsorship program, with benefits specific to each funding level. The Agentis team has many years experience in association management, and can offer solid recommendations as to what potential partners are looking for when sponsoring an event, including name recognition and face time with their customer base. Sponsor benefits can include everything from onsite signage, promotions via email communications to members, website banner ads, and oral acknowledgements from speakers from the podium at the event itself. Sponsor-only receptions with invitations to key decision makers are also common. As the client event also featured an exhibit hall, an exhibitor-only option was also included. To encourage smaller companies to participate, a discounted "New Sponsor" level was developed, eligible to any company sponsoring the event for the first time.
- Market the Sponsorship Program
Agentis began sending notifications to the list of potential partners in advance of the event to increase awareness of the sponsorship program. Print notifications were initially mailed, but as the contact list improved with each event, the primary method of distribution became email and personal solicitations. Board members were also asked to spread the word among their contacts. As attendance for the event grew with each successive year, many companies began sponsoring consecutive years.
- Receive Feedback from Sponsors
Agentis developed an evaluation form to query sponsors at the conclusion of the event, to determine if they were satisfied with the program, or if had recommendations for improvement. Informal on-site interviews were also conducted with sponsor representatives in the exhibit hall.
Since Agentis has coordinated sponsorship activities for the client, sponsor revenues have increased with each year, with overall sponsor and exhibitor funding more than doubled from 2011 to 2017.
Background and Genesis: At the beginning of 2016, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) Advocacy steering committee met with Agentis Management to discuss building a grassroots plan. As an organization, ADA has been pursuing a modification of Title 18 of the Federal code to amend Medicare and allow direct patient access to audiologists, authorize Medicare to reimburse audiologists for their rehabilitative services, and recognize audiologists as limited license physicians. To that end, the current strategy focused on legislative meetings with our partners in Washington DC, as well as a “Fly-In” meeting in November of 2015. Based upon the feedback we received from these meetings, it was decided that developing a broad base of grassroots engagement would help support our message on the Hill. The legislators didn’t want to just hear from lobbyists and associations, but their individual constituents—especially the Medicare patients that would be most affected by the legislation.
Development: Our Government Affairs Coordinator and Web Developer worked together to design a pamphlet directed specifically towards the Medicare-eligible patients that visited our ADA members that worked in private practice. The ideal pamphlet resembled, by no accident, a political flier of the kind commonly distributed door-to-door during election season. The goals of the pamphlet were three fold:
- Inform patients about the legislation, in general terms
- Demonstrate the impact that the legislation would have on their lives (especially the financial impact)
- Direct patients to the companion ThinkAboutYourEars.com website for action.
Staff developed the look of the brochures as well as solicited bids from vendors for printing and shipping.
Pilot: ADA and Agentis worked with our lobbying partners in Washington DC, Prime Policy Group, to identify specific congressional districts we wished to target. From there, our membership coordinator ran reports of our members in those districts that were contacted to gauge interest in the project. Over 60 members responded to our initial request. We distributed the first batch of brochures with the request that members keep us apprised of the impact that the brochures had with patients, as well as any best practices we should be aware of. We paired the initial distribution with a robust social media campaign to support the initiative.
Expansion: As word of mouth spread, ADA and Agentis began to receive even more requests for brochures. As Agentis staff attends conferences on behalf of ADA, we bring example brochures with us that never fail to grab people’s attention. The program is scalable, from the very targeted individual distribution base of member requests and congressional districts, all the way up to the entire membership, as necessary.
Background: As with all successful issue advocacy campaigns, there is a fundraising component. A great deal of staff resources as well as specialized vendors will likely be required as the campaign goes on. However, a well-crafted fundraising effort can do more than simply offset the costs of the rest of your advocacy campaign. Ideally, your fundraising campaign will also raise awareness about your issue, as well as drive grassroots engagement. It also doesn’t hurt to make it fun as well!
Development: Inspired by the success of the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, Agentis and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) created the #ForkItOver campaign. A play on the idea that while audiology care has evolved far from the use of tuning forks for diagnosis, Medicare has not kept pace. We challenged members to make a brief video with themselves and a tuning fork in a fun, playful manner. As with other viral fundraising efforts, we encouraged members to challenge other members to make their own videos, and donate as well.
Pilot: Beginning with the ADA Board of Directors meeting in March 2016, members began to upload their videos to the ADA social media pages. As members of the board began to challenge individual association members, Agentis monitored the development across ADA’s social media platforms and promoted posts for visibility. Targeted use of Facebook’s native advertising features helped to maintain momentum as the campaign grew.
Expansion: A flexible fundraising and social media campaign will evolve as time goes on. ADA’s #ForkItOver campaign initiated a contest during the traditional August congressional recess. Everyone that participated in the campaign and got a photo with one of their congressional representatives was entered into a drawing for membership and conference registration. This new iteration saw an uptick of participation, and more importantly, member engagement with their individual legislators. This resulted in several “Reverse Fly-In’s” being scheduled where legislators traveled to meet our members, i.e. their constituents, at their practice offices. One visit in particular resulted in a legislator signing on to co-sponsor ADA’s legislation immediately after their visit.
Continuation: Driving member engagement on advocacy issues can often be a challenge as well as an opportunity. Meeting your members where they are and providing flexible options to engage and support your movement will serve to accomplish this goal.