Take a Cue from the Boston Museum of Science — Put a For-Profit Marketing Model to Work to Advance Your Org

Take a Cue from the Boston Museum of Science -- Put a For-Profit Marketing Model to Work to Advance Your OrgYet again, MarketingProfs produces a winner with its pithy case study (available to paid subscribers only, so I’ll summarize for the rest of you) of the Boston Museum of Science‘s (BOS) highly original marketing strategy.

Like many nonprofits formerly dependent on a mix of government grants and individual gifts, BOS was left with a significant budget gap after the market crash of 2001. Having been lucky enough to generate a strong income through these two streams for many years, BOS had little in place in terms of marketing or branding, and didn’t know how to fill the gap.

The Museum’s first step (and the best move it could have made) in filling this gap was hiring Doug Burbo, a development/marketing leader with for-profit experience, who  quickly identified corporate donors as primary (and new) fundraising prospects. Burbo’s coup was to position prospects as sponsors/marketing partners, rather than donors. His challenge was the radical departure this strategy made from the ultra-conservative BOS tradition.

So Burbo took stock, and began to cultivate buy-in on all fronts. He:

  • Positioned sponsorship as a viable marketing vehicle to prospects, and his BOS colleagues
  • Motivated corporate participation via offering multiple participation levels, and developing strong relationships with prospective sponsors, so he could address their marketing goals with the right sponsorship package
  • Built internal support by emphasizing the neutrality of corporate relationships, and carefully balancing corporate and member benefits
  • Capitalized on existing relationships, capturing low-hanging fruit to develop a platform of success to speak from (to gain support in building the agenda).

Call it "make the most of what you have." Results have been spectacular, with Burbo securing internal and external acceptance of his strategy, poured into sponsorship of over 550 exhibits and community programs. Here’s are Burbo’s tips for a successful corporate sponsor/partner strategy:

  • Listen to your sponsors, and address their needs
  • Know your limits
  • Get independent assessment of the value of your organization’s assets, so that you price sponsorship correctly
  • Push existing relationships as far as they will go, without stressing them.

Hope this helps you take Burbo’s cure to think outside the box, and play with what you have.

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Nancy Schwartz on May 30, 2007 in Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Strategy | 0 comments
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