by: Pola Firestone
Entrepreneurial communities include talented entrepreneurs and successful private sector businesses that can help your organization thrive. By sharing resources and expertise nonprofit organizations can build win-win relationships with for-profit businesses.
Sponsorships Help Increase Revenue and Defray Costs
Many companies serving the small business community will see the SourceLink system as a way to gain visibility. By creating sponsorship opportunities, you can help them reach their target audience and receive financial support.
“Find someone to pay you for what you are already doing,” advises Jenny Miller, KCSourceLink network builder.
Amy Kuhlers and Jenny Miller
Jenny looks for sponsors to fit her SourceLink’s timely needs. For example, when planning to print the Resource Rail, a map of resources for entrepreneurs, Jenny asked businesses to sponsor the launch event and the cost of printing. The sponsor’s logo is included on the Resource Rail map, and they introduced their organization at the launch event.
Other KCSourceLink sponsorship opportunities include banner ads on interior pages of the website and business logos on newsletters. Private sector businesses can add events to KCSourceLink’s central calendar for $25 per event or $500 for and unlimited number of events per year.
Vanessa Jozwiak, small business and entrepreneurship manager at Loudoun SourceLink, recruits sponsors for events during Loudoun Small Business Week to cover food and beverage costs or to help lower the ticket price. Sponsors receive brand recognition on flyers and in social media. In some cases, sponsors receive tickets and an opportunity to provide a 30-second elevator introduction.
Free and Low Cost Ways to Spread the Word
Supporting local businesses can help spread the word about your network. To increase website traffic and your social media footprint, feature business owners on your website or schedule small business owners as guest speakers and guest bloggers. A Shop Local directory on your website is a convenient way for shoppers to find local and independent businesses.
Although they work with economic development organizations every day, IASourceLink creates formal Affinity Partner relationships with public organizations that dedicate time or resources.
“Affinity Partners bring value through the networks they can reach that align with our core purpose,” says Amy Kuhlers, program manager. “Most recently we are partnering with the Community Bankers of Iowa on a marketing piece that they distribute statewide to their commercial lenders, who can then in turn provide information on Iowa SourceLink.”
Identify Companies Committed to Growing Small Businesses
Wells Fargo serves approximately 3 million small business owners across the United States and provides an annual grant to Virginia Community Economic Network (VCEN), the sponsor of SourceLink Virginia. In return, SourceLink Virginia provides a link to Wells Fargo Works for Small Business, an initiative to deliver resources, guidance and services for business owners on the web. Another partnership established by VCEN Executive Director Conaway Haskins is Loanspot, a partnership with microloan provider Accion that helps increase access to capital and credit for Virginia entrepreneurs.
To make Kansas City America’s Most Entrepreneurial City, a group of local companies make philanthropic contributions to sustain KCSourceLink over a five year period.
Finding creative ways to support current efforts, build awareness and support sustainability is key to building a thriving network and ecosystem. Relationships with private sector companies can evolve into long-term partnerships to build ever stronger entrepreneurial communities.