In a perfect world, your arts program should be viewed with admiration, respect, and a high-value for the work and the experiences provided to students.
This is obviously the level that we all aspire to, and for the educators I know and work with, it's what gets great teachers and arts administrators out of bed in the morning.
In many cases, programs are working somewhere approaching this threshold, but while some administrators and school boards may be slow to recognize the value in the arts, the perception of the community is often a different matter.
Your arts program is likely among the most visible and high-profile areas of your school (or in the case of an independent non-profit - the most highly visible things in your area). Many educators and boosters sell themselves short when it comes to recognizing the opportunity to partner and more closely align with business, commercial, and corporate entities.
What's in it for them?
There is a certain quid pro quo to the partnership, as the bottom-line is that all businesses need to make money.
What value can your program bring to local/regional businesses?
Exposure to a motivated and supportive audience
Your program's followers and supporters represent potentially one of the largest segmented groups within your community. A simple Facebook post or Tweet can instantly send visitors to a webpage or foot-traffic into a retail establishment.
High-profile display sponsorship in and out of the area
With the miles you cover each year with public performances in and out of state, and trips and distant contests your program rubs up against countless other communities and audiences which would be very useful to a local or regional business.
Year-round access to an arts-supportive community
Not only can you provide access to a distinctive audience in the fall, but what about your concert program, jazz, and indoor ensembles? You can leverage your following year-round to bring additional value to your potential business partner.
Social media exposure
The proliferation of social media enables an on-demand audience. Many high-profile programs have hundreds or even thousands of page followers.
Next Step - Perfect Your Pitch
Refining your approach to local/regional business partners requires a little thought and a lot of planning.
Here are some considerations:
- Try to find someone within your booster/parent organization to "own" your business partnership program. Ideally, this individual will become the "business manager" of sorts for your organization and will be working in close conjunction with your director/administration. A perfect skillset to look for is someone with a background in business development, marketing, and sales.
- Develop a value proposition by building a list of sponsorship packages that include exposure and added value. We found some great examples on what programs are doing here, here, here, and here.
- Someone needs to do the legwork, and simply listing packages and sponsorship tiers on your website is not enough. You need to plan an outreach strategy that involves a multi-modal touch (phone, snail and e-mail, and in-person visits).
- Do not wait until your acceptance to a big bowl game to begin approaching businesses. This effort should become a 12-month a year affair. This article from Halftime Magazine describes how some groups leveraged their existing relationships to help gain support for the special things they wanted to do. The important takeaway is that all relationships need to start somewhere, and the best time to open up a dialog is with something small before moving onto a more substantial commitment.
All groups need funding - how about yours?