Over the last few months of working with Karen Gee on this series of stories about her journey of growth with the Mrs Australia Contest I've been constantly amazed by the inner fire and passion Karen's shown every time we've caught up.
I initially thought this interview series would be interesting to explore to find out what's involved in a pageant. I struggle with the idea of children's beauty pageants and I there's such a loud feminist in me that I am left baffled by straight out beauty pageants but I thought twice about the Mrs Australia contest because of the determination of Karen to make this path her way of being the change she wants in the world.
Every step of the way I've learnt something more, new skills for my own businesses, insights into what inspires women and how you can follow up with someone without being annoying.
When Karen and I were exploring the topics for this series of interview stories (see below for all of them) I was really pleased when she agreed to this one about sponsorship - about how to get it, how to support and reward your sponsors and what they need out the experience. I'm really pleased with what's come through because I think there are some really valuable, real life lessons here that can benefit all of us looking for some kind of sponsorship - whether that be for charities or business events.
So come find out how this 'ordinary' mum has raised over $55,000 and counting in just seven months and what she recommends doing to make the difference you want in the world!
What sort of criteria did you have for selecting a sponsor?
It is of great importance to me that I approach businesses that can be nicely aligned with either Project Dovetail or WIN Australia. For example, anything to do with women, women's health, beauty, fitness, or large corporations I would align with Women in Need Australia. Businesses that have an interest in children or children's products I would automatically place with Project Dovetail. These days a lot of businesses are doing Cause related Marketing and like to support a charity that they have a common interest with.
How did you find your sponsors, did you already know people or was it a mixture of cold calls and introductions?
The majority of sponsors are from existing relationships or from word of mouth. For a business to want to back a charity they have to first believe in who I am and that I will represent not only the charity well, but also their business.
Businesses and Corporations want to know that they are dealing with a person who has credibility and knowledge about what they are raising awareness for, and who they stand for as a person. There are some sponsors that have been achieved through cold calls, I have made over 700 phone calls over the past 7 months. I have a very strong sales background, so never take a no personally - it never ever deters me from calling the next person.
When I have a goal in mind I will do everything I can to achieve it. I set myself a goal at the beginning of the year and have surpassed it 10 times over. So that makes me feel amazing. Just goes to show women can do anything they set their minds to.
It was also a vision of mine to pitch to large corporations as they are the ones with large followers, with a National audience. I don't just want these charities isolated to my community, I want everyone in Australia to know about them.
How do sponsors help you?
Depending on who the sponsors are, I have large corporations supporting me as well as smaller businesses. I treat everyone the same and have the same focus for each sponsor, this is to ensure I am marketing their brand whenever I have the opportunity in the way they would like me to. This could be through Media Releases, Events, Fund Raising Activities, Public Speaking and one on one conversations.
Most of my sponsors promote me through newsletters, Facebook, email to clients, catoluges; the Hilton Hotel featured two large banners in their lobby area of the hotel - which had traffic of over 1500 people per day walking past. We have done a world record tanning day, Art Show, Fitness Day, VIP Evenings, Lunches, it has all been so much fun. I love networking and what better way to do this?
What have you learnt from your sponsors that has been a real gift?
They have given me so much more than they know, they have believed in me and what I am trying to achieve and this makes me feel very special. It makes me very proud that they want to be a part of something I am so passionate about, and at the end of the day I am just an ordinary woman trying to make a difference on a grand scale.
Generally people think that sponsorship is all about money but there’s much more to it. What sort of ways have your sponsors helped you?
I have raised over $55,000 over the past seven months and still going - but it is definitely not just about the money. No one will put money into a charity unless they know it will go to a great cause.
So primarily I raised as much awareness as I could, to educate people to bring focus to WIN Australia and Project Dovetail, the money then followed, people want to be a part of it because they can see how lives are changed through financial support. I am well on my way to a long term goal of WIN Australia, Project Dovetail and Mrs Australia Group being National Household names.
How do you go looking after your relationships with the different sponsors? How often do you catch up with them and work with them for their promotions?
I ensure I am always available, never making an excuse. These people believe in me and have financially backed the charities, I want to ensure I have a long term relationships, and will always go out of my way to help out. I call/email all sponsors and supporters once per week, to ensure the communication lines are open.
All of my sponsors are not just "one offs" for a particular event, they are long term supporters, and they are long terms because they want to be involved in all that I do because they know what passion I have to raise awareness and funds for the charities and Mrs Australia Group.
What would be your top 5 tips for making a sponsorship relationship work?
2. Ensuring you align yourself with a brand you believe in
3. Marketing their brand well through events and media
4. Always being available
5. Proud to be a part of their brand and endorsing what they are selling