How Can Associations Provide ROI Value to Their Corporate Partners?

Written by Bruce Rosenthal on June 13, 2019

Many association sponsorships are transactional – with low visibility and recognition, banner ads and logos placed on websites and podiums at conferences. These are of minimal value to many companies.

What sponsors and partners are really looking for is Return on Investment (ROI) value from associations. In fact, some companies are now increasing their sponsorship spending with associations that provide ROI and terminating sponsorships with associations that don’t offer ROI.

What does ROI looks like? Well, it doesn’t look the same for every partner. ROI varies depending on each company’s business goals. Examples include: access to a certain demographic of the association’s membership; making members aware of a new product or service; repositioning from a regional to a national company; knowledge leadership on topics of interest to members; and brand differentiation. Ultimately, it’s often about increasing sales.


For starters, position corporate partners as knowledge leaders; these companies have a wealth of information about your members, their challenges, what they buy, and what their changing needs are. Companies are conducting Research and Development on the future needs of your members. Their customers are your members.

Here are five ways to position corporate partners as knowledge leaders:

  1. Invite your corporate partners to your office to do a briefing for your staff. Membership, research, education, marketing and policy staff would all benefit from knowing what corporate partners know about your members.
  2. Similarly, invite your corporate partners to meet with your board and talk about strategy and major challenges affecting members. This will be mutually beneficial to your partners and your organization.
  3. Publish or co-publish with your corporate partners research based on the trends that your corporate partners are seeing in your industry, profession or trade.
  4. Encourage your CEO to meet with your corporate partners, ideally at the corporate partners’ office with their executive team.
  5. Set up a task force of your corporate partners and some of your members to wrestle with the major issues affecting your members and your industry or profession.

The benefits to your association of this strategy are higher value corporate partnerships, which result in better recruitment and retention of corporate partners. Plus, there is the added benefit that your members are receiving this wealth of content produced for them.

The goal is for associations to move from traditional transactional corporate sponsorship programs to transformational corporate partnership programs with companies.