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Four Innovative Sponsorship Models for Associations

To you, they are members, the individuals and organizations who are paying dues to belong to your association. But it’s very likely they are also being called customers, prospects, or leads by the product and service providers working in the specialty your members serve. It’s this intersection that drives successful sponsorship relationships. However, traditional sponsorship models with limited flexibility, options, and interaction with members often fall short in delivering meaningful value to both sponsors and members. To address this challenge, innovative sponsorship models are emerging, tailored to the unique needs and dynamics of membership associations. Here, we explore innovative sponsorship ideas focused on content collaboration, thought leadership partnerships, technology solutions, and community engagement.

Content Collaboration

Content collaboration sponsorship models leverage the expertise and resources of both the association and the sponsor to create value. Instead of merely providing financial support, sponsors actively contribute their knowledge, insights, and industry trends to co-create high-quality content, such as articles, whitepapers, webinars, and podcasts.

For example, the National Association of Legal Support Professionals (NALS) offers a webinar sponsorship model that allows the sponsoring organization to create a series of webinars on emerging trends in the industry, featuring their experts as speakers alongside association thought leaders. This collaboration not only provides valuable educational content to members who need continuing education credits for their certifications but also enhances the sponsor’s credibility and visibility within the community. During the registration process, add a question giving the sponsor permission to contact attendees.

Thought Leadership

Thought leadership partnerships empower sponsors to position themselves as industry leaders by sharing their expertise and insights with association members. Instead of traditional advertising or branding, sponsors engage in thought-provoking activities such as keynote presentations, panel discussions, and expert interviews.

The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) offers an organizational membership category that includes the option to schedule a focus group within the annual conference schedule. These conversations demonstrate the sponsoring organization’s interest in feedback from industry professionals while sharing their resources and expertise.

Technology Solutions

In the digital age, adding technology solutions into sponsorship models is a powerful way to add value for both the membership association and its sponsors. This approach involves sponsors providing technology platforms, tools, or services that enhance the association’s operations or member experience.

The Order of the Golden Rule (OGR), an organization of independent funeral homes, offers sponsorship of the funeral home search feature on its website, a valuable tool to both consumers and funeral home service and product suppliers.

Community engagement

Community engagement sponsorships focus on involving sponsors in the grassroots activities and initiatives of the membership association. One example is the National Council of Acoustical Consultants (NCAC) annual sponsorship packages which include support for student travel scholarships to support emerging professionals presenting their acoustical research at professional conferences. This approach not only enhances the sponsor’s visibility but also demonstrates their commitment to the association’s mission and values.


Innovative sponsorship models tailored to the unique needs and dynamics of membership associations are transforming the way sponsors engage with members and deliver value to the community. Content collaboration, thought leadership partnerships, technology solutions and community engagement sponsorships offer new avenues for sponsors to connect with association members, build thought leadership, and foster meaningful relationships. By investigating these innovative sponsorship models, membership associations can better serve their members while providing sponsors with more meaningful and impactful ways to establish relationships.

Picture of Rachel Daeger, CAE, IOM

Rachel Daeger, CAE, IOM

Rachel Daeger, CAE, IOM joined the RGI team in 2010. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and business from Indiana University. With extensive association management experience, Rachel uses her communication and organizational skills to meet her clients strategic objectives regardless of their industry.