The Feast Commons was great for connecting individuals, but as a mission-driven company committed to providing reasonably-priced access for everyone, The Feast relied heavily on its sponsors. Companies like NBC Universal and KIND turned to The Feast for insights and inspiration, as well access to talented change agents. In doing our analysis, however, it became clear that The Feast was struggling to secure and manage new sponsors.
So, how might The Feast generate new revenue streams to ease the pressures of sponsorship fundraising while still staying true to its mission?
We started by observing The Feast’s small in-house team and volunteers. What were the pressures they faced? What were the concerns they had? What part of their work gave them the most joy and motivation? Surprisingly, the team loved researching and pursuing new sponsors. Not surprisingly, onboarding and managing new sponsors was miserable.
Further investigation of interactions with sponsors turned into a detailed customer journey map revealed the gaps in the sponsorship experience. While there was a burst of energy at the start of relationships, cumbersome details, legal matters, fluctuating timelines and more would create tension almost immediately after.
Certainly, these were issues that we could have thrown new tools at, but the audit of interactions showed that the issue stemmed from misaligned expectations. The Feast existed to change the world and the team assumed that sponsors were ready to commit to the same. Instead, it appeared that most of the organization's sponsors were part of marketing and CSR teams aiming to do investigational and reputational work. Where The Feast was focused wholly on its mission, its sponsors needed a guide to getting involved in the social impact facilitation space. The Feast did something new and the companies around it effectively needed an invitation to join the conversation.
The findings led to a redefined sponsorship model focused on sponsor education. Setting specific success criteria for viability, feasibility, and desirability, we designed a model that would walk sponsors through what it meant to be a part of The Feast and help the team translate each new partner’s aspirational goals into the right program.
To facilitate that, we crafted a pliable sponsorship journey map to guide employees in sourcing, activating and managing new partner relationship in the most cost-effective, yet enjoyable way. It was difficult to get people on a mission to pivot towards supporting big global companies, but once we understood how those companies were part of the mission, the new partnership model helped to streamline operations and create revenue opportunities leading to $350,000 in sponsorship revenue in its first quarter.