Finding their replacement may be as simple as asking who’s taken their place. Engaging the new contact might also be easy, if you’re the only association they deal with for a particular purpose. But if you’re not their only sponsorship option, or if the new contact doesn’t see the value you bring to the table, the relationship has to restart from ground zero, and that part of your non-dues revenue may be in jeopardy.
Could you have avoided the problem? Probably. With many organizations facing high staff turnover, you’re in danger if your relationship with a company depends on a single contact. Without stepping on toes, there are ways to stretch your relationship within the organization and entrench yourself as an irreplaceable partner.
• Step One: Ask your current contact. They may not be the only person involved in deciding on sponsorship investments.
• Step Two: Resilience is a two-way street. You may not stay in your current job forever, so invite your contact to meet your executive director, your marketing and communications manager, or some other key contact, in person or via conference call.
• Step Three: Make it an occasion. Suggest a larger group (from your organization as well as theirs) to review the value you both get out of the partnership and explore any new opportunities on the horizon.
If you aren’t sure your contact will share the information you need, do your homework. Most associations list their staff teams online, and LinkedIn is the ultimate network—you can see what a company says about itself, find out who works there, and usually view your contact’s online connections. That way, you’ll be prepared for a bit of name-dropping (“Should I include Ms. Smith in the communication, as well?”), in case you need it. Even if your research turns up the wrong name, your contact will be more likely to give you the right information.
Everyone needs internal champions—in that sense, you represent your association’s value to its sponsors, just as your corporate contacts are the front-line face of your non-dues revenue. You need each other to succeed. And your organization’s funding is at higher risk if you don't know whom to call when—not if—your main contact eventually leaves the company.