Telenet: opening up the world for hospital kids

For this month’s blog I’m going to talk about one of the most effective tools in the sponsorship box: social sponsorship.

Imagine you’re a journalist receiving a press release about a large charitable donation. The amount is generous, the cause is a worthy one, but once the fact of the donation is stated, the amount and the purpose, there may not be much more left to say. A purely monetary gift may well go into a general pot to fund salaries, administration or even vehicles. Even a targeted donation to fund a vehicle or a building project has a limited impact in a crowded ‘market’.

Now imagine that instead of money the donation was given in kind, such as resources, time and –crucially–ideas. This is social sponsorship: and now we have a story. And if we can leverage additional interest by linking to more than one element of an existing sponsorship programme then the outcome can be outstandingly effective for both the giver and the recipient.

The point about social sponsorship is that it is on-going, interactive, controllable and highly visible. Giving resources, time, and personal commitment suggests an involvement that money alone never can. Major donors and celebrities can be cash-rich but time-poor – and the public knows this. So when household names take time out from their schedules to take part in social sponsorship the impact is substantial.

When kids are dealing with a long illness, research has shown that one of the biggest problems they face is the isolation it brings with it. Schoolwork and contact with family and friends is so much easier with a wifi connection. So in 2006 our client Telenet stepped in, via the Telenet Foundation, to provide just that by delivering laptops and connectivity to paediatric wards in selected hospitals.

With 170 laptops in circulation the MyZone project (my-zone.be) now helps around 15,000 children each year and in May 2012 Telenet celebrated the installation of the tenth MyZone paediatric project. The words ‘Telenet opens your world’ have never been more appropriate.

Originally involved as part of her Telenet sponsorship contract, top Belgian tennis player Yanina Wickmayer now takes part independently as an ambassador for MyZone. She regularly visits the children on the wards, reading stories to the little ones and challenging older children to a game of virtual tennis on the Wii. And each visit is made even more memorable with a special gift bag for each child.

As always with sponsorship, strategy is the key to success. It’s vital to associate your company with the right project. Social sponsorship can also be an effective means of activation for your main sponsorship strategy. It’s when you bring the elements together that you achieve the greatest impact for your reputation, and for the cause you wish to support.

By all means keep making donations to your favourite organisations. Charity is part of corporate responsibility and remains a vital form of funding for many non-profit organisations. As a general rule though, social sponsorship is more engaging, more complex, and therefore more effective. It does involve effort and planning – but that’s where a specialist sponsorship company can help.

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