While arts organizations are known for pushing the boundaries of creativity, the same cannot be said for the way many work with corporate partners.

Whether it’s short-sightedness on behalf of boards of directors, staff without the necessary sales experience or simply an unwillingness to upset the applecart, many organizations remain stuck in a development mindset—and are depriving themselves of significant sponsorship revenue.

“It’s frustrating—arts organizations aren’t terribly creative in how they approach and work with corporate partners,” said one sponsorship seller who works with a number of performing arts oraganizations.

Below, ten best practices on selling sponsorship for arts and cultural properties:

#1) Prioritize access
Arts organizations need to provide access to their most valuable asset: patrons.

The Saint Louis Art Museum secured Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank as a sponsor of its membership program. The bank uses the partnership to engage high-end donors, clients and employees at exhibition openings, galas and other events.

“The most important aspect of the relationship is the opportunity to cultivate and entertain clients at our institution,” said Amber Withycombe, director of institutional giving with the Saint Louis Art Museum.

#2) Take donor-centric approach
Whether pitching a high-income donor or a corporation, sellers need to be prepared to offer packages tailored to the needs of each prospect.

That means offering revenue-driving opportunities for corporate partners and quality-of-life benefits (recognition, valet parking, etc.) to high-level donors.

“Many arts organizations approach sponsorship with a glossy brochure and say ‘here are our benefit levels and sponsorship opportunities—which ones do you want?’ We’re always thinking about the way our donors think, feel and emote,” said David Krohn, director of development with the Houston Grand Opera.

#3) Offer transactional components
Specialty retailers, auto manufacturers and other companies are increasingly looking to sell product directly to arts patrons—and measure success.

The need for measurable ROI has taken on increased importance amid uncertainties over today’s political and economic environment, said Jon Holman, president of The Holman Group, a sponsorship sales agency that specializes in the arts.

“I’m hearing from many marketers—primarily in the luxury space—that they have to see very specific ROI.”

To ensure sponsorship success, Holman asks each prospect for their specific sales goals. He then shares those goals with clients and their patrons.

While some organizations may be leery about promoting sponsor product, most board members and patrons understand its importance, he said.

“They’re very successful business people. They get it.”

#4) Provide patron value
Arts organizations must walk a fine line with sales-driven partnerships—anything too commercial can easily result in pushback from patrons.

One way to navigate the commercial waters: promotional offers that provide a direct benefit to patrons.

BMW, for example, activates the Orange County Museum of Art, Soho House and other arts organizations with a promotion that offers a discount on vehicle purchases. The automaker positions the offer as a patron benefit.

“It’s hard for a company to not renew a partnership when they’re generating income on it,” said Holman, who orchestrated the partnerships.

#5) Create in-store events
Sponsors also can provide value via in-store events.

Harry Winston has leveraged its partnership with the American Ballet Theatre with a shopping experience/fundraiser for top donors, board members and other stakeholders at its Rodeo Drive store in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The ABT communicates the jewelers’ sales goals to patrons prior to the event to ensure success, said Holman, who brokered the deal.

“It was all communicated upfront before we finalized the partnership.”

#6) Uncover new inventory
Arts organizations can enhance the value of their offers by moving beyond tickets, recognition and other typical sponsorship inventory.

That includes proprietary events, cobranded content (albeit a potentially challenging asset due to ownership rights) and social media inclusion.

The LA Opera, for example, is fielding an increase in requests for inclusion in blog posts, Facebook mentions and other social media outreach.

“More people are asking for it, even before it’s presented,” said Marlinda Menashe, LA Opera director of institutional giving & government relations.

#7) Host sponsor exhibitions
Some properties have found success with sponsor exhibitions.

Case in point: Breguet last year hosted a watch exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor art museum.

The partnership was a win-win: The watch manufacturer wanted to host an exhibition at a major American museum, while the museum was looking to secure funds for the restoration of the Salon Dorẻ, a replica of a pre-revolutionary Parisian salon.

The museum used the rights fee to pay for the restoration.

“It was a match made in heaven,” said Holman, noting the restoration supported the luxury watch company’s historic French positioning.

#8) Leverage talent
Some properties have found success leveraging conductors, soloists and other talent to secure new partners.

The challenge: navigating the line between “owned assets” (talent directly employed by the arts organization) and “free agents” (conductors, soloists, etc.).

But both types of relationships can be successfully navigated.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic leveraged an endorsement deal between conductor Gustavo Dudamel and Rolex into an official sponsorship, while Joffrey Ballet dancers worked with Marriott on a training program for guest service employees.

The dancers trained JW Marriott employees in presentation, confidence in conversation and high-end customer service.

#9) Offer money can’t buy experiences
While “one-of-kind experiences” is an overused term, arts organizations have much to benefit from providing sponsors with unique experiences.

That can range from dinners with talent after a performance to conductor chats and behind-the-scenes tours where art is being restored.

“Partners crave unusual events and experiences where we can deliver access to our artistic staff and dancers, who attend the events and mingle with guests for a truly memorable ‘can’t buy’ experience,” said Susan Rutledge, senior manager of corporate partnerships with the National Ballet of Canada.

Those experiences can also be used close deals, said Holman, who has hosted prospects at American Ballet Theatre rehearsals.

“It’s about letting the actual craft of the art touch the marketer’s soul to get them to realize how important it is to support.”

#10) Offer category exclusivity
Arts organizations can increase the value of their offerings with exclusive partnerships.

Category exclusivity is the most valuable sponsor benefit, according to the 2016 IEG/ESP Properties Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey. Sixty percent of respondents ranked the benefit a nine or ten on a 10-point scale.

“A company will not sponsor an event or program if a competitor is there because it dilutes their investment. The most successful way to gain interest from a company is by granting category exclusivity and by proposing dynamic activation ideas that provide an elevated experience using their brand as a vehicle,” said Benjamin Orona, strategic partnerships manager with The Public Theater.

When negotiating exclusive deals, properties should ask prospects what companies and/or categories they would like to lock out. For example, some luxury brands do not want to be associated with mass-market brands.

“Placing a brand that wants to achieve a certain level of prestige next to a lesser brand may not be very appealing,” said Holman.