What is a patron?
What is the purpose of having a patron?
Are all Patrons the same?
- A celebrity can help you raise your public profile by getting you publicity.
- A politician can help you open doors and make you more credible to many people.
- A scientist or expert in your area of work will lend weight and gravitas.
- An establishment figure (such as a royal) may do all of the above.
How do we go about finding a Patron?
- Think about the sort of Patron who will be best for your organisation (see previous question) and the sort of things you would like from them. This is generally the hardest part of the process and you may need to have many conversations and brainstorming sessions before you have a shortlist of possibilities.
- Target likely individuals.
- Approach the individuals with a letter that set outs who you are, what the organisation does and what you would expect of a patron. Do make use of anyone associated with the organisation who has a credible link to the Patron to make the initial approach.
- Follow up the initial approach with offers to meet them, invitations to events, open days or activities.
- Make a clear proposal in writing.
- If ‘yes’ follow up with a conversation clarifying expectations that is then put in writing in a letter of agreement. If ‘no’ thank them for their interest and ask if there is some other way that would like to contribute (i.e. donation of money, item to be auctioned, etc).
Could we have more than one patron?
What does the patron actually do?
What are the Patrons responsibilities?
What tends to go wrong?
- Patron and organisation loose touch
- Patron is of little value (celebrity status fades, political contacts go stale, and so on)
- Patron becomes a liability (negative press, involvement in scandal and so on)
In the first case it is important to keep in regular contact, adding the Patron to the newsletter database and making sure that the chair contacts the Patron once or twice a year by phone or letter. However, some Patrons (such as musicians and actors who tour incessantly) may in practice be out of contact for long periods. Using their name and photo may still be worthwhile. However, if you wish to end the relationship follow the steps in the agreement letter.
A Patron who seems of little value poses a dilemma. Provided they are not having a negative impact it may be worth hanging onto them until you can recruit a new Patron. And even an obscure Patron can help lend some credibility to your organisation. If you do decide to change patrons, to save face you can give the old Patrons the title Emeritus Patron or Former Patron and still invite them to an event each year.
A Patron who becomes a liability should be dropped swiftly (this would constitute ‘exceptional circumstances’ and the notice period set out in the model letter of agreement would not apply). Bear in mind that in practice this may be difficult if their photo is on the cover of the annual report, and their name on your letterhead, though it will be easy enough to remove them from your website.