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Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to Get AND Keep Sponsorships

Sponsorships can come in many forms.  But most often, it means that a company gives in-kind or in cash to offset an organization or event.  I've been on both sides of these partnership - asking for sponsorships and giving sponsorships.  This post a kind of a how to after being on both sides of a fence.  I started seeking sponsorships when I started producing dog sport events way back in the day.  I got a variety of in-kind sponsorships from canine preventative medication, dog foods, and branded toys.  When I started putting on food events, I started to get cash sponsorships as well as in-kind sponsorships.

Over the last few years, I've given quite a bit to many organizations and causes.  I've been asked to give my services or time to help execute events, which is conceptually the same as a sponsorship from the perspective of a small business.  I'm sponsoring in giving my time and services.  For some large events, I've spent as much as 60 hours for individual causes without pay, and I've worked with some brands testing many iterations of recipes out of my pocket.  Sometimes I get recognized as a sponsor, but most of the time, I don't get anything at all. 

Needless to say, my giving pool is currently dry, and I've been declining requests for pro-bono consulting or products.  I've found that increasingly, people and organizations have presented a self-entitled attitude.  Not only is that attitude a major turn off, it discourages me from ever working with that person or group.  I'm a person.  I do not have endless personal funds to give to non-profits.  I have a family and friends that I would like to see.  I am not obligated to give my time away.  Now don't get me wrong.  There are many instances in which I am happy to help, and I volunteer my time and my services without being approached.  I do still enjoy helping causes and friends, but I'm much more selective in what I do these days.

Regardless of what kind of sponsorship you're seeking or planning on giving, the following rules come in handy.

1. Keep your ego in check.  Don't assume that everyone knows the mission of your organization or cares for that matter.  To be blunt, your organization may seem awesome in your eyes. However, others might not have such rosy feelings about it.   If you're contacting someone you don't know, be sure to introduce yourself and your organization.  Don't make the person hunt on the Google machine for what your organization does.  Don't also make the person expend time trying to decide if your organization fits their goals and philosophy.  The more time someone has to look up who you are, the higher the likelihood they'll just chunk your email into spam.

2. Be nice.  I always try to start and end an email with a thanks.  You have no idea what other responsibilities the other person has.  Even responding to your email to say "no," is still a few extra minutes that other person doesn't have.  Just to give you an idea, to entertain a sponsorship proposal, I spend at least 15-20 minutes looking over the person's online presence, relationships that person has, potential impact it has on my business, and thinking about the sponsorship arrangements.  Even if I do decline, that's 15-20 minutes I've invested.  Your time is valuable, and so is mine.  Please respect it.

3. Bring something to the table.  This is a Randy Pausch line.  What do you or your organization bring to the table?  Make sure that you are explicit in what the sponsorship offers the other person.  I field sponsorship requests frequently, and a HUGE lacking in many of the proposals is what do I get out of it?  Many proposals have plenty of "this is what we need," but rarely is there a strong case for "this what your sponsorship can do for you."  And "your name will appear on the website" is not a great incentive for me.  I've had my name all over the place, and I can't think of a single time where it got me anything.  I'm sorry, but altruism is out the window when you're asking for a commitment.

4. Quit using the "we're a non-profit" line.  This may seem offensive, but I'm tired of hearing that line when I'm being hit up for sponsorships.  There are hundreds of non-profits in Austin.  I could be giving my resources to any of the other non-profits.  Why is your non-profit more important than the others?  If you want my time and services, I need a compelling reason.  Additionally, I already have a list of non-profits that I personally support.  Unless you have a compelling case, that line doesn't move the needle for me.  Also, just because I support some non-profits, it doesn't mean I have to support them all.  When I hear that "But you helped *insert name of non-profit here,* you can help us" line, it makes me think that the non-profit is very self-entitled.  You can guarantee that's going to be a "NO!" 

5. Again, be nice to your sponsors.  Sponsors are the ones that fund many events, and it may seem obvious, but be NICE to your sponsors.  If someone asked me for product, services, or cash, and then treated me poorly, I would never work with them again.  I'm a person, and I try to be a nice person.  While I'm not surprised by the poor treatment people give to their sponsors, it is appalling every time.

6. Accept declines gracefully.  Please understand that not all organizations or businesses have the funds and effort to give.  Even if they say "no," thank them and move on.  There's nothing worse than a nasty email or phone calls.  Even worse are the threats about public guilt trips.  I've heard stories of groups pulling the "if you don't sponsor us, I'll tweet bad things about you" line.  That is disgusting behavior, and I'd call them out on it publicly.  Entitlement needs to be smashed with a giant hammer.

7. Even if you are unhappy, approach the problem diplomatically and offer a solution.  I did pro-bono work (upwards of 60 hours) for an organization that had numerous major issues.  One of the biggest ones was how they treated pro-bono providers and volunteers.  Even though this organization was wrought with falling membership over the last five years and loss of brand sponsorships, they had the nerve to yell at me for their own shortcomings.  Their conference attendance had fallen by more than half since 2005.  I won't name that group, but if you ask me specific questions about the experience, I am completely transparent.  Treating people who give you their services with rudeness is a surefire way to ruin your reputation.  Unfortunately, the members of the organization were an absolute delight.  It was the administration that needed a severe reality check.  This was a particularly emotionally draining experience for me as the lovely members kept asking me why I did not officially join the organization.  I couldn't bear to say that their administrators were completely jerks running the organization into the ground.

8. Don't be squirrelly.  I've brought cupcakes to events before, and people would literally steal them.  People would walk behind me, grab them, and run off.  A certain person in particular would do it repeatedly at events.  He would make a big effort to NOT make eye contact with me.  Creepy.  If you can't look me in the eye, you probably shouldn't be taking my things.  I'd confront him in person, but he keeps running away from me.

9. Think about the demographics.  Does your event or cause fit into the sponsors' demographics?  If you're making high end custom decor products for bridal showers, you probably don't want to sponsor decor for an elementary school graduation.  Those elementary school kids don't care about your products.  Their parents probably don't care about the decor, and those elementary school kids aren't going to be purchasing your products anytime soon.  Make sure your demographics fits the demographics of the sponsors.  No one wants to spend time and effort on non-target audiences.

10. Make sure you truly thank your sponsors.  I'm not talking about just giving them recognition.  I'm talking about thanking them with a hand-written note or a phone call.  When it comes down to it, we're all people.  We want to feel appreciated and valued.  If you don't value your sponsors, don't ask for their resources.  If you can't thank them, then you don't deserve them.

11. Give more than you can receive.  This is a personal philosophy of mine.  I try to give to my sponsors more than I can receive.  If that means I give them more media coverage than agree upon, so be it.  I often spend months developing a relationship with a sponsor before I approach them with a sponsorship opportunity.  In many cases, that translates into people looking to sponsor or give to me before I ever approach them.  Relationships are the foundation of all business.  Don't neglect to give to those before you start receiving.

12. Show gratitude for even the smallest gesture. Today, Sept. 16th, I met a little girl who could teach us all a lesson.  I was shopping, and a little girl (about 7 years old) and her mother were in front of me in the checkout line.  Her mother didn't have enough money to afford their purchases by eight cents.  I was zoning out until I heard the mother tell the little girl that the had to put their things back.  I don't even know what they were buying, but I gave the cashier the eight cents.  The little girl and mother were so ecstatic and overwhelmed with joy, that they kept thanking me.  To me, eight cents was just a tiny gesture.  Eight cents to teach a child caring for others is such an inexpensive investment that I didn't even blink.  But what struck me was the amount of gratitude for such a tiny gesture.  People and organizations should learn a lesson from that little girl.  Showing gratitude for even small acts of kindness goes a long way.  I should start practicing random acts of gratitude.

I could tell you sponsorship and pro-bono horror stories all day long.  I worked over 100 hours raising money for an organizations in the past, and today, they pretend not to know me.  You can probably guess how that makes me feel.  You can probably also guess why I have stopped conversing with them, and I don't attend their events.  For another group, I invested $400 out of my pocket to keep their club afloat.  When I was a teaching assistant in grad school, $400 was almost half of my monthly stipend.  The response I got was "we didn't care about you anyways."  I don't even pay dues to them anymore, and I've been approached numerous times about why I left the group.  It doesn't take a psychologist to guess how I feel about them now.  I have no sympathy for groups who behave in such rude ways.

I've had many sponsorships, and I truly thank them for their support.  If I've ever made any of them feel unappreciated, I should be given a swift kick. On the other hand, when organizations and people make me feel unappreciated, they are added to my blacklist of organizations to never support.   I hope that my transparent and unfiltered views helps others when navigating sponsorships.  As someone on both sides of the table, I'm pretty sensitive to the needs of both sides.  I did not sugar coat this blog post.  You might be offended, and that's okay.  You might realize that your behavior isn't very nice.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Taiwanese Pork Belly - ARUGH for Talk Like a Pirate Day

The King of Flavor.  The Godfather of Charcuterie.  The Mistress of Breakfast.  Those are just some random names I made up for Pork Belly, otherwise known as Bacon.  Most people were introduced to pork belly in the form of thin (relatively) slices of bacon.  Coming from a different cultural background, I was first introduced to pork belly in the form of thick pieces cooked in sauces and served with sticky white rice.  This recipe is for my family's version of Taiwanese Pork Belly.  It is often called Taiwanese Pork Belly Stew or Braised Pork Belly.  The stew portion of this recipe can be served with a wide variety of carbohydrates including rice or noodles.

**My mother called me after watching this video.  We differ on the interpretation of this recipe, with hers being "the right way" and mine being an "evolution of the right way."  Nonetheless, here we go.  My mother says that you shouldn't mix the pork belly and ground pork.  Either make the dish with only pork belly or only ground pork.  My mother also says that the size of the dried mushrooms should match the size of the meat.  If you use pork belly, cut the mushrooms to the size of the pork belly.  If you use ground pork, mince the dried mushrooms finely. 

Taiwanese Pork Belly Stew
Feeds 12-16.
  • 2 lbs of pork belly (I would say, the more the better)
  • 2 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup dried mushrooms (rehydrated in warm water for at least an hour before use)
  • 2 tablespoons fried shallots (available at any Asian grocery market)
  • 2 teaspoons of Five spice powder
  • 2/3 cup dark soy sauce (depending on your personal preference)
  • 10 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Pinch of ground white pepper
  • Water (save water used for soaking dried mushrooms for extra flavor)
  • Optional: 6-12 hard boiled eggs, already peeled
  • Optional: Salt if you really need it. 
1. Remove mushrooms from the water and slice or dice into bite size pieces.  I like to slice mine into ribbons.  My mother likes to dice hers into quarter inch chunks. Make sure to discard the stem portion into your bokashi bin or composter.  The stem is tough and very unpleasant to eat, though they are great for giving your dinner guests a great jaw workout.  Set the sliced/diced mushrooms aside.

2. Slice or dice the pork belly into bite size pieces.  Again, much of this is personal preference.  I like mine to be about two inches long and about 3/4 inch thick.  I think it makes for a prettier presentation.  Some restaurant likes to dice their pork belly into smaller 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch chunks.  I think that makes for a more home style look and feel to the presentation of the dish.  Don't fret of the size of your pork belly pieces.  Let the fat do the the flavor talking.

3. Heat a large skillet or pot (at least 8 quarts or so).  When hot, place the pork belly in the pan to get a nice sear on it.  Flip the pork belly over once it is crispy.  If your pork belly is in smaller chunks, sautée in the hot skillet like you would to render bacon, but don't render. Some fat will come out, and that fat will be lovely.  Simply crisp it at high heat and leave it be.

4. There are two variations at this step, but both will yield similar outcomes.  My mother likes to add in the raw ground pork and garlic cloves at this stage, break it up into chunks with a spoon, and then to move onto step 5.  I like to add raw ground pork and garlic at this stage, fry it up so that the fat from the pork belly coats the garlic and ground pork, and then move on.  I like to fry the raw ground pork because I like to make sure my ground pork is really done, and I like the nutty flavors of fried garlic.  I think traditional Taiwanese food purists would prefer the sweet mellow flavor of garlic cooked over low heat over the nutty flavors over higher heat.  To each their own.

5. Add the soy sauce, mushroom pieces, five spice powder, and pepper into the skillet.  Traditional Taiwanese dishes are slightly sweet, so you can add a teaspoon of sugar if you like.  Some people find it odd, but HEY! I'm Taiwanese.  We're descendants of pirates and political dissenters.  Don't talk smack about our food.  Also add enough water to cover the meat, and allow it to come to a simmer.  I would highly recommend using the mushroom soaking water to add a depth of flavor to the stew. 

6. Simmer for at least 60 minutes or so taking care to mix it up once in a while.  You want to make sure that the soy flavors permeate the fat of the pork belly. 

7. Taste and decide if it needs more water, salt, soy, or pepper.  Keep in mind that this is something that you'll eat with a carbohydrate, so it should be a little on the saltier side.  But the final flavor profile is really up to your personal preference.  The soupy part should still be relatively dark with soy at the point.  If you want to add hard boiled eggs to the stew, do it now.  You'll want to add them whole, and make sure they are covered with the soup.  Allow to simmer for another 15-30 minutes until the eggs are tinted with the soy sauce.  The pork belly should be soft and melt right into steamed rice.

8. Remove from heat and serve with rice or over noodles.  Top with green onion and a sprig of cilantro. 

*This dish freezes well.  Once the stew has cooled, you can place it in the fridge to solidify the fat.  Skim off the fat, transfer into storage containers, and freeze until later use.  The texture of the egg whites will change once frozen, but not in a bad way.  It tends to get layer-y, but still totally delicious. 

Taiwanese Pork Belly Noodle Soup
This has got to be one of the easiest recipes ever, besides Rachel Ray's lemon sorbet recipe.

  • 4 cups of Taiwanese Pork Belly Stew (or about half of the previous recipe)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 lb of noodles (cooked until al dente)
  • Garnishes of scallion and cilantro
Combine the 4 cups of Taiwanese Pork Belly Stew and 4 cups of water into a large pot.  Heat until simmering.  Add the cooked pasta, simmer for 60 seconds, and turn off the heat.  Adjust the flavor of the soup by adding more water or more soy sauce to suit your flavor preferences.  Serve with scallion and cilantro for a pretty pop of color.

*My mother would recommend that you use Asian style noodles that come in a box at the Asian grocery store.  I used whole wheat spaghetti pasta for the photos.  It doesn't really matter what kind you use, but you'll be less Taiwanese if you don't follow my mother's advice. 

*I had this with a Brooklyn Brown, and it was tasty.  I think it would also pair nicely with a Chimay Reserve, Dogfish Head Burton Baton, or even an IPA to contrast with the sweetness of the soup. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ghirardelli's Intense Dark to benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation

This blog post and chocolate tasting party was sponsored by Ghirardelli.  I am paid to host the party.  
With temperatures dropping from the high 100's and October around the corner, it is time to start thinking about Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  This year Ghirardelli is kicking it up by supporting the National Breast Cancer Foundation.  From Sept. 1, 2011 through the end of December 2011, Ghirardelli will donate $1 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation for every purchase of specially marked pink ribbon packages of Ghirardelli Intense Dark.  These specially marked chocolate bars will be available at grocery stores and specialty retailers nationwide.

Courtesy of Ghirardelli 
To celebrate Ghirardelli's support to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Leslie Sbrocco (@BeaThirstyGirl) has  teamed up with Ghirardelli's to throw chocolate pairing parties.  After the parities, Ghirardelli Chocolate and will host a live tasting party and Tweet Chat on Intense Dark™ chocolate to be held Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST. They'll be tasting four varieties of IntenseDark—Evening Dream®, Twilight Delight™, Midnight Reverie® and Toffee Interlude®—and creating and sharing food and wine pairings.

Courtesy of Ghirardelli 
Ghirardelli is supporting the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF). From September 1 through the end of December 2011, specially marked pink ribbon packages of Ghirardelli Intense Dark™ found at grocery and specialty retailers nationwide will carry a pink ribbon code worth a $1 donation to the NBCF (up to $100,000 total donation). Follow @BeAThirstyGirl and the hashtag #TGTaste to learn more about this fun event. 

Above were some photos of pairings that I'll be having at my party.  Chocolate smores, chocolate and cheese, and chocolate with wine, and chocolate with root beers are all popular pairings, but I'm going to bring a little twist to my pairing party.  I'll be pairing the darker chocolates with pungent cheeses and salty olives.  I love the chocolate and salt combination, especially salty truffles.  In addition to pairing, I'll also be making some chocolate pork riblets based off of this recipe.  Pork, cheese, olives, and chocolate; it may sound odd, but it could be a winner.

There will be a wonderful surprise in addition to the chocolate pairings.  Michael Chu (@cookingengineer) brought over some pecan praline ice cream he made using the Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream recipe, and it was fantastic!  It was so good, that several other friends bought the book of recipes.  At my party, we'll have two versions of the Jeni's Splendid darkest chocolate ice cream.  Michael Chu will be making the recipe using a home ice cream maker, specifically the Kitchen Aid that attaches to a mixer.  I will be serving a hand churned recipe.  For those who are coming to the party, it will be awesome!

And if you'd like another way to enjoy chocolate while benefiting disease awareness, pencil in the Austin Chocolate Festival on Oct. 15-16th.  The festival has raised $5,000 for the Austin Affiliate of Susan G. Komen, and this year's festival will benefit Multiple Sclerosis (MS) awareness.  See the photo below for a little preview for the festival.  Photo by John M. P. Knox.

Again, don't forget to Follow @BeAThirstyGirl and #TGTaste on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST.