MIT Executive MBA

Seeking Sponsorship

Navigating the Sponsorship Landscape

Securing corporate sponsorship – both for time and financial support – is often a process that will require you to navigate organizational policies and politics in order to gain support and sell your plan.

Approximately 60% of students in the MIT EMBA program receive some level of organizational financial sponsorship. You can increase your chances of securing support by carefully planning your request. View your organization through the following 3 Lenses will help you to navigate your sponsorship landscape.

The Strategic Landscape

Evaluating your organizations strategic landscape means understanding what funding options and procedures currently exist. It also means understanding the goals, priorities, and strategic initiatives at the firm level and at your boss’s level. You can use this information to frame the question of why you are pursuing and MBA and answer how it will align with organizational priorities.

Key questions to ask yourself are:

  • What are my boss’s priorities?
  • Does my organization have a formal MBA/EMBA financial sponsorship process or does it consider sponsorship on a case-by-case basis?
  • What processes and procedures should I note, align with, work around and/or leverage? Which avenue should I investigate first?
  • What is our budget cycle?
  • What/when is our performance review cycle?
  • When should I make my proposal?
  • Who will need to be involved in this decision?

The Political Landscape

To evaluate your organization’s political landscape you will want to identify your key stakeholders  and understand who is likely to support or resist your initiative.

Key questions to ask yourself are:

  • Who are my key stakeholders? What is important to each one?
  • How compatible are their interests with mine?  Can my request be framed to the benefit of all?
  • What are the sources of power of the various parties?  Can sources of power be changed?
  • Can we negotiate a win-win and what would it look like?
  • Who is likely to support or resist my proposal?  Why?

The Cultural Landscape

Your organizations cultural landscape consists of the unspoken beliefs and value of the organization. This includes how your organization thinks about professional development, staff retention, and experiences with previous EMBA programs.

Key questions to ask yourself to understand the Cultural Landscape are:

  • What is my organization’s culture? Is it competitive or collaborative, secretive or open? Does my organization value innovation and independent thinking?
  • Does my organization value professional development on an enterprise-wide level? Or are employees encouraged to take ownership for their own development?
  • Does my organization prefer to develop employees, or hire talent?
  • Have positive/negative precedents been set with regards to EMBA/MAP sponsorship?

In addition to understanding the strategic, political, and cultural nuances of your organization, it can be very helpful to recruit an organizational champion. Your champion will be interested in what you will gain from the program, will actively support your growth throughout the program, and will support the application of classroom learning back at work.

Top 5 Tips for Negotiating Sponsorship

1. Start Early

While some applicants are hesitant to begin the process of negotiating sponsorship before they are admitted to the program, there are things you can do to lay the groundwork. Identify your champion, ask yourself the questions listed above in the Navigating Sponsorship Landscape section, and test the waters to see if the organization is open to your sponsorship proposal.

2. Make Your Case

As you are framing your strategy, understand what makes the MIT EMBA unique, and how it aligns with and supports organizational objectives. Start to gather information from across your organization to support your candidacy and negotiations.

3. Sell Benefits Not Features

Think about your request in terms of the benefits that your organization (or boss) will realize through you. These benefits could be realizing a key strategic initiative because of your new knowledge, increasing competitiveness or profitability, growing the management team, retaining key employees (YOU), and bringing in a new viewpoint that will help the organization to be more innovative. Emphasize that you will be applying what you learn in real-time to your organization.

4. Frame Your Financial Request

Frame your sponsorship in terms of a per year request for each year of the program can make the financial commitment more manageable. For example, tuition payments touch three calendar years (one semester in 2021, three in 2022, and one in 2023). Structuring your request on a per year basis will map to budget cycles and spread out the financial commitment. Also, asking for less than the full tuition demonstrates your commitment to the EMBA and to your employer.  

5. Be Persistent and Follow Through

Earning corporate sponsorship can take some time. It can help to think of it as a diplomacy process that has multiple avenues to success and requires patience and persistence navigating to a successful solution. While this may be a high priority for you, you have to be responsible for making it your stakeholders’ priority by following up and following through. Once you earn corporate sponsorship, remember that your stakeholders are likely very interested in what you are learning and how you are putting it into practice, so follow through with regular updates and invite your champion to the MIT EMBA Boss Day—an event designed specifically for this purpose.