A Proven Guide to Managing Project Sponsors with a Free Sponsor Plan Template and Tool

Executive Sponsorship of a Change: Step-by-Step Sponsor Guide, Roles & Responsibilities

This free guide provides you with everything you need to know about project sponsors and project sponsor roles and responsibilities. It includes a step-by-step checklist and free change management sponsorship plan templates.

Plus, Get a FREE Sponsor Tool with Auto-generated Engagement Plan!

As Pioneers of best change management practices, we believe in supporting the change management and project management communities with our toolkits, templates, and samples, including the free change management sponsor plan, roadmap, and sponsorship checklist offered below for engaging, managing, and working with your program sponsor(s).

Over the last two decades, I have delivered large-scale change management and project management for a wide range of organizations including Apple, Intel, Goldman Sachs, Cisco, Deloitte, Accenture, and more.

Developing and implementing a well-structured project sponsor plan increases your ability to engage with sponsors, and to coach them on their project sponsor role. Most sponsors I have worked with often presume that their main role is just to approve the budget for a project and to oversee that project.

I often need to spend time educating these executive sponsors that we need them to do more than just signing the check on a project. We need them to be visible advocates of the change. We need them to engage with other leaders to ensure leadership buy-in. And, most importantly, we need them to provide active and visible participation throughout the duration of the project.

free project management sponsor tools and templates

Get Instant Access to All Free OCM Solution Tools, Templates, Guides, and Other Resources

When engaging with sponsors, I often leverage the executive sponsorship guide outlined on this page, as well as the free OCMS project sponsor plan and template that you can obtain below and use for your project sponsorship engagement planning.

Let me know if you have any questions: Send message.

Ogbe Airiodion
Sr. Change Management Lead

Do you have any feedback about this sponsor project management guide or have questions about the main role of the sponsor(s) in project management? Please reach out and let us know.

Table of Contents – FREE Project Sponsor Tool & Templates

Keep on scrolling down this page to read each section or click any link below to go directly to that section.

1. List of OCMS Free Change Management Sponsor Tools & Resources
2. What Is a Project Sponsor? Definition

3. Types of Executive Sponsors – What You Need to Know
4. What is the Role of a Sponsor?
5. Role of Primary Project Management Sponsor
6. Role of Secondary Sponsor in Project Management
7. Role of Critical Sponsor/Stakeholder in Projects
8. Free Business Sponsor Management Plan, Tool, and Templates
9. OCMS Auto-Generated Sponsor Engagement Plan
10. Change Management Experience
11. Conclusion – Change Management Sponsorship Model
12. Project Sponsors FAQ

Contact us if you have questions or feedback about this end-to-end OCM Solution guide that is based on the Prosci sponsor roadmap and other change methodologies.

List of OCMS Free Change Management Sponsor Tools & Resources

1. FREE Sponsor Assessment & Management Tool (Cloud-based Software)

Unlock the power of OCMS FREE Sponsor Assessment and Management Tool.

Revolutionize your project management with our cutting-edge executive sponsor template. OCMS Sponsor Assessment and Management tool, offered at absolutely no cost empowers you to effortlessly track and master the art of sponsor task management.

We’ll get into more details about this change management sponsor tool further down in this guide.

free sponsor project management tools and templates

2. Free Ultimate Sponsor Engagement in Organizational Change Management Guide

OCMS Ultimate Guide on Project Sponsor Engagement emphasizes the important role of project sponsors in steering change initiatives. It offers insights into the responsibilities and importance of sponsors, provides an in-depth view of sponsor engagement plans, and presents strategies to enhance sponsor visibility and advocacy.

Read on to find out what else you can expect to learn from our change management sponsor guide.

project management sponsor role guide

3. Free Sponsor Kick-off Meeting Agenda Template

The Sponsor Kick-Off Meeting Agenda is a well-structured sponsor plan for the initial meeting with project sponsors.

Sponsor Project Management Kick-off Meeting Agenda document helps you set the stage for a collaborative and successful partnership by creating a welcoming atmosphere and expressing sincere gratitude for the sponsors’ invaluable involvement. This introductory segment is essential in establishing a positive and motivated tone for the rest of the meeting, fostering a sense of enthusiasm and commitment among all participants.

(Instant Access to Free Sponsor Kick-off Meeting Agenda Template)

4. Free Sponsor & Stakeholder Related Communication Templates

Transparency with stakeholders and sponsors is of utmost importance throughout a project’s lifecycle.

Utilizing OCMS free communication tools and templates for sponsors in project management can facilitate the dissemination of progress updates and help ensure that everyone is aligned with the project’s objectives.

free sponsor tools

OCMS Portal Free Tools

 5. Free Sponsor Engagement Strategy Template (Downloadable Excel)

Free OCMS Sponsor Engagement Strategy Template (Excel) is a useful living document for planning and tracking of sponsor engagement strategies.

Apart from the planned type of engagement strategy, you’ll also be able to enter:

  • Activity Type,
  • Purpose of the Activity, and
  • Cadence

Get your free sponsor project management engagement strategy template and stay on top of all your project sponsor communications.

project sponsor change strategy template

What Is a Project Sponsor? Project Sponsor Meaning & Definition

A project sponsor is a specific type of stakeholder. He or she is a manager or leader that is willing to sponsor a change or a person who has been mandated by the organization’s leadership to be involved in sponsoring a change.

Project sponsor responsibilities can vary widely.  For example, one role of an executive sponsor may be to approve a budget and participate in the financial areas of a project. Other responsibilities of project sponsors can include things like speaking with leaders to help mitigate resistance or helping spread awareness about the project.

There are many different answers to “What does a sponsor do?” which is why coaching is often part of the program sponsor engagement process. Coaching helps prepare a person for their project sponsor role and responsibilities.

You can review the Executive Sponsorship Spectrum image below to get an idea of the many areas that can be included in the role of a sponsor.

Sponsor project management - project sponsor meaning

Project Sponsor Definition

You’ll find that a sponsor in project management can be involved in things like:

  • Approving the Budget
  • Supporting the project
  • Coaching
  • Advocating for the change
  • Communicating with their team about the project
  • Acting as a liaison between the project team and their department
  • Helping to manage resistance
  • Assisting with overall change adoption

(Instant Access to ALL Free OCMS Sponsor Resources!)

Next, we’ll get into the different project sponsor roles and responsibilities as we explain the different types of project management sponsors. Let us know if you have any additional sample executive sponsor roles and responsibilities you would like to see included in this guide: contact OCM Solution.

Types of Executive Sponsors – What You Need to Know

Irrespective of whether they are using an APMG change framework, a CCM, CMS, or Prosci sponsor roadmap, change practitioners and project leads often assume that there is only one type of executive sponsor. Which is not the case.

There is more than one type of project sponsor that you need to know when doing sponsor project management activities, as each type of sponsor will have a slightly different executive sponsor role.  

What is an executive sponsor? Let us start with the overall executive sponsor description.

Executive Sponsor Definition:

Executive sponsors are senior leaders of an organization that are needed to sponsor and advocate for a change to increase the successful implementation of that change.

Executive sponsorship can be separated into three categories:

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Critical

free sponsor tool OCMS

These are the same 3 types of sponsors you’ll be able to choose from in Free Sponsor Assessment & Management Tool in the OCMS Portal.

OCMS Portal Free Tools

Next, we’ll go through the descriptions of each of those three types of sponsor in project management.

Overview of the Three Types of Program Sponsors

Primary sponsors, often referred to as project sponsors, are senior organizational managers. As part of their executive sponsor roles and responsibilities, they are tasked with approving budgets for a project and are responsible for the overall success of project implementation.

Being a primary executive sponsor involves approving the allocation of resources, approving project goals & objectives, and approving the project implementation roadmap. 

Primary sponsor role in project management:

  • Are responsible for overall project success
  • Approve budgets for a project
  • Allocate resources for project
  • Approve project goals, objectives, and implementation roadmap

Executive Sponsor Types. Free Business Change Software

What’s a Sponsor? | Types of Project Executive Sponsors

Secondary sponsors are managers, senior managers, executives, heads of departments, or business leaders that have a “stake” in the game because their department or organization will be impacted in some way by the change.

The project sponsor meaning for secondary executive sponsors also includes being key stakeholders for a project because of their ability to hinder or promote the project.

Secondary sponsors represent the various lines of businesses that will be impacted by a project, which is why they are also referred to as key stakeholders.

Secondary project sponsor role:

  • Oversee a department or organizational area impacted by the change project
  • Are senior leaders, managers, executives, etc. of an organization
  • Are not primarily responsible for the project
  • Can negatively or positively impact the success of a change project

Critical sponsors, often referred to as critical stakeholders because they may not yet be project sponsors, are any leader or manager that is absolutely needed to support the project in order for the project to be successful.

What is a project sponsor that’s “critical?” Critical sponsors are often highly influential and vocal managers within an impacted organization.

When critical stakeholders resist a project, the possibility that the project will fail is very high. Critical stakeholders may or may not be sponsors at this point or have project sponsor responsibilities, but it is essential that you identify these individuals, and include steps on your sponsorship plan for engaging with them and making them allies.

Critical project sponsor definition:

  • May or may not be a project sponsor as yet
  • Play a critical role in the success of a project
  • Are highly influential and/or highly vocal organizational leaders
  • Need to support a project for it to be successful

(Get Instant Access to Cloud-based Free Sponsor Tool and Downloadable Resources)

Do you have any input or feedback on the additional responsibilities of project sponsors? What’s the role of sponsor in project management?Please, contact OCMS and let us know. 

What is the Role of a Sponsor? Role of Sponsor in Project Management

So, what does a sponsor do in a project? Sponsors are often needed to wear multiple hats and there are several responsibilities of project sponsors that need to be relayed during coaching and engagement.

This section outlines the project sponsor roles and responsibilities of the different types of sponsors:

  • Primary executive sponsor
  • Secondary executive sponsor
  • Critical sponsor

free sponsor tool OCMS

Free Tool for Assessing and Managing Change & Project Sponsors 

OCMS comprehensive Guide on Project Sponsor Guide, available as a free downloadable resource, offers a wealth of benefits to project managers, change management professionals, and organizations.

Here are some key advantages of utilizing this FREE sponsor project management guide:

1. Understanding the Vital Role of Project Sponsors:
2.Comprehensive Elements of Sponsor Engagement Plans:
3. Guidance on Sponsor Engagement Activities
4. Enhancing Sponsor Engagement, Visibility, and Advocacy
5. Tips on How Change Managers Can Help Sponsors

OCMS comprehensive Guide on Project Sponsor Engagement empowers project teams and change management professionals with the knowledge and tools to foster stronger collaboration, enhance sponsor commitment, and ultimately drive the success of their projects.

Role of Primary Project Management Sponsor

As mentioned above, the primary sponsor’s role is more than just signing the checks and overseeing the project.

The project sponsor role of the primary sponsor includes:

  1. Engaging with other leaders, including secondary sponsors and critical sponsors to get cross-functional buy-in at the leadership level
  2. Waterfall/cascade communications
  3. Advocate the change
  4. Being a liaison: Primary sponsors play a vital role in facilitating a 2-way communication channel. They liaise between senior leadership and the change management project team, providing information from the change team to leadership and from leadership to the change team.
  5. Solicit other leaders that can act as secondary sponsors
  6. Engage with managers that are resisting the change to convert them into allies
  7. Build a change coalition at the leadership level for supporting the change
  8. Being a visible face for the project
  9. Attending meetings, and playing a very active role
  10. Kicking off the project
  11. Resolving barriers
  12. … and more

This is where our FREE Sponsor Kick-Off Meeting Agenda template can be of great help. Change management sponsorship plan kick-off meeting template is a meticulously organized plan designed for the initial meeting with project sponsors.

This document is a great tool to establish a collaborative and successful partnership. It does so by setting a welcoming tone and expressing genuine appreciation for the invaluable involvement of the sponsors. This introductory section is crucial for setting a positive and motivated tone for the meeting, instilling enthusiasm and commitment among all participants, and laying the foundation for a successful collaboration.

what's a sponsor kick off meeting agenda

Using a sponsorship roadmap is essential to ensure that you are tracking what sponsors need to complete, as well as when these tasks have been completed. 

Also, if you happen to be using the Prosci Sponsor Roadmap Checklist, then the free OCMS Sponsor Assessment and Management Tool & Template will be a great complementary resource that allows you to track and manage all your sponsors.

Role of Secondary Sponsor in Project Management

As mentioned in one of the sections above, a secondary sponsor is a manager or leader that represents an organization that will be impacted by the change.

In some cases, some secondary sponsors will also be primary sponsors. Meaning that their organization is being impacted by the change, and they are also the ones funding the project. This can mean that the role of the sponsor in project management can be similar to the primary sponsor type.

Key project sponsor responsibilities for secondary sponsors include:

  1. Advocating and supporting the change. When change occurs, people turn to their managers and leaders for direction and support. Employees look to their supervisors not only for direct communication messages about a change, but also to evaluate their level of support for the change effort. If a manager only passively supports or even resists a change, then you can expect the same from that person’s direct reports. Managers and supervisors need to demonstrate their support in active and observable ways.
  2. Helping to waterfall/cascade communications
  3. Resolving barriers to the change within their organizations
  4. Playing a liaison role. Managers and supervisors play a vital role in facilitating a 2-way communication channel. They liaise between their respective groups’ direct reports, managers and employees, and the change management project team, providing information from the change team to their group, and information (feedback, concerns, etc.) from their group to the change team.
  5. Recommending Change Champions from within their department. Change champions are employees within a group that help promote change among their peers. A secondary sponsor can support the change effort by recommending individuals they manage for roles as change champions.
  6. They act as resistance managers. No one is closer to a resistant employee than his or her leader. In terms of managing resistance, managers are in the best place to identify what resistance looks like, where it is coming from and the source of that resistance. Because of this, secondary sponsors are best suited to actively manage resistance to a change within their group, whenever that resistance occurs. They can use the OCM Solution Resistance Management Guide to hone in on which element of the change process is driving resistance and address it accordingly.

(Get Instant Access to our FREE Online Sponsor Tool & All Templates)

Role of Critical Sponsor in Projects

A critical sponsor, also known as a critical stakeholder, is a manager or leader whose buy-in and support for a change project is absolutely vital to the project’s success.

The critical stakeholder holds an influential role in an organization and may also be very vocal about their support or resistance for a project. One of the roles of the primary sponsor is to get critical stakeholders on board with a change project so it’s not derailed.

While a critical stakeholder/sponsor may not be a project sponsor in the same way as other types and may not have the same project sponsor role and responsibilities, they still need to be proactively managed. If not managed and engaged along with other project sponsor roles, the project can be in danger of failing.

What is a project sponsor that’s in the critical stakeholder role?

  1. Critical stakeholders are needed to support the project and to increase the success of the change. These are normally vocal and highly influential managers within their organization.
  2. We need these stakeholders to be visible advocates and to play a supporting role.

What are most common executive sponsor roles and responsibilities?

The common executive sponsor roles and responsibilities include:

  • providing leadership,
  • securing resources,
  • removing obstacles,
  • engaging stakeholders,
  • managing risks,
  • accountability,
  • decision-making, and
  • communication.

They also monitor project performance, celebrate successes, facilitate project closure and transition, ensure alignment with organizational strategy, and may provide mentoring and coaching.

Sign up for the free OCMS project management templates for assessing and managing the project sponsors

Free Sponsor Management Template & Reporting Dashboard – Sponsor Assessment Tool

The free OCMS Sponsor Tool is designed to evaluate project sponsors’ roles and contributions.

As you develop your project management sponsor plan, you’ll discover that OCMS offers a secure and free project sponsor template and tool that includes fields for evaluating your sponsors in terms of:

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Role
  3. Availability

OCMS Sponsor Tool Template – Assessment of Project Sponsor in Project Management

You can input these metrics into the tool using either of the following two methods:

  1. Manually score them based on your interactions with the sponsor.
  2. Utilize our built-in survey by clicking “Send a Survey”, which will direct you to the survey template for the Sponsor Assessment. Once sponsors submit their answers, they’ll be flowing directly into the OCMS Sponsor Tool.

Free Sponsor Project Management Assessment Surveys

executive sponsorship assessment survey OCMS free tool

Upon completing the program sponsor assessment, the OCMS tool will automatically calculate the sponsor’s Risk Level, making it easy for you to gauge their impact on your project.

Example of Project Sponsor Template in OCMS Portal

free OCMS program sponsor tool with template and reporting

Example of Project Sponsor Reporting in OCMS Portal

project sponsor tool reporting

(Instant Access to All Tools)

For those that are interested in Excel based change sponsorship management templates, you can get our free downloadable project sponsor templates and resources.

Auto-Generated Sponsor Engagement Plan in the OCMS Sponsor Tool

After scoring the three above mentioned metrics for a sponsor, you’ll receive the automatically generated sponsor engagement plan. This feature is designed to streamline your workflow and provide tailored recommendations based on the individual’s assessment.

To modify the change management strategy template, simply click the pencil icon at the top. Your edited plan will appear below the original one once saved.

change management plan example pdf

OCMS Portal Free Tools

(Get Instant Access to All Sponsor Assessment & Management Tools)

The sponsor assessment tool’s outputs offer valuable insights into the performance of project sponsors and assist the change management team in determining the most effective approach for engaging with them. It not only details the sponsor’s level of enthusiasm and influence but also outlines your communication strategy with the sponsor. It provides a range of engagement strategies tailored to the assessed Risk Level.

sponsor plan - ocms sponsor engagement plan

Engagement Plan for Project Sponsor in Project Management – OCM Solution Free Sponsor Assessment Tool

Change Management Experience is Very Important for Executive Program Sponsors

Sponsors are often needed to support change management activities (for example, helping to cascade communications, encouraging others to attend training, and also helping to mitigate resistance).

As such, it is essential that you understand each program sponsor’s change management experience, and document that information. Executive sponsors with low change management expertise will often require you to provide more coaching and engagement to them to help them fulfill their project management sponsor role.

Do you have questions about the role of executive sponsorship? Contact us to let us know.

Change Management Sponsorship Plan, Tool, and Templates (Cloud-based and Downloadable)

Whether you like to work in the cloud or offline in Excel and Word, OCMS sponsor project management provide you with flexibility. If you prefer using cloud-based software from any device and any location, our free Sponsor Assessment & Management Tool may be an optimal solution for you.

You can always make the most of it by utilizing both cloud Sponsor Tool and Reporting, in combination with OCMS free downloadable Sponsor tools and resources.

If you prefer to work offline in Excel sponsor spreadsheet, then downloadable Project Sponsor templates and resources may be your choice.

Your OCMS Free Sponsor Tools, Templates, and Guides fit all workflows!

free sponsor project management tools and templates

OCMS Portal Free Tools

(Get Instant Access to All FREE OCM Solution Tools)

Conclusion – Change Management Sponsorship Model

We hope you have found this change management project sponsor guide to be useful. Project and program sponsor management is a critical component of an effective change management and project management program.

Having sponsors that are supportive of the change, will increase the success of the change being adopted by impacted groups. Oftentimes, change practitioners need to prepare sponsors to play visible and active roles for the projects.

Many times, sponsors have difficulty when tasked with advocating for a change because they have not been adequately prepared to do so and may be wondering, “What does a sponsor do?”

When populating the change management sponsor template, make sure to include key steps that you will take to coach these sponsors on the responsibilities of project sponsors in general and their expectations in particular.

Click here to obtain the free sponsor plan offered by OCMS for change practitioners, project managers, and anyone looking for a top free change project management sponsor plan.

Executive Sponsorship FAQs

What is an executive sponsorship program?

An executive sponsorship program involves senior leaders of an organization that are needed to sponsor and advocate for a change to increase the successful implementation of that change. Executive sponsors include primary sponsors, secondary sponsors, and critical sponsors/stakeholders.

What is the role of a sponsor?

The role of a sponsor is to approve the budget for a project, engage with other leaders to ensure leadership buy-in, and, most importantly, they provide active and visible participation throughout the duration of the project to increase the success of the change.

Can an executive be forced to function as a sponsor?

No, an executive cannot be forced to function as a sponsor. However, it is critical that you engage with all impacted executives to gain their buy-in and acceptance of the business change.

What is a good sponsor?

A good sponsor is an individual that visibly advocates for a change. The role of a sponsor is more than just signing the check on a project. A good sponsor engages with other leaders to gain leadership support for the change and also helps with communication, engagement, and resolving project barriers.

What is the role of an executive sponsor?

The executive sponsor’s role is more than just signing the checks for a project or overseeing the project. The role of the executive sponsor includes: Engaging with other leaders, to get cross-functional buy-in at the leadership level, helping to waterfall/cascade communications, advocating for the change, reducing resistance to the project, and supporting the project and change management teams as needed.

Note: Content on OCM Solution's ocmsolution.com website is protected by copyright. Should you have any questions or comments regarding this OCM Solutions page, please reach out to Ogbe Airiodion (Change Management Lead) or the OCM Solutions Team today. OCM Solution was previously known as Airiodion Global Services (AGS).

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