How to Sustain a Cause Marketing Partnership

September 18, 2014

Please enjoy this article I wrote, published in the September issue of IABC’s Communications World magazine.

So you found the perfect partner organization for your cause marketing campaign. You self-assessed without mercy. You specified what you’re bringing to the table, researched closely-aligned organizations, compared objectives, and secured a partnership that’s a win-win for everyone.

Nice job!

But before you start handing out the cigars, it’s important to set your partnership up for long-term success. How? By:
•Establishing and maintaining trust.
•Exhibiting flexibility and open communication.
•Specifying measurement criteria.
•Considering scalability and growth potential.

These partnership sustainability safeguards are critical, not only to new partnerships but also to those that have been chugging along for a while.

Build trust and be transparent

All successful relationships, including cause marketing partnerships, are based on trust—and nothing forms trust faster than telling the truth. This means all partners openly discuss their goals, vulnerabilities and needs, and honestly address hidden agendas before they cause problems.

Transparency is vital for effectively engaging both your target market and your partner organizations. A good example of an organization that requires stringent transparency in all of their cause-related partnerships is the American Red Cross, whose required donation language for any cause marketing donation program reads:

“XYZ will donate to the American Red Cross, including the amount of the donation as a flat fee (e.g. $1 for every shirt sold) or a percentage (e.g. 25% of the retail sales price) and the time frame (e.g. from September 1, 2014 until August 31, 2015).”

This kind of full transparency creates trust with the public—and with all partners.

Remain flexible with open communication

Staying on schedule and on target is important, but when a new opportunity appears, stay open-minded about it, and help others in your partnership to do so as well. It could be a special event, a major media interview, or an entirely “off-the-wall” promotional idea. It could be that a new partner wishes to join your campaign. Explore these potential opportunities, while keeping in mind your resources and priorities.

Open communication is key as well. If you’re the point-person from your organization, it’s your job to keep all of your stakeholders fully informed of all aspects of the partnership, whether good or not so good. Keep and publish minutes of your meetings, set regular times to convene as a full partnership team, and when issues, disagreements or other challenges arise, communicate your concerns and work them out as a team as soon as possible. In nearly all cases, overcoming challenges together strengthens the partnership and the individual relationships.

Flexibility, openness, and clear communication will keep your partnership on solid ground.

Set up measurement criteria

Early in your partnership development, collaborate with your partners to determine which partnership goals, both individual and collective, are most important, and create concrete, measurable criteria for evaluation. For example:
•Does one partner want a facility built by a certain date? A specific amount of increased funding or donations raised? Certain pro bono services?
•Does a partner want a certain number of volunteers recruited? A particular number of volunteer hours provided?
•Is a partner expecting a certain value in media exposure, community goodwill or new strategic relationships?

To be most effective in evaluating your partnership’s progress, establish starting benchmarks using specific metrics and measurement processes to use throughout the campaign.

Here’s an example: For its 2006 Prepare Bay Area partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the American Red Cross Bay Area chapter used as a starting benchmark its survey finding that only 6% of San Francisco Bay Area residents were prepared for a major disaster. At the beginning of each year of the three-year campaign, the partnership surveyed its target audiences to understand clearly where the initiative stood against its goals. When they hit 26% prepared at the end of the campaign, they had some serious, verifiable bragging rights.

Mobile-Bill-Boards-2

Mobile billboards like this one in front of San Francisco’s Ferry Building showing the potential devastation of an earthquake were part of the Prepare Bay Area campaign, a partnership between the American Red Cross and utility company Pacific Gas & Electric.

Measurable benchmarks and ongoing monitoring allow you to know where you are, see whether you are on the right path to success, and tweak your campaign if needed.

Scalability and growth potential

The clearest indication of a successful partnership is when all partners want to continue their relationship. Following the success of Prepare Bay Area, PG&E and the American Red Cross Bay Area chapter again teamed up to expand the preparedness program through a broader Ready Neighborhoods initiative.

In order to deepen their impact by scaling the program out beyond the Bay Area and across the state of California, PG&E more than doubled its original US$1 million over three-years financial commitment–and has continued to partner in this important campaign ever since.

The recognition PG&E and the American Red Cross chapters have received due to their Ready Neighborhoods partnership has been tremendous: Last year, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency presented these organizations with its prestigious Community Preparedness Award in a high-profile ceremony and community event.

Patience

The most successful partnerships do not hit their stride until the second or third year. But if you’ve built trust and confidence, remained flexible and communicative, measured your pre-set criteria and kept your eye on future growth, you’ll have a strong support system of energized team members and partners who want to keep it going, establishing a continual cycle of creating a greater good.


Special Discount Opportunity for Win-Win for the Greater Good

September 2, 2014

Now also available on Kindle

Final Cover for web

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Casey Sheehan, CEO, Patagonia stated, “Win-Win for the Greater Good provides the how-to blueprint for organizations of any size any sector to build highly productive partnerships. It reveals the true essence of success-focusing on the business objectives of your partner, while striving together to create a greater good.”

Peggy Duvette, former Executive Director of WiserEarth
said, “Worth its weight in fundraising goal. Win-Win for the Greater Good turns the tables on traditional approaches to nonprofit/for-profit funding relationships. It challenges you to build a business value proposition and provides 30 ways to beneficially impact your organization through partnerships, while greatly increasing your service impact.”

“Win-Win, lucidly captures Bruce Burtch’s decades of practitioner wisdom on cross-sector partnerships. The book is filled with rich examples and insightful practical guidance on how to build powerful partnerships. Read it and learn from a master!” James E. Austin, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School.


Great America: Déjà vu, all over again

June 18, 2014

Snoopy, Bruce and Charlie Brown
(Snoopy, Bruce and Charlie Brown)

Yogi Berra had it right: It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Today I stood center-stage at the Great American Theater, the largest live performance auditorium at California’s Great America in Santa Clara. The occasion was the annual convention of ACE, the American Coaster Enthusiasts, those wild and daring people who travel the country experiencing every form of twist and turn, soaring heights to plunging depths, of the country’s most challenging roller coasters. Timid is not a word heard in these surroundings.

I had been invited as their special guest, because on March 20, 1976 as Public Affairs Manager of what was then called Marriott’s Great America, I had the wonderful and rather daunting (at age 25) responsibility of designing the opening promotion of Great America, the largest project at that time in the history of Marriott Corporation.

Facing the crowd of 350 coaster enthusiasts, I drifted easily back to those earliest years of my career, and especially to a particular time when I stood at that exact spot. It was 1976 and I had invited Clint Eastwood and Merv Griffin to visit Great America. I wanted them to experience the simply outstanding live entertainment performances that at the time were seen as the standout feature of the theme park. The show that was playing that first year was Music America, a high energy musical romp through 45 Americana songs. Performed by an extremely talented cast of 25 high school and college-aged men and women, supported by a 17-piece orchestra made up of similar ages, this extravaganza climaxed with an audience standing ovation at all performances.

At the close of that particular show as the audience filed towards the exit doors, I escorted Clint and Merv onto the stage. We lifted a portion of the huge red velvet curtain and we proceeded under to greet the performers. Emerging on the other side these two internationally-known stars brought the stretching and exhausted cast to a startled halt. After exchanging pleasantries and a quite a few OMG remarks, Merv Griffin offered them the ultimate compliment. He said, “There is nothing on Broadway that is anywhere near as entertaining as what we just witnessed.” These words made everyone’s day, probably year.

As I emerged from the theater this afternoon, I walked slowly, dreamily, through a very changed Great America. Gone were the strolling marching bands, steam driven train with its haunting whistle, gone were Bugs Bunny and the other Warner Brothers characters, replaced by Snoopy, Charlie Brown and friends. What once was a broad offering of live entertainment constantly erupting from all directions has now morphed into a primarily ride-focused amusement park. Still very nice, but for me, not as nice.

As I left in the late afternoon I noticed a sandwich board near the front entrance. It said that on a day coming up California’s Great America would be donating a portion of that day’s proceeds to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I flashed-back to 1976 when I had developed a partnership between Marriott’s Great America and the March of Dimes to help promote the opening of our new theme park, while raising much-needed funds to fight children’s birth defects. That partnership raised $2.5 million (a lot of money in 1976), a whopping 40% more than had ever been raised in the Western Region of the March of Dimes. That partnership is considered the first cause marketing program in history, and as the designer, I have been called the “father of cause marketing” by the Cause Marketing Forum.

For me, today was full of intense emotion, revisited experiences, and once again, enjoying the exploding laughter of a family getting soaked together on the water ride. As I drove away, I remembered the line I wrote for our highway billboard on the opening day 38 years ago: Super Smiles and Summer Fun, Welcome World, We’ve Just Begun.

Déjà vu, all over again, again.


What to Avoid When Developing a Cause Marketing Campaign

April 10, 2014

Part 14 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

Even with the best intentions, sometimes among major players who should know better, cause marketing can go terribly wrong. The mantra of cause marketing, indeed of all cross-sector partnerships, is that the partners need to be well aligned. Their missions, their products or services and how they present their campaign to the public must make sense as a partnership. The public becomes skeptical when they smell or taste that the campaign is purely done to make money. Here are some bloopers.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) Pothole Program
Recognizing the ubiquitous problem that many of our roads and highways have fallen into disrepair, KFC thought that it would be a good idea if they teamed up with several cities around the country and filled in those cities’ potholes. So the public would know who was making this generous donation, KFC painted their bright white logo on top of the freshly laid asphalt. As you see in this promotional photograph, “The Colonel” is pointing his cane at a recently paved, logo-covered pothole.

KFC Colonel

So we see potholes filled with oily black tar, covered with a KFC logo, which will be run over by cars, slowly but surely erasing the logo. This message has the unintended effect of linking KFC and its heavily-oiled, deep-fried chicken with steaming oily black tar and inadvertently, brings a whole new meaning to “road kill.”

I hate to pick on KFC, but if the bucket fits. After the above-described campaign, they developed a partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and produced a second highly-questionable campaign where they really stuck their wing in it.

KFC Buckets
“Buckets for the Cure” Campaign

KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure launched a campaign in which they printed pink KFC buckets with the breast cancer ribbon and then handed their customers the bucket full of fried chicken wings, legs and breasts. $.50 of the sale of each bucket went to the charity. What were they thinking? A respected nonprofit organization dedicated to education and research about breast cancer promoting deep-fried food, in pink buckets.

Yoni Freedhoff of Weighty Matters said: “So, in effect, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is helping to sell deep-fried fast food and, in so doing, help fuel unhealthy diet and obesity across America, an odd plan given that diet and obesity certainly impact on both the incidence and recurrence of breast cancer.”

What was this campaign really all about? Yes, money. KFC donated more than $4.2 Million to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest single donation in organization’s history. Roger Eaton, President of KFC Corporation said, “This was a campaign that allowed our customers to fill up their stomachs and their hearts at the same time.” Needless to say, this campaign caused a media and consumer controversy which, if only briefly, damaged the credibility of Susan G. Komen… but it made lots of money.

The investor extraordinaire, Warren Buffett, once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” There is nothing worth the risk of destroying a hard-earned reputation.

The key points I would suggest you take away from this discussion on what not to do in cause marketing:
• Do absolutely nothing that will hurt your brand. Good reputations are hard to gain and much harder to regain if lost.
• Never be just about the money; greed is ugly and hard to hide.
• Always put the cause first, which will gain attention, loyalty and finally, financial success.
• Be unique! Stand out from the crowd! Don’t be a chicken! (sorry)

Wrapping Up
Cause marketing comes in all shapes and sizes and can be an exceptionally effective fund development and brand awareness-generating program because it:
• Leverages the marketing clout, assets, intelligence and connections of organizations from different sectors
• Focuses on doing good, and the public responds very well to organizations doing good
• Motivates your employees, customers and all stakeholders of your organization
• Attracts media attention…for free!
• Generates sales and raises donations
• Delivers what one organization can’t possibly do alone

Please visit http://www.bruceburtch.com for more information and to view Win-Win for the Greater Good.


How to make Cause Marketing work for your organization

April 2, 2014

Part 13 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

6. Cause marketing Definition

Cause marketing is a specialized subset of cross-sector partnerships, and like all cross-sector partnerships, cause marketing is a partnership between two or more sectors. Though in cause marketing, the partnership is primarily between nonprofit and for-profit organizations and is primarily about marketing, sales, fund development and increasing brand awareness. Cause marketing has grown by leaps and bounds, and in 2013 an estimated $1.78 billion was spent in North America alone on cause marketing campaigns.

Cause marketing is a marketing campaign with specific strategic goals and objectives. It is not an event, sponsorship or one-time project and certainly not philanthropy. You will find as we explore further into this area that a well-strategized and well-developed cause marketing campaign will bring you many of the benefits we have discussed in cross-sector partnerships.

While there are many definitions of cause marketing, the following is how I prefer to define it:
Cause marketing is a partnership between two or more nonprofit and for-profit organizations whereby each party receives benefit toward their individual marketing objectives, while striving through their combined resources to create a greater good.

Let’s break this definition down to see why this particular description is a bit more comprehensive, and possibly more demanding among others available, yet touches upon the foundational elements of highly successful cause marketing campaigns.

Partnership: Going into the partnership, both sides should come together as equals. This equality is necessary for a fair, trusting and successful working partnership. Without this trust, without this focus on true partnership, your campaign is dead in the water before it’s launched.

Two or more: In most cases, a cause marketing partnership is between two partners, but as we have seen, sometimes partnerships can have three and even four sectors involved. And sometimes, even multiple partners within sectors. Bringing multiple partners together can leverage the success of the marketing objectives. So don’t limit your partner opportunity thinking. More may be better, or maybe not, based on your marketing strategy and campaign needs.

Individual marketing objectives: All sides may be approaching this partnership with very different marketing objectives and internal agendas. This is to be expected. Having clear communication and understanding about these separate agendas and objectives and then working toward the benefit of all partners will greatly enhance the overall success of your cause marketing campaign.

Combined resources: Possibly more than in any other marketing or promotional endeavor, the successful execution of your cause marketing strategy and resulting campaign creates a whole far greater than the sum of its individual parts. You just can’t possibly accomplish alone what you can do working together for your mutual success.

Create a greater good: This is the part of my definition that seems to be left out in every other definition I’ve ever seen. However it is this focus on the greater good that sets the foundation for your successful campaign. Focusing on the greater good is the key ingredient that will motivate all partners and stakeholders involved in your campaign. The greatest impact, the real magic, comes when your campaign focuses on the people, issues or environment that will benefit from the campaign:
• Those whose lives will be saved because they are now prepared for an emergency
• The women and men in the future who will not get breast cancer because of the research you are helping to fund
• The homeless who will be given shelter
• The children who will be saved from starvation
• Addressing serious environmental situations

This is the greater good. You can address any nonprofit’s cause, but to be optimally successful, you must focus on who or what will benefit from your effort. Nonprofits as such are not causes in and of themselves, but facilitators that bring much-needed services and support to the cause, which of course, is the people, environment or social issues themselves…the greater good.

Please visit http://www.bruceburtch.com for more information and to view Win-Win for the Greater Good


Turning the Tables: Presenting a Business Value Proposition

March 6, 2014

Part 9 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

The usual nonprofit/for-profit scenario is that the for-profit organization is providing funding in a more philanthropic manner, while the nonprofit is seeking funding to meet the needs of its organization’s mission and services to the community. Business value is rarely part of the equation. Yet providing a mutually beneficial business value is what creates a strong attractiveness to work together and subsequently, a much more lasting bond between the organizations.

Think about the typical situation. A nonprofit organization has a particular need or program it wishes to develop that requires external funding. They write up a carefully prepared description of this need, how many people it will impact and how this need or program will further their community mission. They certainly will estimate the amount of money that seems reasonable to request from a corporate funder. This amount may be based on the for-profit’s past giving history to this organization, or what the for-profit has given to other nonprofits before. The nonprofit is very careful not to ask for too much, yet they want to ask for enough to impact their need.

The nonprofit also realizes that the corporate funder or local business is probably being approached by many other nonprofit organizations seeking funding. So they want their presentation to have dramatic impact, a strong case for funding. That is usually the nonprofit’s primary focus – a strong argument for the needs of their cause.

Now let’s turn the tables and look at this situation from the for-profit organization’s point of view. Imagine you are a for-profit executive who has been listening to or reading proposals like these typical nonprofit pitches, over and over again. And in walks a nonprofit executive with a well thought out, business value proposition which clearly shows that by working with their nonprofit your for-profit business will receive multiple benefits – benefits such as increased sales of your products or services, ways to increase the morale of your employees, opportunities that will raise your brand awareness, and a long list of other benefits. Now that is a very different approach. Which would be most effective?

What I mean by business value proposition is that each side addresses the marketing and business objectives of the potential partner. They have done their homework, read the other organization’s promotional materials and annual report, conducted an Internet search for press coverage and other information about their potential partner, maybe even talked to a friend who works or volunteers at that organization, and so they have a good understanding of the business priorities of this potential partner. With this understanding, they put together a presentation which shows that by working with their organization (for-profit, nonprofit, education or government), multiple benefits towards the others business or mission objectives can be achieved through a partnership.

This is the business value proposition approach, and it is by far the most successful way to create a lasting cross-sector partnership and bring multiple benefits to all partners. By understanding this business value mindset you have a huge advantage over your competition, no matter which sector or side of the partnership equation you come from.

I have worked with well over 150 nonprofits and rarely have I seen nonprofits utilize this business value proposition approach. Yet this is exactly how for-profit businesses operate internally. A corporate marketing or sales proposal will not see the light of day unless it provides a solid business value proposition for increasing their business. In other words: If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense.

So it cuts both ways. If you don’t take the effort to understand the needs and business objectives of your potential partner, how can you possibly expect them to want to support and engage in the needs and business objectives of your organization? Of course the good news is, when you present a solid business value proposition and carefully listen to theirs, you have the foundation for a truly successful cross-sector partnership.

Please visit http://www.bruceburtch.com for more information and to view Win-Win for the Greater Good.


Take your organization from good to great!

February 14, 2014

Good to great B&W

Part 4

In Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, he described a “great” company as one company whose financial performance achieved several multiples better than the stock market average over a sustained period. He also attributed the main factor for achieving this greatness as having a company focus its resources on its particular field of competence. Much has changed since this was published in 2001, especially the fast rising tide of consumer concern, and in some cases, demand for the business community to be more focused on sustainability, being good citizens, and giving back to their communities.

In Good to Great, Collins identifies 11 companies (Gillette, Kroger, Walgreens, Wells Fargo, Phillip Morris and others) he felt had made this transition from good to great. The standard he used was that these companies had either met or underperformed the stock market for a 15 year period and then transitioned to providing returns of at least three times that of the stock market over the subsequent period.

In Firms of Endearment published in 2007, authors Raj Sisodia, Jag Sheth and David B. Wolfe, challenged the more traditional capitalistic understanding as to what is seen as being a successful business. Their book promotes the need for a “new capitalism of caring” with its focus that all stakeholders must be equally valued. This approach mirrored my own beliefs and experience that there was a much better way for corporations to benefit everyone involved with their organization, both internally and externally, and not just their shareholders.

The authors of Firms of Endearment took a very different path in their analysis. Their research sought out companies that strived to “endear” themselves to all their stakeholder groups -customers, employees, partners, communities, and shareholders. They looked for companies that aligned the interests of all stakeholders in such a way that no stakeholder group gains at the expense of other stakeholder groups. The companies they selected included Amazon, BMW, Container Store, eBay, Google, Patagonia, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Whole Foods and others.

When the authors of Firms of Endearment completed their analysis of just the one category of stock market performance and the return to investors during the period of 1996 to 2006 (the primary focus of Good to Great, they found that:

1) Over a 10-year horizon, Firms of Endearment companies outperformed the Good to Great companies by 1026 percent to 331 percent (a 3.1 to 1 ratio).
2) Over five years, Firms of Endearment companies outperformed Good to Great companies by 128 percent to 77 percent (a 1.7 to 1 ratio).
3) Over three years, Firms of Endearment companies performed on par with Good to Great companies 73% to 75%.

By focusing on the benefits to all stakeholders, the Firms of Endearment companies met, or in the five and 10 year periods, greatly outperformed companies that focused primarily on stock performance and return to investors. This message cannot be emphasized enough. The authors summed up this comparison by saying that they had a “seismic disagreement” with Good to Great when it comes to defining what is “great.” They concluded, “To us, a great company is one that makes the world a better place because it exists, not simply a company that outperforms the market by a certain percentage over a certain period of time.”

Please visit http://www.bruceburtch.com for more information

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