Your twelve-step program to partnership success

May 14, 2014

PART 15 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

Now you’re ready. You understand the importance of embedding a cause consciousness within your organization. You know how cross-sector partnerships and cause marketing will grow and benefit your organization. Whether you work for a junior college, a five-person technology startup, the local chapter of Make -A-Wish foundation, a state government agency or a large nonprofit or corporation, you are prepared to begin your journey to a more effective and profitable organization. You might even have a few potential partners in mind or causes that are particularly important to your employees. As when building a house, no matter how ambitious your plans, without a well-designed blueprint, your house may become just a jumble of wood and nails.

I have seen so many mistakes due to misunderstandings between the sectors – rushing ahead before doing the necessary homework, developing programs and campaigns without the proper resources in place, marketing efforts based on the wrong strategy, money wasted and great ideas that failed because of not wanting to deal with the small details. So we are going to drill down into some detail. OK, a lot of detail.

And one last thing before we dive in – you may think that you don’t have the resources, the time, potential partners, or enough relationships in the community or with media to pull this partnership business off. Here I will show you that you can be highly successful if you follow the path and Cross-Sector Partnership Development Process presented here. So step onto the path and start your amazing journey now.

small path 2

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How cross-sector partnerships built the first after-school program in San Francisco’s Tenderloin

February 25, 2014

Part 7

Tenderloin Children's Jungle Gym
(Photograph by Nita Winter)

Leadership San Francisco is a year-long program sponsored by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce that promotes civic engagement, made up of participants from the nonprofit, for-profit, education and government sectors. Our forty-member class spent a day experiencing the crime-ridden San Francisco district known as The Tenderloin. Besides the proliferation of adult bookstores, strip clubs, bars and a significant amount of homeless people milling around the filthy streets, what struck us was the number of young children we saw using these streets, sidewalks and storefronts as their playground.

Motivated to do something, a couple members of our class met with San Francisco School Superintendent Ramon Cortines. He advised that “the most pressing need for these inner-city children was a safe, quiet, creative place to go after school.” We then approached Brother Kelly Cullen, Executive Director of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), a non-profit provider of low income housing, which owned a building on Eddy Street, dead center in The Tenderloin. Leasing a portion of the first floor of this building was Connie’s Bar, a seedy, prostitute-laden establishment with the sign posted prominently on the front door “No one under 21 allowed.”

I proposed to our class that we take over Connie’s Bar and turn it into a free educational, recreational and cultural center for the children of The Tenderloin. It was an idea so large and so ripe with challenge that it took nearly 5 meetings for our class to agree that we just had to do this. As the loudest proponent of this outrageous idea, I was chosen to spearhead the endeavor.

First we formed a partnership between Leadership San Francisco and TNDC. Seeking a prominent leader of the San Francisco business community, we enticed Holger Gantz, general manager of the Hilton Hotel and Towers, which bordered upon The Tenderloin to join our partnership. Holger enthusiastically led the fundraising drive which attracted Pacific Telesis, Koret Foundation, Gap, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, PG&E and many others. Additional members of the hospitality and construction industries and members of the general community rushed to join the effort. Together we did what no one thought was possible – in one year we raised over $200,000, secured the lease on Connie’s Bar, completely renovated the space, built a small children’s library, computer room, director’s office and play room. On July 13, 1993 the Tenderloin After-School Program opened.

Along the way, an astonishing level of media coverage and diverse public support was received – all on a volunteer basis. An editorial in the San Francisco Examiner summed it up nicely: “In the real world…progress, if any, is measured inch by inch through gauntlets of frustration, bureaucracy, broken promises and, of course, lack of money. So let’s congratulate the enthusiastic people of Leadership San Francisco ’92…and all who made this dream come true.”

President Bill Clinton, Senator Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan and many others wrote letters of commendation. President Clinton wrote, “These kinds of bold initiatives require a partnership between business community resources and local nonprofit experience.”

And today, rather than using peep show signs as their jungle gym, the children of the Tenderloin have a clean, safe place to go after school. That’s the very great news.

(Photo courtesy of Tenderloin After-School Program)

Perhaps the biggest challenge for this project was bringing together a highly diverse partnership team. The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation owned the building that housed Connie’s Bar but was unable to provide further financial support. The Leadership San Francisco class of 1992 was a small volunteer group of young men and women who could work hard but who also lacked the financial wherewithal to undertake such a costly project. The low-income community surrounding the proposed after-school program strongly favored the opportunity to provide a safe, off-the-streets place for their children, but could not financially support the project.

The challenges of the Tenderloin After-School Program point out that there are often distinct differences between the business practices, philosophy and personalities of each person and each sector. Indeed, organizations and individuals coming together will have personal agendas that they bring to the partnership. These personal agendas can sometimes be negative. However, in most cases, addressing and respecting individual agendas and objectives can be quite positive for the partnership.

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What other organizations are saying about yours

February 21, 2014

Part 6:

Each sector of nonprofit, for-profit, education or government has attributes, policies, missions and business practices which vary somewhat to significantly from those of the other sectors. In the development of cross-sector partnerships, this can be both a blessing and a challenge. Experience shows, however, that the benefits of cross-sector partnerships far outweigh whatever obstacles or challenges may arise.

For the past three years, our firm has issued The Burtch Report, a survey of primarily small to midsize nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Included in the survey is the question: “What misconceptions do you feel the for-profit community has about the nonprofit community?” And of the for-profit organizations, “What misconceptions do you feel the nonprofit community has about the for-profit community?” The results over the past three years show that in far too many cases nonprofits and for-profits don’t understand each other’s business models or philosophies, or how to work with each other effectively.

Challenges aside, these responses also speak the truth and thus provide pathways for better understanding and for the successful development of partnerships.
Here is a small sampling from The Burtch Report:

What Nonprofits say about For-Profits

• The biggest challenge is helping the for-profit understand the value of non-profits and how they can think outside the box to create a true partnership.
• For-profits have difficulty in understanding the full cost associated with delivery of nonprofit’s obligation in partnerships.
• Making contact (and a connection) with the person(s) who has the ability to determine whether or not to support our organization in one form or another is often very challenging.
• Unrealistic expectations of results: their ROI (return on investment) expectations are too high.
• Short-changing necessary operating costs, such as insisting all funds go to program/ direct service, leaving no money for execution
• All they want to do is use my logo and reputation to sell more products.
• I don’t trust that they really believe in our cause.
• We need their money, but we could lose our reputation.
• They’re really not interested in helping us develop our services or grow our volunteer base.
• Different understandings of the value of our work; For-profits are trying to fit our work into their marketing objectives instead of looking at the partnership as equal parts nonprofit mission and for-profit marketing.

What For-Profits say about Nonprofits

• They think their logo is worth far more than it really is in the marketplace.
• They move far too slowly to match our business style and aggressive marketing plans.
• Everything has to be decided by a committee. Where is the leadership there?
• They put up so many obstacles, especially saying that doing such and such could harm their reputation.
• Wouldn’t it be easier to do something on our own than to complicate things by working with a nonprofit organization?
• Let’s face it – the smartest people don’t go work for nonprofits…there’s no money in it.
• They just don’t know how to run a business.
• They have a different culture and value sets.
• They lack clarity as to most important outcomes they are committed to achieving.
• Lack of resources, lack of innovation, minimal accountability

These quotes speak volumes about how far apart the relationship can be at the start. Yet these challenges can be overcome because your common goals and opportunities are great. It simply boils down to beginning with an open mind, developing clear communication and above all, being totally honest about your organization’s objectives, needs and limitations

Karen Baker, California Secretary of Service and Volunteering, said “Some of the nuances in the private and nonprofit sector can make (partnerships) challenging. For example, it is tough for nonprofits to understand the private sector – their interests, their challenges, and their language. The same is true of the private sector fully understanding the nonprofit world. In order to have mutually beneficial partnerships, it is critical to have an honest understanding of what each party is seeking out of the relationship. Open dialogue and communication at the onset of a partnership is so critical, and often times, that is what is missing.”

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How to make your organization go from good to great to absolutely glowing!!

February 18, 2014

Part 5
smaller Good to great to Glowing B&W

No matter what kind of work you do, you are in business. Whether you are a sole consultant, run a small hardware store, or are the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation, you are in business. You may be Executive Director or run fund development for a nonprofit organization, teach in your local elementary school or work in an agency of state government, whatever the case, you are in business. A business can be defined as an occupation, profession, calling, vocation or employment. In other words, if you are in any sector of for-profit, nonprofit, education or government, you are in business. So the vast majority of what you find in this book will relate to your work in any sector.

However, when I talk about this desired transformation of “glowing your business,” I’m referring to the for-profit sector. The basic premise of this book is that a for-profit organization can only glow when it has joined hand-in-hand in partnership with one or more from the nonprofit, education or government sectors to create a greater good.

This brings us to what I feel is the next step in the evolution, and potentially revolution, of business: going from a good company to a great company to a glowing company. You become a glowing company when you have purposefully embedded a “cause consciousness” into the very fabric of your organizational culture. By cause consciousness I mean your organization meaningfully and systemically:

• Commits to being a pro-active, socially-focused, caring company
• Creates partnerships with other sectors and aids their mission in service to people or environmental issues in need
• Makes all business decisions based on doing good, not just on making money
• Engages all your stakeholders, internally and externally, in this cause consciousness culture
• Commits to a future where your organization’s success is in direct relationship to the benefit you provide for others

When you do this, when you and all involved with your organization practice this cultural shift, people will take notice. Cause consciousness will affect your employees, and they will like working for your company. They will talk to others about the good things your company is doing and how they themselves are participating in these good efforts. And this will raise their morale and their job satisfaction, and they will stay longer with your company. Your customers and all business relations will notice this change and this will increase your sales, your brand recognition and your customer loyalty. You will start to favorably stand out against your competition. The media will be attracted to your company and provide press coverage on what you are doing to benefit your community. Your community will start talking about your organization, your people and your importance to the community. And because of all this, your organization will begin to grow, you will start to make more money… and you will begin to glow.

You will know when you are beginning to glow because this glow, this radiance, becomes apparent in everything you do – in every interpersonal and organizational conversation. Even your products and services will seem to glow because they are designed and delivered by people dedicated to doing good. And because of this, you will enjoy an amazing business advantage – for you will have become a fully functioning, fully effective organization. And everybody will notice, because you are glowing!

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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.”

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Understanding the new normal in nonprofit/for-profit relationships

February 10, 2014

Part 3

It is abundantly clear that we live in a challenging time. In 2011 the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that the nation’s largest charities saw a decline of 11% in donations, greater than any in the past 20 years. And while some indications show that nonprofit funding is turning around, according to “Giving USA,” charitable giving grew less than one percent in 2012. Thousands of smaller nonprofit organizations are at high risk of closing down. This sad situation comes at a time when there is increasing demand for the social services these organizations provide.

The social support system is in trouble and those people it supports have nowhere to turn. Anne Wilson, CEO of the United Way of the San Francisco Bay Area, warned “the recession has severely compromised our community’s safety net.” As a moral public, we cannot let this safety net fail.

However, individual, corporate and foundation funders impacted by the decline of their income, sales or investment portfolios cannot, in many cases, maintain their past support levels when there is so much need. Tough decisions must be made – who to support and at what level. The desire to help must be tempered by financial reality.

The situation is serious and for many, this is entirely new territory. The time has passed for believing we can operate as we always have under “normal” circumstances because “normal” doesn’t exist anymore. The answers do not come from staying the course. The answers come in the realization that to weather this storm, the nonprofit, for-profit, education and government sectors must find new approaches, proven techniques and new economic streams that will work, even in these challenging times.

The organizations that will lead the new normal are the ones that realize they need not and should not take on these challenges alone. As in the soccer ball story, there are astonishing opportunities for organizations that collaborate, indeed partner, with organizations in other sectors. These organizations will lead their industry and their community in doing good. These are the organizations and people who will attract the most publicity, drive new sales or donations, increase their brand recognition and create the greatest goodwill.

The management of these more enlightened organizations are not afraid to share and not afraid to partner with other sectors. They’re not the ones who work in silos, treasuring their own personal power rather than the much greater power of the collective body. They will stand firm against those afraid of this new collaborative thinking. The irony is that the leaders and organizations who want to stay the course may lose market share and profitability, may demoralize employees and all stakeholders by their myopic focus on their organization and their bottom-line.

This is not a time for business as usual. Now is the time to take full advantage of multi-benefit cross-sector partnerships focused on the greater good. This is the new normal and it’s win-win.

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The winning partnership between Levi’s and Special Olympics

February 7, 2014

Part 2
All we wanted were 10 soccer balls.


It was 1979 and I was a volunteer with the San Francisco Special Olympics. One of our athletes was Joey and Joey had down-syndrome. He was about as round and he was tall, and he was always running, always smiling, always coming up to me saying, “Coach, what are we doing next?” Very special people like Joey are why I wanted to be part of Special Olympics. And Joey wanted to play soccer. But we didn’t have a soccer program. We realized that soccer would be one of the easiest sports that could reach almost all of our athletes, and at very little cost. We had free use of sports fields, all of our athletes had some form of a running or tennis shoe and we had volunteers with some background in soccer. All we needed were the soccer balls – about ten dollars each.

Like any nonprofit, we didn’t want to pay for anything we could otherwise get donated, so we connected with a friend who worked in the Community Relations Department at San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. We asked her if Levi’s would donate $100 to buy 10 soccer balls for our new program. Levi’s agreed and the first Special Olympics soccer program in San Francisco was born. And Joey was ecstatic.

We soon realized, however, that we didn’t have enough volunteers to handle the number of athletes now interested in playing soccer. We then went back to Levi’s and asked if they might have some volunteers to help us. They did and our soccer program grew even more.

Levi’s Employee Relations Department took notice of this enthusiasm from their employees and wrote an article in the company newsletter. That brought not only greater recognition to our program but even more volunteers. Then a local newspaper did a story on this burgeoning relationship between Levi’s and Special Olympics. In time, one of Levi’s executives joined our Board of Directors. Levi was also becoming one of the largest financial supporters of our Special Olympics program.

Meanwhile, apart from being a board member of San Francisco Special Olympics, my day job was Director of Public Relations for the United States Olympic Committee. I was gearing up for the 1980 Olympic Summer Games in Moscow. But the Cold War was getting hotter, Russia invaded Afghanistan, and because of that, President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States was boycotting the Olympic Games. From this huge disappointment came a surprise gift.

Fred Banks, then president of Levi’s Women’s Wear division, called me up. He said, “Bruce as you certainly know, Levi’s was the official team outfitter for the U.S. Olympic team and because we are not going to the Olympic Games we have all of the official U.S. Olympic Team uniforms and warm-ups. We cannot sell or use them in any commercial manner, and they’re just sitting in a warehouse.” Then Fred said the most amazing thing: “Would you be interested in Levi’s donating these Olympic Team uniforms to Special Olympics?” After I picked myself up off the floor, we discussed the logistics.

One of the most moving experiences imaginable is watching Special Olympics athletes enter a stadium for their games. Every athlete is brimming with pride and excitement. Now imagine that following summer at stadiums across the country, Special Olympics athletes making their entrance while wearing the official uniforms of the 1980 United States Olympic team, emblazoned with a large USA across the back. To everyone involved, it was a magical, emotional moment.

The relationship between the Special Olympics and Levi’s kept growing. It certainly helped the Special Olympics. But in terms of positive media coverage, employee morale and much more, it also helped Levi’s.

And it all started with 10 soccer balls.

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