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.

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September 2, 2014

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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.”

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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.”

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Do you really know what you want to do in a partnership?

July 10, 2014

Part 18 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

Why what how

Before beginning the deep dive into what your organization would like to do through a cross-sector partnership and then defining your key objectives, there is a critical first step – asking the question:Do you know your WHY? The products or services your organization provides is the what you do. The manner in which you deliver these products or services to your customers or the public is how you do that delivery. However, the most important question that you and your organization must determine is why you do what you do. The why must come first. The why is your driving motivation. It’s what inspires you, your employees, your donors, indeed all your stakeholders, to take interest in your organization and to support it wholeheartedly. Without a strong and articulated why, you are just another nuts-and-bolts organization (in any sector), and one of the very many.

The similarities to what we have described as a glowing business are obviously related to the why. Glow starts from within, and radiates outwardly, and so does the why. You can’t have a glowing organization unless all your stakeholders are inspired and motivated, thrilled to be involved and thrilled to tell others about this involvement. My belief is that the best and maybe the only way to create this glow, this why, is by embedding a cause consciousness into the very essence and culture of your organization. When your organization stands not just for your own benefit, but far more importantly, for what you can do for others and to create a greater good…that’s the glow, that’s the why.

Simon Sinek wrote the terrific book Start With Why. He writes, “By WHY I mean, what is your purpose, cause or belief?” And further on, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” And my favorite line: “… all those who share the organization’s view of the world will be drawn to it and its products like a moth to a light bulb.”

With the understanding of your why firmly in place, now you can move on to what you want to do. We have explored the multiple benefits that can come from a cross-sector partnership. But practically speaking, your organization must choose the specific objective or a very short list of priorities that are the highest priorities. For example, you may decide that your top priority is to raise the sales revenue of a particular product or service, provide employee volunteer opportunities in your community or to open up a new store or business location. If you are a nonprofit, your primary objectives may be to increase your donor base, fund and open a new project or program, attract corporate volunteers, develop an earned income opportunity, etc.

To assist in determining your “What do you want to do?” process, you may wish to utilize the two “Top 10” lists: Benefits a for-profit organization can receive by working with a nonprofit organization and Benefits a nonprofit organization can receive by working with a for-profit organization, provided earlier in this book, or preferably, review the complete lists of benefits which can be found in the Resource Center at http://www.bruceburtch.com. Now you have over 30 distinct benefits your organization may be able to receive in a cross-sector partnership and these will serve as a guide in determining which objectives would have the greatest positive impact on the needs, challenges or opportunities facing your organization. When developing your strongest case for what will work best for your organization, and in due course what will provide the best partnership opportunity, you need to select from these ideas or objectives your top three, and then very clearly, define and agree upon your number one objective.

By defining your top objectives, and especially by selecting one as your top objective, you significantly increase your potential for a successful project or campaign. If you try to address too many objectives you will weaken the energy, resources and talent, and potentially not accomplish any of your objectives.

Please visit http://www.bruceburtch.com for more information about cross-sector partnerships and Win-Win for the Greater Good.


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.


Stakeholders: Take advantage of your full team to generate partnership success

May 29, 2014

Part 17 in the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

Wikipedia defines a stakeholder as: “Any person, group, organization, or system who affects or can be affected by an organization’s actions.” Look around at all the people who are involved in your organization, both internally and externally: your employees, your customers, your shareholders, your vendors, your community, your business partners, government regulators, the media – these are your stakeholders and these are the people who really matter. These are the people you must protect, serve and value the most. When you focus your efforts on bringing value to all your stakeholders, you create the greatest beneficial impact for your organization. The converse is also true – if your stakeholders are not engaged, not valued, they have the potential to have a negative, and sometimes significant, impact on your organization.

Here is a diagram that illustrates the many stakeholders of a typical for-profit organization.

Stakeholders

The stakeholders for a nonprofit organization are very similar. Your shareholders are your donors, your customers are the people you serve, your business partners are your volunteers, etc.

As you see, there is an interrelationship, indeed interdependency, where all stakeholders are involved in a give-and-take relationship with the organization of which they are stakeholders. At first glance, it would seem that the relationships are primarily between the organization and the outer circle of their stakeholders. However, as this diagram reflects, the stakeholders themselves can have separate relationships between themselves, and thus impact and influence the entire organizational ecosystem.

When an employee believes that their organization has a particularly strong commitment to being a good citizen in their community, they will loudly and confidently communicate this belief. Consequently, the stakeholder and communication/effect cycle is potentially more interrelated. The ramifications can be significant, as any positive or negative influence a stakeholder has on other stakeholders can have a corresponding positive or negative influence on the organization itself.

The very good news is that when an organization is focused on the success of all stakeholders, all stakeholders are focused on the success of the organization. And when an organization is focused on not only benefiting all stakeholders, but additionally in serving the greater good through a well-designed and well-executed cross-sector partnership, your organization will begin to glow.

Your stakeholders will provide an honest critique because they have a vested interest in the success of your organization. They will provide creative input, business contacts, perhaps funding, and a myriad of other assets that will serve your cross-sector partnership endeavors and your organization well.

Please visit http://www.bruceburtch.com for more information about cross-sector partnerships and Win-Win for the Greater Good.


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

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


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.