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.


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.


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


True sustainability comes through creating multiple links between organizations

March 13, 2014

Part 10 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

Imagine two pieces of leather connected by one simple thread. You hold one piece and your friend holds the other. Now imagine that you both pull on the separate pieces of leather. The thread breaks very easily. Now imagine the two pieces of leather are connected by three threads. You pull again. You feel a brief bit of resistance from the three threads, but still they break without much effort. Now imagine that there are 10 threads connecting the two pieces of leather. Now pull, pull hard. With quite a bit of effort you might be able to break a few of the threads, but probably not all 10. In any case, the resistance was strong, the bond of the 10 threads held firmly.

And so it is with cross-sector partnerships. When the relationship consists of only one linkage between the organizations, let’s say the for-profit organization buys tickets to a nonprofit’s annual fundraising dinner, that link (or thread) can easily be broken. For example, no one from the for-profit organization may actually go to the dinner but it wanted to show their support for the nonprofit’s mission. There was no bond, no real relationship. Now imagine that there are three links between the for-profit and the nonprofit – the for-profit organization bought the fundraising dinner tickets, had donated some used computer equipment to the nonprofit and some of their employees spent a Saturday painting the nonprofit’s dining room where they provide free meals to the homeless. Now there is a pretty strong relationship with these three linkages between the organizations. Each year when the for-profit reviews their community relationships and contribution strategy, they will look favorably upon this nonprofit organization where they have developed three good links.

Now imagine the two organizations have developed 5, 6 maybe even up to 10 linkages. Now imagine trying to pull these two organizations apart. It’s very difficult, indeed darn near impossible, to break apart such a strong, binding relationship.

I use this example for two reasons. When multiple linkages are developed between the for-profit and nonprofit organization, a very strong bond and relationship is established over the years. This nonprofit organization is uppermost in the for-profit’s contribution strategy. Their employees are volunteering time to serve that nonprofit and their organization is receiving the benefit of higher morale and employment retention because of the satisfaction they receive from working in the community on their company’s behalf. Going down the list of potential linkages, the individual partners realize that many if not all of those involved in their organization have become engaged in this relationship, and all are benefiting from it. So much good is coming from this relationship, from these linkages and benefits.

The second reason I give this example is what happens in challenging economic times. When a down economy may cause a for-profit company to struggle, they will look to areas where they can decrease their expenses, and naturally, one of the areas they will analyze is their corporate philanthropy and their nonprofit relationships. If their management, community relations department or foundation decides to reduce their annual contributions by say 10%, who will they cut out of their nonprofit funding or partnership plan? Yes, the easiest to come off the list are those organizations where they have the fewest linkages. While these nonprofits may be doing good work in the community and the company likes supporting them, the bond between the nonprofit organizations and the company is rather weak.

Now just try to recommend pulling funding and company support away from the organization with whom the company has spent many years developing a close and strong partnership relationship, and where they have 5, 6, or maybe 10 linkages. One of the company’s senior managers is probably sitting on the Board of Directors of that nonprofit organization, and they certainly are going to object. The company’s employees who feel great pride in their commitment and volunteerism to that nonprofit will not want to see any change. The media coverage that the company has received from the relationship would stop and they don’t want to see that happen. There is a long list of reasons why the for-profit will not want to sever ties with organizations where they have developed such strong linkages.

This is also a very clear message to nonprofit organizations. In difficult economic times, the companies that have the strongest linkages and partnerships with a nonprofit will, to the extent that they can, fight hard to continue to keep that partnership going. They have too much to lose and will receive too much resistance from their employees and all those involved with their organization. In most cases, they will look to lessen or possibly terminate their relationships/ funding with other nonprofit organizations with whom they have fewer linkages and a weaker relationship. Don’t be on that list.

Nonprofit, for-profit, education or government sector – it doesn’t matter. The more threads, the more benefits developed between the organizations through cross-sector partnerships, the stronger and more lasting the relationship becomes, and the benefits to all partners and their stakeholders continue to grow.

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.


How individual agendas can strengthen a partnership

February 27, 2014

Part 8 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

In almost every case, each potential partner will have specific reasons and business objectives for why he/she wants to explore a partnership. These individual “agenda items” are important. For example, for-profit organizations are usually looking to increase the sales of their products or services or expand their community goodwill. They may want an opportunity for their employees to engage as volunteers on community projects which will expand their knowledge, skills and job satisfaction. Nonprofit organizations are usually seeking funding, sponsorship of their events, volunteers, in-kind donations of equipment, technical expertise or other needs.

In many cases, these initial agenda items are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. When you drill into the many benefits, opportunities or linkages that can be developed, between the different sectors in a partnership, the list will become extensive.

You should openly share all your important agenda items with your potential partners. In fact, I strongly encourage you to put all your cards face up on the table and discuss freely what you are seeking from the potential partner relationship. And I recommend that you do so at your very first meeting. When your potential partner understands your specific marketing and organizational objectives, they are in a much better position to work with you to meet them. And when they share their specific marketing and organizational objectives, you will be far more open and motivated to help meet their objectives. This open approach to partnership is the beginning of a trusting relationship, and as with any relationship, successful cross-sector partnerships begin and end with trust.

Laura Pincus Hartman is Director, External Partnerships for Zynga, the hugely successful online game company. When asked how she is able to get nonprofit and for-profit organizations to stop hiding their agendas and start working collaboratively together, she commented: “I think the purpose is not to get them to shed their agendas, but it certainly is to encourage them to shed misconceptions and to break through existing mental models and preconceived notions. However, in fact, you want every partner to bring with them their agendas, their vested interests, because it’s those interests that are going to serve to motivate them. So, you’re not asking for-profits to leave profit interests at the door, or leave all of your interests at the door, because it’s that profit motive that motivates, that encourages, and that’s going to influence them to make the best possible decisions. You want each stakeholder to do what it does best and then we also need, of course, our nonprofit partners. You want those nonprofit partners to do what they do best.”

By presenting all of your agenda items in a partnership you’re not being selfish or trying to overreach in your expectations. You are simply asking the question: What if? And it’s a very important question to ask. If we develop a strong, trusting, lasting relationship, could we potentially receive all or most of our organization’s objectives? And what could we potentially give back to our partner? Motivating and helping each other meet or preferably exceed individual objectives and thus create the much desired win-win approach – is the primary goal of cross-sector partnerships, along with creating a greater good through your partnership.

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