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.


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.


Are you prepared for partnership success? Here’s how to find out.

May 22, 2014

Part 16 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

Revised magnifying glass

Know Thyself!

Before you start your partner exploration process, you need to analyze carefully your reasons for wanting a partnership, assess your abilities and assets, and especially your commitment to deliver your end of the bargain. A clear understanding and preparedness when entering into a cross-sector partnership comes only after a comprehensive internal assessment confirming that you’re ready, willing and able to be a productive partner. In other words: you must first know yourself before you can reach out to others.

Who are you? Most organizations think they have a pretty good idea of who they are. They may have vision statements, mission statements, standard operating procedures, annual reports and/or press releases that tout their latest products, services, partners, achievements, etc. However, without analyzing your corporate culture, and especially how you’re seen by the public, you may not know who you really are.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos described your organization’s brand as “What people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Your brand, which is a fancy way of saying your reputation, is not who or what you think you are but how you are viewed by all who come in contact with your organization.

Taking the time to develop a clear understanding of what your organization really stands for and how it is viewed by the public is not only the necessary foundation for a successful cross-sector partnership, but for the success of your business in general.

Before you begin the Assessment Process, I strongly recommended that this process be led by your senior management, preferably your CEO or Executive Director. S/he must be involved in this cross-sector partnership conversation and Assessment Process, at least in the beginning stages, as this individual sets the overall tone, direction and strategy of your organization. I suggest that your Assessment Process team include several people from the list below, though a smaller organization may not have or need this deep a team.

• CEO/Executive Director
• Chief Marketing Officer and/or highest member of your sales or marketing team
• Director of Community Affairs and/or Public Relations Director
• Top representatives from your outside creative agencies (PR/advertising/marketing)
• Director of Human Resources
• A member of your Board of Directors, especially one whose business is marketing or creative services
• At least one well-respected employee
• At least one volunteer, if applicable
• A recorder: Someone to take detailed notes and serve as the communications link for all on this assessment team

The entire Assessment Process should take no more than two or three meetings, especially if notes are provided and next steps are determined as assignments for each member of the team to prepare for the next meeting. The length of this process depends greatly on the commitment of the team, leadership involvement, and how much work may have already been done by your organization.

In the course of this Assessment Process, problematic issues may arise – be sure to address them immediately. Such issues rarely go away and can be very embarrassing and a waste of time and money if not handled early and well. The key to this critical exercise is to ascertain if your company has the motivation, ability, personnel, budget and leadership to undertake a long-term partnership, with all of its inherent bumps and challenges…and rewards.

Step 1: What Do You Want to Do?
Step 2: Assess Your Company and Brand Perception
Step 3: Is Your Organization Ready for a Cross-Sector Partnership or Cause Marketing Campaign?
Step 4: What Do You Bring to a Partnership?
Step 5: Defining Your Partnership Team

Note: An electronic copy of the complete Assessment Process can be found at the Resource Center at http://www.bruceburtch.com.

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.


Yes, you can achieve nearly 70 benefits through cross-sector partnerships

March 27, 2014

Part 12 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

As we discussed in the last blog, nonprofits can receive 31 distinct benefits by working in partnership with for-profit organizations, and the number keeps growing. And for-profit organizations can receive 38 distinct benefits in such cross-sector partnerships. Now that’s a heck of a lot of benefits, and far more than most people would ever imagine.

Let me list just the top 10 benefits here and the complete listing of all 69 benefits can be found in the free Resource Center at http://www.bruceburtch.com.

Top 10 benefits for-profit organizations receive from partnership with nonprofit organizations

Note: These are not in any particular order, other than increasing sales, which is nearly always noted as number one.

1) Increase sales of products or services
2) Increase employee engagement, job satisfaction and reduce turnover
3) Increase customer and brand loyalty
4) Attract the best employees through community involvement
5) Increase community goodwill by having your leadership and organization recognized for the good they create in society
6) Increase shareholder return
7) Reach new markets and new customer demographics
8) Increase employee skill development, team-building and leadership skills
9) Draw media attention and coverage for free
10) Attract new business partners and relationships

Nonprofits are right behind with the potential to have at least the 31 benefits – those we have discovered so far. Here are the top 10 benefits nonprofits can receive.

Top 10 Benefits Nonprofits Receive From Partnering With a For-Profit Organization

1) Increase funding
2) Connect to new business partners and strategic relationships
3) Receive pro bono services
4) Attract loaned executives
5) Attract in-kind donations (equipment, furniture, computers, software, etc.)
6) Provide professional development for employees
7) Attract new volunteers
8) Provide volunteer management
9) Increase media coverage and improve media relationships
10) Develop earned income opportunities

By The Way: Which Provides More Value: Money or Brains?

When considering a cross-sector partnership, not surprisingly, the first topic that seems to arise is money. How much should the nonprofit ask for or how much should the for-profit consider donating? While money usually enters the conversation at some point in a partnership discussion, it’s short-sighted to think that money is the only or even the best value to receive in a partnership. Quite simply: If you focus on money you may leave a lot of money/value/assets on the table, never to be seen again.

Karen Baker, California Secretary of Service and Volunteering, offers: “A million dollar value of brainpower is so much more helpful than a million dollars. I can find money. I look for talent and I mean top-shelf talent, which you can shop for when you’re shopping for public/private partnerships.”

This belief is echoed by Dannielle Campos, Senior Vice President and National Philanthropy Program Manager for the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. Dannielle said, “When working with a nonprofit it can’t be just about the dollars but also about the other human resource capital you can bring if that company is interested in making, really building a strategic partnership with a nonprofit in their community. The dialogue has to be bigger than the check and the nonprofits usually need more than just money.”

Here is the underlying secret to success of cross-sector partnerships: first seek brains…and the money will follow.

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.


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.


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.

TASP B&W
(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.

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