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.


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.


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.


Achieve more benefits than you can possibly imagine through cross-sector partnerships

March 19, 2014

Part 11 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

From my experience, most people and the organizations they represent begin their exploration of a partnership with a fairly limited list of partnership goals. Usually the “ask” is fairly simple and straightforward. The nonprofit might approach a for-profit organization for a donation to a particular project or program, or to sponsor a table at their annual fundraising gala. The for-profit organization may be seeking to raise the morale of its employees by arranging a one-day event where the employees would volunteer at a local homeless dining room or shelter. The misconception here is that cross-sector partnerships are not about philanthropy, cash donations, “one day and done” volunteer events, or sponsorships such as a breast cancer 3-day event or pledge walk. By definition, a partnership is a relationship. Many times there are contractual stipulations, but in nearly all cases, the partnership is based on a relationship meant to be long-term, jointly beneficial with many linkages.

In my workshops, participants are asked to write down all the benefits they think a nonprofit organization can receive by working with a for-profit organization in a partnership. Then we flip the exercise around, and they write down all the benefits they think a for-profit organization can receive by working in partnership with a nonprofit organization. And what I have found is startling.

To the question of how many distinct benefits a nonprofit can receive from partnering with a for-profit organization, the answer is, at least as of this writing: 31 distinct benefits. And to the question of how many benefits a for-profit organization can receive in a partnership with a nonprofit organization: 38 distinct benefits. That is one heck of a lot of benefits for each partner to receive in a partnership. However, what surprises my workshop attendees the most is the fact that for-profit organizations can potentially receive more benefit than can nonprofits. Most people think it would be the other way around.
These benefits are the real “secret sauce” of my work. There is an extraordinary amount of benefit that can be achieved by all partners in a well-designed, trusting, objectives- driven, cross-sector partnership. This has been proven so often over the last 35 years that I can make the following statement with absolutely no reservations:

2. The Promise

An innovative public relations program, the most clever social media campaign, the funniest or most emotional advertisement, the deepest discount or the biggest sale, the largest benefit race or the most successful fundraising gala – none of these can come even close to the multiple benefits that come from a cross-sector partnership.

Rather than detail all 31 nonprofit benefits and the 38 for-profit benefits here, in the next part I’m going to list the 10 most important ones, at least in my opinion, from each category. The complete listing of all 69 benefits can be found in the free online Resource Center at http://www.bruceburtch.com. By the way, you may be able to add even more benefits for either list, and I ask you to email me personally with your discoveries.

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.