Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained

Sos_support_1One of my favorite cause marketers is Billy Shore at Share Our Strength.  He's been a leader in so many ways, beginning with his partnership with American Express in the 1990's. 

Now he has a new cause marketing partnership with WineStyles that has a few interesting twists.  The biggest one is that SOS has bought its own WineStyles franchise in Washington, D. C.  But Billy doesn't plan to stay local.  SOS has a goal of opening 19 additional locations over the next five years.

Of course, owning a franchise isn't cause marketing, which I define as a partnership between a nonprofit and a for profit for mutual profit.  A nonprofit going into business for itself is venture philanthropy.

Venture philanthropy was all the rage a few years ago--Yale U. and Goldman Sachs even sponsored a competition--but then reality set in: starting a business from scratch is hard and not always profitable.  A lot of nonprofit businesses failed. 

Nonprofits are turning to franchises because they offer a tested business model and an infrastructure that gives nonprofit entrepreneurs a leg-up.  What's great for SOS is that being a franchisee will help drive their cause marketing activities with WineStyles.  Fellow franchise owners--WineStyles currently has 100 locations across the U. S.--won't just be helping another nonprofit, they'll be supporting a fellow franchisee.

SOS's cause marketing campaign with WineStyles includes:

  • WineStyles hosting a chef wine-tasting series at its 100 locations.  Good for both partners.  SOS has a large network of chefs across the country who will now have a convenient venue to participate with SOS--even better if the tastings can be held at SOS-run locations.  The tastings give WineStyles the chance to introduce their stores and wines to local chefs and SOS supporters.
  • WineStyles sponsoring SOS's Taste of the Nation and A Tasteful Pursuit.  It's simple: WineStyles' customers are great prospects for SOS's events and SOS's supporters are great potential customers for WineStyles.
  • WineStyles creating a national SOS wine club.  A tasty, compelling way to get both brands in front of consumers/donors.  Sure beats a newsletter!
  • WineStyles donating a percentage of proceeds from select wines and wine baskets.  People run, walk, bike and bowl for a cause.  Why not drink for one?

Share Our Strength has been a great cause marketer through the years and that will continue.  Melding venture philanthropy with cause marketing may be the thing that takes their fundraising to the next level.  I'm sure it will embolden other nonprofits to combine the two practices.  Let's hope they have SOS's smarts, strength and stamina for challenging projects.  SOS should be their model, not their distress signal.