Paulo Miguel Pereira da Silva, president of Portuguese paper company Renova, said it was never a question of why, but why not make a black toilet paper. As someone who's interested in product design, black had special meaning to him.
...black means irreverence, maybe touching a bit on the core nature of art, which is to break rules and set new ones. Culturally, deep down, Renova Black invites people to break down whatever might be limiting as common sense ideas.
Paulo's makeover of toilet paper from commodity to chic made me think of all the things about the nonprofit business we never question or change because they're as accepted and ordinary as white toilet paper. But look where thinking outside the bowl has gotten Renova: black toilet paper is poised to become the next must have item, especially at swanky hotels and restaurants. Did I mention it sells for $2.50 a roll?
Consider the relationship most nonprofits have with their corporate partners. When was the last time you asked how you could help grow THEIR business? They probably know what you want from them, but do you know what they need from you? I bet not. Nonprofits don't generally think that way about their partners. You ask them for money, they comply (or not), you leave. That's how it's always worked. It's like toilet paper. You can have any color you want so long as it's white.
But nonprofits need to move beyond the ordinary and be an extra-ordinary partner. Paulo says that when he stocks his bathroom with Renova Black guests will pinch the rolls. The value you bring to corporate partners should have them pinching themselves to make sure they're not dreaming.
Update: Check out Katya Andresen's plog for another take on the pitfalls of taking the beaten path. She also gives you a link to my post "Cause Marketing Porn". Thanks for the plug on your plog, Katya.