Win-Win Cause Marketing Partnerships

PartnershipsKristian over at the Cone Blog has a good post on a partnership bill of rights.  As she notes, cause marketing programs are and should move from transactional relationships to true partnerships.  She has some good suggestions on what a corporate partner and a nonprofit should ask for that you should definitely check out.

It can be challenging to move from a transactional relationship to a true partnership.  Of all the partners I've recruited the past three and a half years, I can honestly say that I only have two "true partnerships."  One is with iParty, the other with Ocean State Job Lot.  What distinguishes these two from other partners is that they really have a deep commitment to the hospital that transcends the cause marketing.  They're willing to work and takes chances with us, and, in the end, are probably more focused on our success than their own.  The same could be said of our feelings toward them.

The rest of the partners we work with are definitely "giving" and loyal, but when it comes to cause marketing they are more into the "marketing" than the "cause".  That doesn't make them bad partners (just bad people-kidding), but it does mean I need a good strategy to turn them into "true partners."  With this in mind, here is my own corporate partners/nonprofit bill of rights for 2008.

As my corporate partner I ask you to:

  • Recognize that our partnership is special.  Because it is.  Partners look out for each other's best interests, but my "interests" include the well being of thousands of needy adults and children that deserve quality healthcare.  That's not the same as the partnership you have with the advertising firm that does your creative.
  • Support our partnership in a lot of different ways.  Sell mobiles at your registers.  Promote us on your web site.  Tag us in your advertising.  Keep telling your customers and employees about partnership in fun, meaningful and lucrative ways throughout the year.  One gig together is like advertising for a day: it's pretty worthless.
  • Don't take the partnership for granted.  Don't assume that you hold all the cards and I have to accept what you give me.  I have options too.  But I'm not pursuing them because I'm treating our relationship as if it already was a true partnership.  You should too. 

As your nonprofit partner, I will:

  • Extend my hand more often to lend one than to ask for a handout.  Our relationship is win-win and I'm committed to our mutual interests.  I'm an extension of your marketing and corporate giving teams--advising, helping and lobbying--even when it doesn't mean a payday for me.
  • Respect your priorities.  You're trying to run a business and may even support other causes.  It's not all about me.  I promise to stay focused on creating value and communicating clearly and concisely.  I know that the best thing that could happen for my organization is for your business to be wildly successful.
  • Not forget that "m" stands first for "mission" then for "marketing".  Companies aren't the only ones that confuse this order.  I sometimes get so caught up in the deal making I forget to share the humanity behind the cause marketing--the part that makes CM more special and unique than other forms of marketing.  If partners view you as just another slice in the marketing mix, you'll be more expendable than if you had taken the time to give them what they want and need to see: the mission behind the marketing.