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Partnering with for-profits

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Question:

How can nonprofits benefit from cause-branding relationships with corporations?

Answer:

Cause branding is a mutually-beneficial relationship between a corporation and a nonprofit in which the two become closely linked, and in which the nonprofit and its cause becomes an integral part of the corporation’s identity.

Cause branding started with corporations creating programs and then searching for the right nonprofit partner.

In the last couple of years it has become more and more common for nonprofits to solicit corporations.  It is no longer necessary for nonprofits to wait for corporations to approach them.

* Increase awareness and education

A cause program gives a nonprofit a partner, meaning the nonprofit does not have to solely rely on the efforts of its own staff and volunteers to generate awareness and extend its educational reach.

Because it is part of the corporate partner’s marketing program, the corporate partners invests in and helps promote awareness about the nonprofit and the nonprofit’s mission.

For example, part of Lee’s National Denim Day, which benefits the Susan G. Komen Foundation, is to get educational information about breast cancer out there to women.

Lee sells more jeans to women than any other jeans company anywhere, so women are important customers.  Lee uses Denim Day to drive Komen’s message and to educate women about breast cancer and breast cancer prevention.

* Increase funding

Cause branding programs have a mechanism in place that raises money directly for the cause.

Before these programs, nonprofits relied on traditional sponsorship approaches where they would find corporations to sponsor events for them or simply donate money.

Cause branding programs have a component, whether a donation, the sale of something, or an event, that the corporation facilitates but that benefits the nonprofit.

* Enhance brand image

Nonprofits’ brands are just as important companies’ brands, and nonprofits work hard to build a positive brand image in the eyes of all of their audiences.

If you have two great brands coming together into a successful partnership, they can raise each other’s brand image. Their good reputations will rub off on each other and reflect each other’s positive attributes.

It is important that partners carefully select each other.  They should not get into a partnership that might hurt their brand image, and hurt their organization in the long run, for the sake of earning a few dollars.

It is a relationship that should start with each party sitting down, getting to know each other, and establishing expectations for each group involved.

— Compiled by Caroline Monday


Mike Swenson is president of public relations for Barkley Evergreen and Partners, a Kansas City-based advertising agency.

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