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Future Trending  of  the   Corporate  Relations  Industry              

May 2013

Voices of Experience

Twenty of the nation’s senior corporate relations professionals, each with 8+ years in the cause marketing industry, gathered in March 2013 for The Cause Academy’s retreat in Scottsdale, Arizona. They were asked…

“What future trends do you see arising for the cause marketing / corporate alliances industry?” This document is a compilation of feedback gathered from those who have worked in the corporate relations’ industry, having at one time or another held leadership positions with the following nonprofit organizations: AARP Foundation ALSAC/ St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital American Red Cross American Diabetes Arthritis Foundation Boy Scouts of America ChildFund International Children’s Miracle Network Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Golden Fleece Foundation

Heifer International Home Depot Foundation Make-A-Wish Foundation of America March of Dimes Mothers Against Drunk Driving National 4-H Council Points of Light Starlight Children’s Foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure The Nature Conservancy United Nations Foundation YMCA of the USA

The ‘words of wisdom’ herein are a compilation from all participants, but do not reflect the opinions of any one organization or individual.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. All rights reserved. This work may be reproduced and redistributed, in whole or in part, without alteration and without prior written permission, solely by educational institutions for nonprofit administrative or educational purposes provided all copies contain the following statement: "© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC.” This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of The Cause Academy. No other use is permitted without the express prior written permission of The Cause Academy. For permission, contact The Cause Academy® and Cause Coach® are registered trademarks of The Cause Academy, LLC. All rights reserved.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. |


Future Trending of the Corporate Relations’ Industry An Industry White Paper 1.

Impact Investing on the Rise

The corporate relations industry is quickly expanding beyond the traditional definition of cause marketing, which includes logo slapping, proceeds to benefit, cash register donations, and paper icon campaigns. These promotions may still occur, but now as an element of a more integrated, multi-channel, long-term alliance built around shared value and collaborative impact. We’ve been hearing for over a decade that authenticity, focus and integration are the right ways to build corporate alliances, but few actually walked the talk. As a result, the market has been saturated with ad hoc cause marketing promotions. Consumers, companies and causes are ready for the next level – one that entails an even deeper, more thoughtful collaboration around real, purposeful-impact. Alas, corporations are realizing that picking a specific cause, one that relates to its core business in a meaningful way, and firing all resources, throughout the year, against that issue yields the best results for both society and the company. Steadfast, serious, strategic support is what moves the needle for all parties. Thus, it’s no longer just philanthropy, sponsorship-driven sales and marketing or internally focused CSR. It no longer can operate in a silo. It is maturing to company-wide, impact investing.


Society’s Rising Expectation on Business

This maturity of corporate relations is a direct result of consumers and employees wanting corporations to accept its role in replenishing and contributing to society and the planet. The last twenty years has seen the proliferation of our consumption society. Purchasing, massive waste, a booming population, and depletion of the planet’s resource are at an all-time high. A rising consciousness is underway that our overindulgence can’t last. Today, consumers demand to know what a company’s commitment is to the social fabric of our world. More importantly, the consumer has assumed the active role of watchdog, using social media to ensure it’s authentic and real, not just window dressing. This expectation that business be part of the solution is an intense trend that will continue to drive corporate/cause partnerships. Business simply cannot continue extracting resources and feeding this consumption mentality without considering the long-term ramifications. If business wants to be in business in twenty years, it needs to care about how children are educated, where our water comes from, healthcare costs and the global economy. It must reinvest in the lifecycle of society.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. |



Value More than Just the Money


Consumer Fatigue on the Rise

Corporations have more than just money to contribute to charities. From the value of its people power and human capital, marketing, retail channels, research and data, purchasing muscle, and media/government/community relations to inhouse talent and agencies-of-record, distribution systems and influence contributes to nonprofits both budget-relieving resources and marketing opportunities never before afforded. This realization led to the cause marketing and sponsorship boom throughout the 90s and new millennium.

As cause marketing boomed and drove millions of dollars in revenue to participating nonprofits, numerous charities hastily got in on the act, slapping logos on every product imaginable, declaring ownership of a color, and hitting customers up at every cash register. Hungry for its piece of the cause-marketing revenue pie, they leveraged every marketing gimmick possible from yellow wristbands and pink ribbons to red dresses and round up campaigns. It worked marvelously when these concepts were fresh and new.

Today, nonprofits increasingly value the myriad of resources that a company has to offer. The goal of a negotiation is not simply to determine the dollars that can be generated, but to identify additional tangible and intangible resources that can be brought to bear, and the buy-in/commitment levels of each party. In fact, some of the best and most valuable corporate partnerships today are not necessarily the ones that raise the most cash. Instead, they are the most valuable for the nonprofit because the company is “all in” with cash, in-kind, people power, marketing, knowledge- and resource-sharing. The commitment is fully integrated into the DNA of both parties, involves a plethora of resources from both, and is focused on purpose-driven outcomes. The trend continues to favor the more robust, long-term commitments.

The trend of generating funds off the backs of the consumers rather than from the bottom line of the corporation is still trending upwards because it’s easier money for the company to commit. Yet, the marketplace has become saturated, and a backlash is forthcoming. Shoppers are getting tired of being hit up to add a buck to every purchase they make, and they’re finding it easier to say no or ignore the request. They’re so used to seeing a logo slapped everywhere saying “buy this and proceeds will benefit….” that it’s no longer an intriguing differential. When the paper icons/pin-ups first hit the marketplace, tons of businesses, restaurants and bars got into the game to support Children’s Miracle Network. Fast-forward to the turn of the millennium when tons of charities had their own paper icon, and companies started resisting due to “too much clutter littering their store walls.” Similarly, we’re starting to see some companies forgoing consumer register campaigns because they “don’t like their customers feeling ‘guilty’ as they shop with the brand.”

Corporations and nonprofits are still struggling to build tools that illustrate for senior leadership the value of corporate relations so that they can educate, articulate and retain commitment from the top. While these tools are still rare, the rising trend of tracking and measuring the social investment’s intrinsic value and impact is here to stay.

The marketplace has become saturated, and a backlash is forthcoming. Consumer fatigue is weighing in.  

Consumer fatigue is weighing in. Those late to this game, who don’t already have well established retail partners with whom a register campaign is solidified, will likely find this a tough area to penetrate. Additionally, these tactics will soon be considered an element of a greater, integrated relationship—not a standalone commitment.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. |



Gold, Silver and Bronze is Dead

Similarly, the days of selling packaged sponsorships to a single event, program or campaign with hierarchy levels of gold, silver, bronze is ending. The tiered approach of selling isolated “opportunities” that are here today, gone tomorrow (like one-day events) that don’t connect to other sustained efforts are seen as undesirable ‘one-offs’. They’re becoming almost impossible to sell. Some companies are actually saying they no longer participate in “sponsorships,” and this is precisely what they’re alluding to. Instead, the art of “bundling” is on the rise. “One-offs” that share common themes or programmatic impact are being strategically bundled together, and additional, thoughtful activities such as employee engagement, a sharing of internal knowledge and resources, and collaborative marketing are also added so that the alliance enjoys on-going, year-round continuity and momentum that will pack lead to measureable impact.


Expanding Professionalism

Negotiating strategic relationships between nonprofits and companies is an art. It takes personnel with the rare gift of being both a bigpicture visionary and a detailed organizer. Successful corporate alliance professionals have the innate ability to see and connect dots as to how the various resources can be applied for collaborative impact. Both the nonprofit and corporation need a strategic thinker/negotiator to craft these partnerships well. Hence, a whole new breed of ‘fundraisers’ is evolving. ‘Resource development’ teams now recognize the variation of skills when hiring corporate relations experts in addition to individualgiving experts. Corporate relations pros are excellent salesmen, intense negotiators, poker players and diplomats. Their communications, writing, presentation and people skills are outstanding.

They are fearless, will cold call, take rejection, and are not easily intimidated by C-suite executives. They are jacks-of-alltrades, commanding marketing, PR, promotions, digital/social media, legal and fundraising experience, as well as a strong, business acumen. The hunger to attract top talent in corporate relations is rising, as nonprofits spend money to make money. This now includes nationwide searches to recruit and hire the most savvy, business-minded (yet sociallydriven), results-oriented professionals with proven track records in corporate relations. The pay scale for such positions is now expected to be in-line with top earning fundraisers, and staffed appropriately with account managers and administrative support.

Also evolving is the existence of bonus structures set around organizational goals to incentivize all staff to share in the accountability, implementation and renewal of corporate partnerships and resource development. Thus far, only a few nonprofits have adopted bonus plans, but more are taking notice.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. |



80/20 Rule Favors Internal Politics

Corporate relations professionals serve as airtraffic controllers, coordinating the communications, delivery, execution, buy-in and logistics of multiple people and departments within the organization. It’s exhausting work. If you ask nonprofit corporate relations’ staff, the majority guesstimate that they typically spend about 80% of their time managing their internal colleagues and infrastructure, and only about 20% of their time actually servicing and/or pitching new corporate relationships. Given their annual performance goals that typically focus entirely on money raised, this is perplexing and self-defeating. The practice of strategic corporate alliances continues to be a very labor-intensive process internally. Those nonprofits most successful in bearing the fruits of corporate alliances clearly and demonstratively have support of senior leadership, a senior manager who solely handles the internal politics so that others can sell and service, and the clear authority to cut through bureaucracy.

8. Need More than Mission and Good Looks to Attract Corporate Partners Lots of nonprofits still think companies will give money because of a compelling mission and a great smile. Wrong. It is imperative today that a nonprofit has its own arsenal of assets it brings to the negotiation table, to a corporate partner’s investment will fuel, and that provides additional momentum towards the impact goals. The sales pitch suggesting the return on investment of a “halo effect” to the corporation for being a ‘good corporate citizen’ is no longer compelling. Furthermore, companies have been burned in the recent decade sponsoring a nonprofit’s start-up ideas that never get traction as it turns out the concept didn’t have the internal infrastructure to scale, didn’t have widespread internal support, or that senior leadership didn’t value as a priority. When a nonprofit puts none of its own skin in the game, and relies solely on corporate sponsors to fuel the effort, it’s highly likely that the effort fizzles and fades because, by nature, corporate relations have become an organization-wide undertaking.

Therefore, the tune has changed. Now, companies want nonprofits to show their cards first— asking ‘what do you have planned?’ Companies want to see a nonprofit’s marketing and promotions calendar. Before anteing up their own resources, they want to hook their wagon to what the nonprofit has an unwavering commitment to, something in which it has already invested its OWN resources. They prefer to invest in what the nonprofit is already committing its own resources to—not being on the hook to seed something that’s a ‘nice to have.’ An idea or program with no budget is a clear indicator that it’s a nice to have, not an organizational priority.


You No Longer Control Your Brand

Consumers now control brands, not brand managers. Gone are the days when simply a headline, tag line or PSA positioned your brand the way you wanted. Today, social media, viral videos, and opinionated bloggers have the last word. We don’t really ‘manage’ our brand anymore; we facilitate the dialogue.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. |


Knowing how to leverage and respond to a corporation’s digital strategy is paramount. Something we didn’t deal with ten years ago. Today, companies look for nonprofits that are savvy in social media, and can converse with its donors, members and volunteers. Nonprofits are scurrying to meet this expectation, and many are borrowing their corporate partners’ in-house expertise and agencies-of-record to increase capabilities.


Be Easy to Work With

Lately, for-profit corporations have been creating their own cause brands, or running campaigns like Tide’s Loads of Hope or Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty in which no charity partner is identified. This trend came on the heels of many companies having tried to build sponsorships and alliances with nonprofits, only to find that charities are a pain to work with. Our decision-making process is slow; our approval process is bureaucratic and our demands are lofty. So, the corporations decided to assume full control by cutting out the nonprofit middleman, creating their own cause brands. This trend of ‘doing good ambiguously’ has been rising, but is starting to turn. Social media enables the public to easily look under the hood and see where the money is going, how the impact is being accomplished, and/or who the nonprofit delivery partner is. Consumers know that a company has no real expertise in hunger relief, building wells in Africa, mentoring kids, or protecting the rainforest. Nor should they. This is the job of the nonprofit. We are the experts in the mission issues, and the companies rely on our credibility and on-the-ground delivery systems for authenticity. Thus, companies are returning to the nonprofits for their institutional knowledge and support base — but choosing nonprofits with the reputation and tools that make it easy to work with them. Accordingly, savvy nonprofits are proactively designing turnkey tools, contract templates, graphic standards manuals, and promotional creative, as well as streamlining the approval process and investing in infrastructure to appropriately support, with more ease, its corporate partnerships program.


The Gap Is Widening

The gap between the savvy and antiquated nonprofits is widening. Those investing in IT, research, data, infrastructure and talent will dominate the future. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a huge blue-chip charity or a small, nibble start up, a technologically robust infrastructure will set a nonprofit apart from the rest of the pack. The nonprofits that use technology to know their constituents (their demographics, psychographics, passions, interests and motivations) are much more desirable to corporate partners than those who only know contact mailing addresses and money given. Nonprofits that invest in CRM databases, digital marketing, analytics and consumerdriven content publishing are significantly more valuable and can command much higher dollars when negotiating strategic corporate alliances. Those that don’t invest in the technological infrastructure will find it hard to compete as the discrepancy between the haves and have-nots becomes strikingly evident.

Nonprofits that invest in CRM databases, digital marketing, analytics, and consumer-driven content publishing are significantly more valuable to a corporate partner.  

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. |



We’re Making It Too Hard

UBIT and CCV have become the swear words of corporate relations. Are they really as dirty as we’ve been led to believe? Just because something is subject to UBIT, doesn’t mean you’ll actually pay UBIT. And even if you do, it’s just a tax—albeit a hefty tax—but it’s not illegal or immoral. When the initiative drives significant revenue, you very well may still be way ahead even after paying UBIT, so what’s so naughty? Too often by even uttering the word UBIT, folks misrepresent that triggering UBIT jeopardizes a charity’s nonprofit status. For most large nonprofits, you’d have to be ridiculously successful in your efforts to generate enough UBIT revenue to get to that point. And it’s clearly something you could (and should) be tracking anyways—so you’ll know long before you even approach that level. So take a deep breath and stop throwing the baby out with the bathwater over UBIT. Run the numbers and make an informed, mathematical decision. CCV, also known as commercial co-venture, is the other trigger word that sends most nonprofit attorneys and corporate relations staff into a tailspin. Most corporate marketers still don’t even know CCV laws exist, and many nonprofits have ignored state CCV registration laws for decades. In the fall of 2012, however, the New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released a clarification of its CCV registration laws and how it advises nonprofits and forprofits to comply with its transparency and consumer protection goals. Because of this, there is now heightened sensitivity to comply with commercial co-venture registration laws, which vary by state. Most agree that it’s just a matter of time before some CCV promotion gets publically slapped, and used as the model example of what not to do.

Ed Chansky, attorney at Greenberg and Trauig, reminds us that there are only seven states (Maine, Massachusetts, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Hawaii and Illinois) that require filing a copy of the contract—and most other states have quite simple or no registration requirements. It is paperwork, which is a pain, but if the relationship is valuable enough, it’s worth complying with the laws. While nonprofits can’t and shouldn’t provide legal advice to a company, it should make turnkey tools available to aid its corporate partners in understanding CCV, such as boiler plate contract clauses, sample disclosure language, registration requirements and forms for each state, and third-party references, articles and websites. Make it easy, both for the corporate sponsor and for the staff. Put resources in place within your accounting and legal department to proactively handle CCV and UBIT as a cost of doing corporate relations’ business, rather than tossing the terms and fears around like a hot potato. This only frustrates and confuses those tasked with pursuing such relationships, literally stagnating productivity and revenue. The spotlight is getting brighter, so it’s time to proactively address the elephant in the room.

Just because something is subject to UBIT doesn’t mean you’ll actually pay UBIT. And even if you do, it’s just a tax. It’s not illegal. Run the numbers and make an informed, mathematical decision as to whether it’s worth it.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. |


13. Leadership Is Key Corporate relations initiatives that don’t have senior leadership’s serious backbone and active participation will crumble. No corporate relations’ vice president or director can do this gig on his/her own, no matter how large the staff. Too many instances arise when he/she is out on a limb, counting on senior leadership to have his/her back. It’s the nature of the business. Once a corporate sponsor gets less than was promised, a contract is breeched or a staff member gets thrown under the bus by senior leadership, the word on the street is that the organization cannot be trusted. It’s still a very small, well-networked community and corporate decisionmakers talk with each other. Senior leadership must be 110% behind the corporate relations initiative—not just as cheerleaders, but as solid backers and tough decision makers. Leadership is key. Companies are investing in the integrity and mission of the organization, which is only as good as its people!

14. Cause is Going Global Corporate/ cause relationships are expanding beyond the borders of the U.S., as companies and nonprofits seek to engage constituents worldwide around purposeful-impact. The different countries’ legal and accounting laws continue to present hurdles to this fast-tracking trend, but serious investments are being made by many NGOs and corporations to figure it out. The realities of the Internet, rapidly developing economies, and globalization are speed tracking the desire to take corporate relations worldwide. Additionally, many nonprofits’ own organization structures create a barrier to signing international corporate alliances. Conversations need to immediately take place to proactively develop a game plan for being able to collaborate respectfully around global corporate partnerships, or miss out on such opportunities entirely. Globalization is here to stay. Those blue-chip charities perceived as global, but that can’t or won’t streamline their processes, will likely miss out on the future of corporate relations.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. |


The Cause Academy 2013 Retreat Corporate Relations Senior Leaders’   Emilie Antonetti Vice President Golden Fleece Foundation at Brooks Brothers

Pat Chandler Senior Advisor to the CEO at Points of Light Formerly: SWI Consulting, The Home Depot Foundation

Rick Bell National Managing Director, Cause Development at Arthritis Foundation Formerly: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, American Diabetes Association

Edward Chansky Attorney at Greenberg Traurig

Valerie Dorian

Heather Terry Elliott

Senior Vice President, Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Alliances at National Park Foundation Formerly The Nature Conservancy

Director, Corporate Partnerships at National 4-H Council Formerly: American Red Cross, Children’s National Medical Center, Make-A-Wish Foundation

Stephen Emerick Director at The Emerick Group Formerly: Boy Scouts of America, Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Jennifer Kim Field Executive Director, Global Partnerships and Marketing at United Nations Foundation Formerly: VolunteerMatch, Points of Light Foundation

Carrie Glasscock

Jeff Hoffman

Director, Corporate Relations at Susan G. Komen for the Cure Formerly: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

President at Jeff Hoffman & Associates, Global Philanthropy and Civic Engagement Formerly: The Walt Disney Company

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. |


The Cause Academy 2013 Retreat Corporate Relations Senior Leaders’   Paul Jones Owner, Alden Keene & Associates Formerly: Operation Kids, Children’s Miracle Network

Jennifer Maher President/Cause Coach at The Cause Academy; The Nature Conservancy Formerly: Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, YMCA of the USA

Elizabeth LaBorde Chief Development Officer at Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Formerly: Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, Children’s Memorial Foundation of Chicago

Philips McCarty Principal at Good Scout (McCarty Partners, LLC) Formerly: ALSAC/ St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Jim Nedohon

Marleen New

Cause Marketing & Sponsorship Executive at AARP Foundation Formerly: Rebuilding Together, WomenHeart, First Degree

Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Heifer International Formerly: CJRW Outmarketing

Scott Pansky Partner, Co-Founder at Allison & Partners

Ronda Sherman Director of US Resource Development at ChildFund International Formerly: PowerPact

Dvorah Waldman

Candace Woods

Director, Global Brand & Alliances at Starlight Children's Foundation Formerly: ALSAC/ St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Director, National Partnerships & Cause Marketing at March of Dimes Formerly: ALSAC/ St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC. |


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Future Trending of the Corporate Relations Industry  

A BrainTrust of seasoned, cause marketing professionals discuss the industry's future and rising trends.

Future Trending of the Corporate Relations Industry  

A BrainTrust of seasoned, cause marketing professionals discuss the industry's future and rising trends.