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If I Knew Then, What I Know Now: Words of Wisdom from cause marketing gurus

Spring 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 and were asked…

“If you knew then, what you know now about the nuances of working in cause marketing and corporate alliances, what words of wisdom would you pass along?” 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 National Park Foundation 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.


“If you knew then, what you know now about the nuances of working in cause marketing and corporate alliances, what words of wisdom would you pass along?” The corporate relations’ BrainTrust collectively offered the following responses:

Corporate relations, in general… 1. Define a corporate relations’ strategy before you dive in… Be sure you’re willing to commit the resources required to truly deliver what you promise and to service your corporate partnerships, and decide how it intertwines with both the marketing and philanthropy strategies. 2. Always frame your conversations around what’s in it for your partner. Be able to articulate the total value of the partnership, not just the cash. But do make sure your partner has skin in the game. 3. Seek long-term, integrated partnerships rather than one-hit wonders. 4. Listen more, pitch less. Let a company tell YOU what they’re interested in. It’s easier to close a deal or morph one that they’re already excited about than to sell them your completely new one. 5. Know that it’s okay to say “No, thank you” and walk away. It needs to be a balanced, win/win, give/take for both parties. Follow your gut. If it feels wrong, it is wrong. 6. Recognize that corporate alliances, marketing and fundraising go hand-in-hand… You can’t have one without the other because companies all want ROI these days. 7. If you wait for it to be perfect, you’ll never get it going… “Good enough” is great! Get out the door and start building relationships. 8. Don’t get yourself too far out on a limb alone, or it might just break. Ensure you have senior leadership’s steadfast support. 9. Prepare to spend a lot of time in the legal department. 10. Don’t assume corporations have tons of manpower to dedicate to your alliance. They’re often a one-person team, just like you. Make it easy to work with you.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC.



What makes a cause campaign/ corporate relationship work?

What corporate relations’ campaigns don’t work?

1. The alliance is grounded in ART: authentic, responsible, and transparent.

1. Forced messaging that is off-brand or offmessage.

2. Campaign is time bound, has a clear purpose, a concise and clear call-to-action, and is geared towards a specific target audience. The campaign is achievable at first, and scalable in the long run.

2. No clear call-to-action. No clear objectives. Too many messages or competing messages. Trying to appeal to too many audiences.

3. The best campaigns are co-built and activated by both the nonprofit and the corporate partner(s).

3. No buy-in from senior leadership as evidenced by lack of financial and human resources assigned to the campaign.

4. Integrated, multi-faceted campaigns that engage many departments within both the company and nonprofit (senior leadership, marketing, digital & social media, sales, product development, R&D, human resources and employee engagement, etcetera) have the longest shelf life.

4. Over promising and under delivering.

5. Both parties have organizational buy-in for the campaign, and have budgeted financial and staff resources to support the commitment (not just cheerleading support).

7. Changing your program, mission or goals to solely meet the partner’s objectives.

6. The campaign fuels the Mission and isn’t just a gimmick to get consumers in-store and online. Customers are savvier than you think. 7. Give and get offers are very successful. For example, give $5 and get $5 off works wonders! 8. It is turnkey and easy for all parties to implement. It’s structured as a win-win-win-win: charity, corporation, consumer, end user/ outcome.

5. Intensive campaigns that require involvement from staff who already have full-time jobs. 6. One-side is expected to do all the work.

8. Trying to sell a promotional concept using only jazz hands and fairy dust. You need visuals to show and commitments that demonstrate the ideas are real. 9. Not testing promotional concepts and messaging. Focus groups of one don’t work. 10. Thinking your great mission and good looks is all you need to attract a corporate partner.

9. Employee engagement is key. 10. Measurement is vital, and should drive consistent reassessment for relevance. Build in flexibility and ability to edit/change, if needed. © 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC.



Digital & social media… 1. Use it. Social media is here to stay. 2. Have a response plan and written strategy ready before you start. Understand the outcome you want before you dive in. Inform people internally so they know what is going on. 3. Engage followers on an on-going basis. It’s not a one-time play. 4. People don’t read anymore. Short and sweet is preferred. Videos are best. 5. Really know your supporters and record their preferences. Let data be your friend. Ye’ with the best data wins. 6. Get creative on how you can acknowledge partners within UBIT guidelines. 7. Don’t overpromise results. Social media ROI isn’t yet reliable. 8. Because of the power of social media, nonprofits and for-profits no longer “control” their brand. We can try, but in the end, know that it’s open for the public to discuss, interpret and defend. 9. Monetize. 10. Pick and choose. You don’t have to do it all.

Have a social media response plan and written strategy before you start.

Managing up… 1. Managing up is an art, not a science. Own your mistakes. 2. Understand what leadership wants and give it to them. Manage expectations. Don’t over promise. 3. Collaborate. Compromise. Ask permission. Don’t tell. Gain consensus from the start. Include others. Don’t be a one-man band. 4. The only person who will remind senior leadership of your success is you. They need simple bullets and pictures. Always keep them informed. 5. Never surprise your boss or let them find out something you did or said from someone else. 6. Know the power of your words and body language. 7. Learn to have hard conversations. Avoid the weeds. Be direct. Be honest and direct about what you need to succeed. 8. Sometimes it’s not appropriate for you to know something. 9. Discuss or disagree behind close doors, but when you leave the room, speak the party line. 10. Make your boss feel like you’re committed to helping him/her succeed.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC.



Managing corporate partners…

Leading a corporate relations department…

1. Do your homework. Anticipate your partners’ questions and needs. Know their brand, products, target audience and giving history. Build trust.


Know what needle you’re trying to move, and that senior leadership seriously cares that you’re trying to move it.

2. The devil is in the details… Follow-up, followup, follow-up. Tie up loose ends. Never assume.


Listen more than you speak. Silence can be golden.


Culture trumps strategy.


Focus on the job, not the politics.


Hire people smarter than you.


Pick a few things, and do them well.


Give yourself and others permission to fail. Be forgiving.


You’re not as smart as you think you are.

3. Senior leadership must empower staff to set boundaries if a sponsor is going to far or crossing the line without fearing an internal backlash. 4. Don’t say, “No, we can’t.” Offer alternatives for what you can do instead. 5. Once you get a meeting, match the attendee levels, such as CEO=CEO, etcetera, and don’t seriously outnumber the other side. 6. Have at least three staff members interacting and building relationships with their corporate sponsor counterparts so that the alliance doesn’t hinge upon a single person’s employment. 7. Your job is not just to represent your nonprofit, but to broker both parties’ interests, expectations and responsibilities. To preserve the relationship, you must stand in the other person’s shoes and care about helping them to also be victorious. 8. Listen. Listen. Listen. Hear what your partner wants and needs, and how they’ll measure success.


Passion without metrics will not succeed. Find metrics that make sense to your senior leadership team, or they won’t appreciate the value of the corporate partnerships. Other than cash, a few good ones are impressions, new members, web traffic, email acquisition, and volunteers. 10. If you spend all your time protecting your turf or trying to control everything, you’ll soon find yourself all alone on the battlefield.  

If you wait for it to be perfect, you’ll never get it going… ‘Good

9. Ask your corporate partners to help open more doors to other companies.

enough’ is great! Get out the door and start building relationships!

10. No two deals will be the same.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC.



10. Have a crisis management plan that includes the board.

Board members… 1. Always put a board member between you and trouble.

11. Never say anything to a board member that you wouldn’t say to your boss’ face.

2. Engage them in your prospecting. Remember: the board can lead you to more than just money… in fact, often they are more eager to liaison you to contacts who can provide marketing muscle or in-kind donations through which you can cultivate a relationship. Tap the board to open doors (but not to sell or close).

12. There’s always one who will make your life crazy. 13. Never get sideways with a board member. You will loose. 14. Learn the hierarchy, and who’s friends with who on the ‘outside’.

3. Don’t assume they know what to do. Educate often and specifically explain and ask for what you want/need. For example: Don’t just ask them for leads on ‘who they know.’ It’s too vague. Instead, be clear about a specific person at a specific company that you’re trying to connect with—and ask who can help you get to that person. You’ll enjoy much better results.

15. Never let a subordinate get between you and a board member. 16. Get face time in front of them so they understand what you do. 17. Get to know them individually. Learn why they are on the board and what motivates them to be there. Ask them for advice and to lend their area of expertise to enhance your work.

4. Find one or two board members who are great with corporate executives to use in lieu of a CEO who doesn’t have such charisma. 5. If they open a door, follow through. Or they’ll never open it again.

18. Hold the board accountable. Find their strengths and leverage them. Keep engaged with subcommittees and activities for fundraising and marketing. They need to be challenged and to feel needed. Quickly identify who are the ‘doers’ and who are just there to build their resume.

6. Always return their call or email immediately. One miss can cost you severely. 7. Always ensure the executive board is aware and supportive of any corporate relationship that might be deemed ‘controversial’.

19. Don’t just talk at them. Print, don’t speak, updates. Use your face-time to engage them in sharing their thoughts and input. If they don’t ask questions, they aren’t paying attention.

8. Never surprise the board with a huge corporate partnership promotion in the marketplace that they’ve never heard about.

20. There’s always one who will make your life crazy.

9. Your CEO is the door to your board. Don’t go around him/her or keep them in the dark. Always ensure your CEO is aware of your interactions with board members. If a board

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC.



Internal politics… 1.

Expect that you will spend much more of your time managing internal politics than actually selling or servicing corporate partners. It’s the nature of the job.


Invest time making internal friends with colleagues, chapter staff and board members. It’s worth the investment. No matter how well you do your job, these people’s opinions of you and your relationship will make or break your success.


It is a Kumbaya business. Play nice or get burned. Engage all departments. Even if you don't, let them think they have a role. Don’t alienate peers, direct reports or supervisors. Treat internal groups like external clients. Hone your negotiations skills, internally and externally. Pick your battles. Know when to push, and when to pull.


Learn the hierarchy. Find the key people/ decision makers with the ‘real’ power within the organization so you can get your job done. Note: they may not always be in leadership roles.


Include the program staff in sponsor negotiations so they witness the intricacies of crafting a strategic alliance. It helps them to have skin in the game.


Know what’s considered a win within the organization so you don’t get busy doing all the wrong stuff.


Don’t own the idea. Be as collaborative as possible. Great ideas and great feedback can come from anywhere.


Develop patience. It’s a “must have” quality to work in nonprofits.


Everything will take twice as long and be twice as expense as you think.

10. Let the mission guide your decision-making, not politics, gossip, or personalities.

© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC.


The Cause Academy Corporate Relations Senior Leaders’ Retreat 2013 Emilie Antonetti

Rick Bell

Vice President Golden Fleece Foundation at Brooks Brothers

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

Pat Chandler

Edward Chansky

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

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

Jennifer Kim Field

Stephen Emerick

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

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

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 Corporate Relations Senior Leaders’ Retreat Paul Jones

Elizabeth LaBorde

Owner, Alden Keene & Associates Formerly: Operation Kids, Children’s Miracle Network

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

Jennifer Maher

Philips McCarty

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

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

Ronda Sherman

Scott Pansky

Director of US Resource Development at ChildFund International Formerly: PowerPact

Partner, Co-Founder at Allison & Partners

Dvorah Waldman

Candace Woods

Vice President, 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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© 2013 The Cause Academy, LLC.

Corporate Relations' Words of Wisdom  

Twenty of the nation’s senior corporate relations professionals, each with 8+ years in the cause marketing industry, gathered in March 2013...