Profiles in Partnership
A series on best practices and sound advice for developing and maintaining successful partnerships between nonprofit and for-profit organizations
BB: So much of cause marketing is based on transactional relationships and we’re trying to move people to realize that you really don’t get the benefit on either side until you move beyond transactional and get into relationships. How do you get them to get engaged with you so they see more of you and get more back from you?
VW: I think persistence, perseverance, and patience -- all those qualities are very important. We can’t assume that they’re just going come to us; we have to have initiative, just as they do. I think the other thing is to talk about the successful relationships as models and examples. We were lucky enough to get the Neighborhood Excellence Initiative award from Bank of America.
It’s important to get people to think beyond the normal way that they do business. That $200,000 grant over two years helped to put BAYCAT (http://baycat.org/ ) on the map. It also opened many more doors for us with other donors. Bank of America also diligently continues to bring together the network of grantees as a cohort so we can learn and converse with each other as fellow nonprofit colleagues as well as with the bank. They are a good example of moving beyond just the initial grant investment.
BB: So you use one relationship to leverage others?
VW: Totally. First Republic Bank gave us our first five-year grant. That’s unheard of now, but they set a precedent for us to look for multi-year grants. Union Bank was the first bank to hire Studio BAYCAT on the studio production side in addition to becoming a donor. We were able to use them as an example, which paved the way for Bank of the West to enter into the same kind of relationship. We can get studio gigs now because we have a client list that we can show as examples of what we did with others like them either by sector of clients – banks, law firms, foundation, tech companies or by sector of themes and trends, many socially relevant like health and environment. I think the more specific examples that you could give to people, then you stir their curiosity and maybe get them to think differently about new opportunities to work together.
BB: A big part of my work is to try and imbed a cause consciousness into a corporate culture, to think about having a cause focus in their work because of what it could bring back to their company. When I said that recently to the head of a major foundation, he said corporations are too selfish, their bottom line is just to make money. What would be your take on that?
VW: I feel like, yes, I think that’s true. But that’s also what I’m trying to do for BAYCAT, I’m trying to make money, AND I have my heart in our mission. We have to develop the organization to do both well. My personality is such that I’m probably less divisive, and I’m more inclusive. Instead of seeing them as something so different, I ask, “how is it that we are alike? You know, I’m just as interested in our bottom line, especially now, because let’s face it, there is no program, if there is no money. It is not easy to run a business, any kind of business. I think the economic decline has created some impossible challenges especially for the poorer communities, and for service providers, but it has forced us and corporations to think more about partnerships, building capacity, sustainability, doing well and doing good. I do hope it’s more than just jargon.
Up Next: Part 6: Misconceptions between nonprofits and for-profits
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