by John Trybus, Managing Director

We’re living in an exciting time for partnerships between corporations and nonprofits.

Partnerships are getting more targeted, more sophisticated, more transparent and yes, more mutually beneficial to both the nonprofit and corporation alike.

Corporate partnerships are here to stay and the statistics back it up. Consider the following strong endorsement of corporate partnerships and cause marketing: when price and quality are about the same, 94% of consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause, according to the 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study.

Successful partnerships not only help companies increase their reputation and brand love among consumers but (most importantly) help further the social missions of many worthy causes. Save the Children and Luciana Bonifacio-Sette, the organization’s Director of Corporate Partnerships, are shining examples of how to create mutually beneficial corporate partnerships for maximum impact. She’s this week’s social strategist.

After leaving her native Argentina and working in a number of marketing roles, Luciana found her passion developing corporate partnerships at Save the Children where she has been for more than 12 years. “My career has evolved with the industry,” Luciana says. “The passion for my work really comes from the passion that I see from our team on the ground. The first time that I had a chance to go to the field and see the work taking place and see the impact that we can have by working together and realizing the impact corporations can have in the lives of children is incredible.”

Today Save the Children enjoys the support of many A-list corporate partners including Green Mountain Coffee, Ikea, P&G, Zynga, Bvlgari and many others. At the core, Luciana and Save the Children look for corporate partners who are dedicated. “For us it’s key to have partners who truly see this as a long term commitment rather than a one off promotional activity,” she explains. “One of the key questions we ask is: will the partnership allow us to do much more than we could by ourselves?”

Here’s a preview of Luciana’s tips on creating effective corporate partnerships:

  • Determine shared objectives but realize what each side brings to the table. Partnerships are about mutual benefit. Luciana believes that a shared commitment to an issue is a key to success, but also that each side must bring something unique to the relationship. The saying is true: the whole is greater than the sum of each part when it comes to corporate partnerships. 
  • It’s not just about the money. Activate partnerships through multiple areas of engagement. “I think there’s a lot of ways companies can be involved,” says Luciana. “We do tend to think of cash a lot because cash is king, cash is what you need to make the program happen, but there are many additional ways that can support that process.” An example is Save the Children’s work on creating an employee volunteer program with GlaxoSmithKline, where executives are fully funded to lend their expertise overseas for 3-6 months to the nonprofit’s field programs. From product integration to social media campaigns to employee engagement, cause partnerships can (and should) be activated in many different ways. 
  • Industry-wide collaboration can create real change. Luciana sees her organization’s work with Starbucks and Green Mountain Coffee as a perfect example of the good that can happen when competitors come together. “I see the coffee industry coming together to try to address issues not as competitors but really companies that are interested in issues that they realize are too big to address alone,” she says. “For me personally, it’s really great to see that collaboration happen. It’s something that I hope to see continue across many industries where they may be competitors on the shelf but they don’t need to be competitors when it comes to addressing social issues.”
  • The challenge of restricted versus unrestricted funding. More and more companies are leaning toward designating their funds to specific projects rather than an unrestricted gift and Luciana sees this as a challenging trend. Her advice: “The key thing is you have to remain creative [in activation tactics and forming the partnership] because otherwise you’re going to be rolled over with very designated funding.”
  • Listen, listen, listen. How can nonprofits make the organization more attractive to partners? Luciana puts it simply: by listening. “As a partnership it has to be something that is important to both sides and it’s very important to listen and adapt [to the needs of each side of the partnership].”

Interested in learning more about Save the Children’s approach to creating mutually beneficial and impactful corporate partnerships? Check out this fabulous case study deck on the organization’s website and, of course, listen to my interview with social strategist Luciana Bonifacio-Sette.