By: Lucy Spratlin
In early March, as we all faced the beginning of the pandemic, we shared the cause partnership advice we were giving our clients. The advice still holds true today. Be flexible and creative, engage in open dialogue, demonstrate your changing impact, be authentic and keep relationships strong. Over eight months of profound change later, we continue to work alongside nonprofits and companies to support their rebound and set them up for partnership success and growth long term.
We’ve been inspired and impressed by the evolution, impact and resilience of many cause marketing partnerships this year, including:
- North Face’s Reset Normal multi-partner global initiative to address inequity in the outdoors
- Subaru and TerraCycle’s pivot of their Zero Waste Box™ initiative to recycle used personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Santa Monica Brew Works Unsung Heroes beer crafted to honor the healthcare workers on the front lines of COVID-19 in Southern California
These campaign pivots highlight how cause campaigns required adjustments made behind the scenes to drive their recovery and lay the foundation for future partnership success. Below we lay out the common threads organizations have implemented to thrive.
Five key lessons to set your organization up for partnership success and growth long term.
Renewed Focus on Impact
This year has brought focus on fundamental issues of racial justice and equitable access to education, healthcare and opportunity. Nonprofits and companies are aware of consumers’ increased demand for purpose and impact, especially around diversity, equity and inclusion. Organizations are making a deliberate effort to improve their impact and better demonstrate it. Those that can communicate their impact effectively are succeeding.
Open, Honest Dialogue
Both nonprofits and companies are facing tremendous challenges, but partners are talking more candidly about their needs and opportunities. Practitioners are re-injecting the human element into conversations and relationships. Real talk is uncovering new ways partners can help each other make an impact in areas that would have otherwise gone unaddressed.
Plan A was quickly thrown out for everyone last spring. As partners navigated how to move forward, they’ve learned how to be more fluid. Agreements have been reworked to release restricted funds for the most urgent unexpected needs. Contracts have included “pause clauses” to allow partners to shift activations as needed. Most importantly, partnerships have been strengthened by working together to achieve common goals.
Breaking Down Silos
Our research on Best in Class Cause Campaigns shows that various teams from both sides of the partnership are involved in campaigns. Partners are collaborating better to ensure initiatives move forward. Even with many budgets in flux, teams are working together more. They’re providing support where it’s needed, like helping a partner’s short-handed team with marketing. Within organizations, development and finance teams are working together in new ways to better understand operational needs. All types of teams are working to balance short-term needs with long-term potential.
Many organizations are facing budget cutbacks, and they’re using this time to re-organize, re-tool and re-engage their teams. They’re recognizing the need for efficiency and adjusting their operations accordingly. Team members are being cross-trained to be nimbler and adapt to opportunities as they come. Employee engagement is helping fend off Zoom fatigue and keep teams focused on the mission.
Whether listening to firsthand accounts from cause practitioners or looking at the data, we know that the lessons learned from 2020 can bring your organization closer to impactful cause partnerships in the new year. We can’t wait to see what exciting things come of your efforts in 2021.
What cause marketing lessons have you learned this year? We’d love to hear from you in the comments, and we’re always here for 2021 brainstorming or planning questions.