Your organization promotes health. You eat, drink and breathe healthy living and encourage your supporters to follow your example. However, if a new donor were to review your corporate partnerships, would those partnerships demonstrate that you practice what you preach? What is the best way to vet potential partnerships so you don’t get caught in the uncomfortable position of defending yourself from negative perceptions? Below are some suggestions for developing your process for evaluating health cause partnerships.
HOW WILL YOUR ORGANIZATION MAKE DECISIONS?
Establish guidelines for your organization and put them in writing so everyone is on the same page. This may take some time and a number of meetings to identify any internal concerns.
Will you be conservative in your decisions or no? You can take the cautious approach: “Everything is out unless we say it’s in.” Or you can adopt a more inclusive approach and determine that everything is “in” unless a good reason exists for it to be “out.”
WHO SHOULD DECIDE?
Assemble a team of decision makers that will meet as needed to discuss and act on any cause partnership opportunities. Your team might include staff from science, communications, legal, finance and corporate alliances. Use your written guidelines to lead the discussion. Keep these three things in mind as you deliberate:
- Science Based: Does the company carry a product that is proven (or has the perception) of causing or leading to physical harm? (i.e. it’s not healthy). For example, ingestibles such as sweets, snacks and beverages often pose complicated issues for health organizations. Does the product or scientific reputation of the business contradict your mission? Is there a way to balance the positive with the negative?
- PR Risk to Brand: Are the media more likely to report a positive or negative story when they are aware of the partnership? Is your organization prepared to defend the cause marketing relationship? Will your organization be adversely affected by consumer reaction to the story? You know the media may have questions. Be prepared and have the answers. Be careful with your definition of the alliance—is it a partnership, or is the company just a supporter? What will donors think? How might they react? Remember: to the layperson, perception can be reality.
- Brand Alignment: Does it make sense to put your logo on the product? Is it a conflict of interest or a perceived endorsement you really shouldn’t be making? Consumers recognize when partnerships aren’t genuine, so be careful.
- Cost vs. Benefit: If you already know what the opportunity looks like financially, is the money worth the time spent to execute the campaign?
Your team has checked all the boxes and decided this is a valuable opportunity. However, you aren’t entirely sure. That’s okay. Take some time to do your homework. Have your communications team do a media scrub to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything. Use the information you find to solidify the decision with your team at your next meeting.
Once everyone is in agreement, it’s time to reach out to the prospect and start negotiating the terms of the corporate cause marketing alliance. Congratulations!