I was so lucky to get to chat with Bruce Burtch about cross sector partnerships in this 27 minute interview.
Bruce Burtch is the author of Win-Win for the Greater Good, a book for nonprofits, all about how to create better cross sector partnerships, with government, for-profits and social enterprises.
If you’ve got a minute, you might want to tune in. Why? Because:
When you watch and listen to this interview, Bruce Burtch will share:
1. How in 1975 he created the first cross sector partnership between Marriott and a nonprofit, getting the biggest gift they had gotten to date from a corporation-$2M!
2. One of the most creative and fun cross sector partnerships that Bruce created when he was the Director of PR for the American Red Cross-earth-shaking impact, going viral, and more!
3. The key mindset shift nonprofits MUST make if they want to survive in this new funding reality.
4. How a small nonprofit can start to reach out to corporations-and how to find which ones will listen to you.
5. UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Why you should NOT ask for money when you meet with a corporation.
Bruce Burtch will be revealing all of his secrets-on how to go beyond sponsorships and get EXPONENTIALLY more money.
Here’s the transcript!
This is Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising and I am so happy today to have on screen here for the first time, Bruce Burtch, author of Win Win For the Greater Good, which is an excellent book. Bruce, would you like to tell us why you’re such an expert at public private partnerships?
BB: Well, thank you for that great compliment, Mazarine. It’s so nice to see you literally. I fell into this. In 1975 I was with Marriot Corporation and I was told we were opening up this big amusement park and a hotel in Santa Clara, California. I was told by the people in Washington DC that this is how you do an opening of this operation. But they’d never done anything like this before.
So I’m a 25 year old kid at the time and I said, no, I don’t want to do it that way. So I formed a partnership with March of Dimes and I said, what do you need? They told me. They said, “What do you need?” I said, “Well, I’m opening this big amusement park and hotel and I need to get a lot of people in there.” The long story short is we formed a true partnership. At the end of that, Marriot had broken all records for regionally marketed theme parks. But March of Dimes raised $2.5 million. In 1976 when we executed the campaign, it was 40% more money than the March of Dimes had ever raised in a campaign in their history.
So like we stood back from that and said okay, why did this work so well? It was because we did certain things. We were very honest. We were very transparent and we came up with how can I work to have my business, Marriot, help your business, March of Dimes? How can your business, March of Dimes, help my business at Marriot? So we really went into this like that. That has been called the first cause marketing program in history by the cause marketing forum which is now called Engage for Good. I like the new name.
So I stood back from that and said, why did that really work so well? As I just said, it’s because we did these things in open, honest transparent partnership. I’ve then done that throughout my career. I was with the Olympic committee. I’ve run two agencies. I was marketing director for the American Red Cross in the Bay Area. But the thread that’s run through all my work is building these cross sector partnerships, which is nonprofit, for profit, education and government. Any combination of two or more.
I’ve done partnerships with all four together in one partnership. So the cause marketing business grew from that one program in 1976 to be a multi billion dollar annual program. Some do it very, very well. Some don’t do it very well. But anyway, so to answer your question directly. I tend to talk a lot. Win Win For the Greater Good is what it’s all about. You have the nonprofit and the for profit, but you have to work together. But it has to have a cause. It has to have a bigger mission behind it, in my opinion. So it’s really about not just what I can get and not just what you can get. But what can we get together that helps somebody else? In this case, the greater good.
So I wrote the book to be a step by step process on 43 years of having done this on a regional, national, and international scale. The book is meant to be a guide book. Needless to say, I’m thrilled that it’s been reviewed by the president of Starbucks and the president of a lot of people in major organizations. It’s being used by hundreds and probably thousands of organizations around the world. So that’s the thrill for me is knowing that my work is able to create programs that people can follow and affect millions of other people. So long way of saying, that’s why I wrote the book.
MT: I feel like we have the same goal and I love that. I love that. So Bruce, I want to talk a little bit more topically now. What effects are you seeing right now on nonprofits in this economic climate?
BB: Well, you know, it’s getting better as far as the economics as we know. But the for profit world really changed their direction. I’m kind of generally speaking. They started saying, it’s not just that you want to give me money, but what can you do to support my business objectives? The bottom line of that is that if you’re not providing benefit to me, being the corporate side, then why would I want to work with you? Because there’s a very large line of people around my building saying I need money for whatever the cause is. So the for profit businesses are really changing their philosophy.
I see this all over the country. But a local company here in Marin County, California, AutoDesk which is a worldwide, multibillion dollar 3D architectural software company. They basically have changed all of their funding that if you’re not in partnership with AutoDesk, don’t even knock on their door. So I think that’s the biggest change. It also provides – and we can talk about this – tremendous opportunity for nonprofits that understand this sort of sea change that’s been going on over the past several years.
MT: Fascinating. You know, when I talk about sponsorships in my sponsorship presentations, people say wow. This is such a weird concept that I have to give them something too.
BB: Well, let me just inject. I was presenting. I won’t mention the place. But there were 400 nonprofit executives in the room and I’m doing this presentation to them. When I got to the part about that it’s a win win development process, I watched the eyes of these 400 people literally almost close because they went oh my gosh. I’ve got so much on my plate now. Now you want me to work. Like Joe from Selfish Giving said, Bruce, you should have named your book Work Work for the Greater Good.
MT: It is work.
BB: It is work, but it’s work that can create so many different benefits. But it is work.
MT: No, it absolutely is. We’re going to get to what those benefits are later on. So you know, funding is being cut for Meals on Wheels, for the environment. Healthcare, we don’t even know what’s going on. There’s so many things happening there and there’s also a federal hiring freeze and so on. That’s going to affect the combined federal campaign. So what are you seeing nonprofits do to cope with these changes?
BB: Well, first is an attitudinal sort of positioning. Don’t get overwhelmed by this. Look for advantages. How do I make my nonprofit stand out amongst the clutter and amongst the just flat out competition that’s happening? Because you’re right. All those things, even though they sort of started in 2008 with the recession, they’re still going. Even though corporations are doing really, really well now, generally speaking. But their philosophy about giving has changed.
So to me it is the nonprofits stepping back and saying how do I make my organization stand out to a for profit or an education or a government entity that they want to profit with? There are many ways that they can do that. But the very first thing is, they have to decide I’m going to have to approach this whole area of funding or of sponsorship differently. The differently is what I call a business value proposition. I have to provide that potential partner – in this case, let’s say a for profit partner – with something that they will see as benefiting their organization.
So when you approach it that way, and we can talk specifics about what I mean by that. They don’t see this very often. They see a lot of people walking up to their door and saying I need money. I have homeless people. I have children with diseases. The myriad causes, if you will, that are out there. What they rarely see is when a nonprofit comes up and says, by working with my nonprofit, I can help your business objectives. They’re going to stop and go – because I’ve seen this happen so many times. Really? You can help me?
I was just trying to be a good community partner, a good community citizen. We’re going, I know, but we can really help you. It’s a game changer, absolute game changer.
MT: I love that. So that’s really something you’d suggest coping with is just changing your mindset, shifting that. So this is kind of a leading question because we all know what you’d focus on. But what would you suggest a nonprofit leader focus on in these times of upheaval and change?
BB: First of all, focus on their core competency. When I was with the Red Cross, we would be – and I know everyone listening and watching this is in this situation. You have a potential funder and they want to sometimes pull you off. This happens a lot with foundations, or maybe corporate foundations. They want to, in many cases – not always – pull you off in a certain direction that’s not totally in line with your core competency.
So you’re going, oh, but I need the money. They’re offering me $5,000 or they’re offering me $105,000. It doesn’t matter. Money doesn’t matter. They’re saying, but if you will do this, then we’ll give you the money. You’re going, well, we need money for our general mission but many people are making or have made the mistake of being pulled off their mission. Let me give you a perfect example of that.
So when I was marketing director for the American Red Cross, we would have people come to us and say, because it was such a known brand and this is right after Katrina, too. People would come to us and they would say, we would like to work with the Red Cross but we would like to work with you over in this direction. We would say, well, we’re going to have to staff that direction or pull people from our staff to that direction.
Then we have to manage them. Then what happens in a year or two when your funding goes away and we’ve set this thing up over here that isn’t our core strength or our core competency? So we were pretty smart. We said thank you. We appreciate your offer. Not interested. Then what happened was, Pacific Gas and Electric learned from the Loma Prater Earthquake in San Francisco, in the whole Bay Area, that there were a lot of things that people could have done to prepare for an earthquake that they weren’t doing.
So they had a very business strategic need to prepare Bay Area. Red Cross had tremendous information and even supplies to prepare a home or a business or your care or whatever to have earthquake supplies, earthquake understanding, information about how to prepare your home. So we had all the content. They had the need. So these two missions were – and this is a huge word in our world here – we were aligned in what we needed to get done. We were aligned that we wanted to prepare the Bay Area in case of not just an earthquake, but any kind of disaster. A bio disaster, anything.
A water level. Anything. Tsunami in San Francisco, potentially. So I directed a program with my great team called Prepare Bay Area. We went out and we gave lectures and right in the middle of downtown San Francisco, we developed a training program. We did some really crazy things to grab attention such as we made a 60 foot decal and we took San Francisco’s very well known Union Square and at 4:00 in the morning we put a 60 foot decal across the main part of Union Square that looked like Union Square had been broken in half. It was a ten foot wide, 60 foot long, and it visually looked like that there had been an earthquake overnight.
We even put police stationed around it and so people came out. They saw the police stands. We got a picture of a little girl leaning into what looked like a crack. Her dad is holding her by her pants so she doesn’t fall into it. It was hysterical. But the point was, we had to grab people’s attention through this campaign. The name of the campaign to us, internally, was what do we have to do to get your attention?
Because everyone knows about earthquakes or the concern of it. But they weren’t doing anything about it. Then we took the media and we put them up on top of a building shooting down on Union Square. It looked just like Union Square had been cracked in half. Well, the picture went all over the world. It was a social media explosion. But the message was, this could happen. But whenever you want to kind of shake people up – no pun intended. You also want to educate them.
So along with the crack, and we did a whole lot of other things. We would have training sessions right there on the site by the Red Cross. So it’s a long way of saying that when you align your missions, when you find a partner that needs what you have and you need what they have, and what they did – they gave us $1 million broken up into three payments over three years. With that money, we were able to hire – going back to kind of the original question here. To hire three people. Two people worked specifically on that campaign plus my marketing staff of seven. So we had nine people that were being paid to develop the Prepare Bay Area campaign.
But it was directly within the mission of the Red Cross. Had PG&E come by and said we want to give you $1 million but we want you to go out and do whatever, that was not along our mission. That is a lot of money but we would have said no. It would change what we do as an organization. So that’s what people have to be aware of. Don’t be pulled away by that bright shiny object of a lot of money in a suitcase. Keep your mission focused.
MT: That’s very important to understand, Bruce. When I worked at the Urban League, after I left, there was a grant for the anti obesity campaign that Michelle Obama was running and they went for it. They went for it. It was completely off mission. Of course they’re not doing anything with it now.
BB: Don’t chase the money. It’s the wrong mission.
MT: What I’m hearing you say, it’s not just about giving the corporation access to your donors. You have so much more to offer if you can align and focus on those partnerships that have to do with your programs.
BB: Absolutely. You know, your donor base is sacred. We would never give out our mailing list. I never even gave out our media list. So whenever someone wanted to partner with us, we would control the media release because I didn’t want to even give out. There was a value to what we had developed in the relationships with the media. So I didn’t want someone to go out and say we’re working with the Red Cross. Here, Channel 7 ABC, is a story.
We would say no. We have great relationships with ABC so we will take the message we together develop and we will disseminate it out through the media. But when it comes to money, yeah. We didn’t let anyone touch our donor base. That was sacrosanct.
MT: Yeah, and a lot of times that’s what these big corporations who come to nonprofits sometimes want access to, or even smaller ones. That’s something that we need to protect and think, is there a creative way? Like what you said is so creative.
BB: A little off the chart.
MT: That was incredible. So what’s a good first step, then, for a nonprofit that wants to focus more on these cross sector partnerships?
BB: Find an organization that is within your marketing region. So it has to make sense, whether it’s in your town or within your greater area or within your state, but within a region that you can really work together on. Don’t get too far out. Find an organization that’s aligned with your mission. For instance, Barefoot Wines set up a program several years ago with a windsurfer foundation. No, I think I said the wrong name.
But so here’s this foundation that works on cleaning up beaches and Barefoot Wines wanted to sell their wine. So they got their volunteers from Surfrider Foundation. So they got their people that worked at their wineries and their stores to come over and work with the employees of Surfrider Foundation to clean up beaches. Then at the end they had a big party, where they obviously served their Barefoot Wines. But you’re walking barefoot on a beach.
So the alignment between beaches, barefoot, Barefoot Wines, Surfrider Foundation. That’s alignment. Several years ago there was a program between the Susan G. Komen Foudnation and Kentucky Foundation.
MT: Notorious KFC.
BB: It was horrible. So you have them selling buckets of fried chicken breasts, okay, to support a breast cancer research foundation. These are fried chicken, carcinogenic foods that have – you know, the research has said that. So when they were interviewed, the Kentucky Fried Chicken people said, well, we really wanted to help the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Yeah, that’s a good cause. Wrong alignment.
When they asked the then president of the Komen Foundation, why did you do it? It was because it was the largest potential single donation in their history. So it was all about money. It was all about misalignment and it got panned by the media. Certainly everybody that was in the cause marketing business. It was just a totally inappropriate partnership in my opinion and a lot of people’s opinion.
MT: No, I remember that. That was a nightmare.
BB: So that alignment is the very first thing. Look for something in your marketing region that’s aligned. Then the third step is to really research that potential partner. Read their corporate annual report, either online or get a copy of it. Do a Google search and find out what press releases they’re sending out. A lot of times in the annual report, the CEO will say this is what our objectives are for 2018. If you read that, and see that one of their corporate objectives is to expand into something that’s even near what your organization does, there’s an open door.
So start looking at research to find out, what are their business objectives? So when you go to that meeting, you’re going into the meeting understanding what they have as business objectives and you’ve done an assessment. When I had my clients, whatever side. I’ve worked for all four sides. We would do an assessment. What do you need? What are you looking for? What do you bring to the party? So you do this assessment. So when you go to that first meeting, you know that that person. Let’s say it was PG&E, really wants to spread word about earthquake preparedness.
You come in with a list of things that says here’s what we can do to help you do that. The other thing I’ve got to add right here, don’t ask for money. Think about that. Everyone’s probably going – like you just did it. Shake your head. What do you mean? I’m here to get money. Well, they know you’re here to get money. Don’t ask for money. Go in and say, how can my organization working with your organization meet our mutual objectives?
Now, that will include money. PG&E knew we’d need money to hire those two people and run those campaign. We didn’t go in and say we need $1 million. We went in and said, how do we work together? So one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen, and it happens constantly. They walk in, say we need $10,000. Well, I know you need $10,000. What are you going to do for me? So that’s a whole different approach. When you don’t ask them for money, you know what they do?
They’re sitting there wondering, why aren’t they asking me for money? It’s like in the back of their head. I had this happen with AutoDesk. I won’t tell you the whole story. But basically we went in, and for half an hour our team – a program called Art from the Heart – sat there and told them about all the cool things that AutoDesk employees could do because they were a creative team, if they worked with Art from the Heart. We never asked them for any money.
So at the end, they said, well, what’s your annual budget? It was a small organization. They said $12,000. Because it was two women who were bringing art into schools. They said, first of all, their first time out, $500 to $1,500 first time out. They gave them $5,000.
MT: Half their annual budget.
BB: Half their annual budget or 40% of it. Everybody is looking at me like, how did that happen? Well, because you didn’t ask them for money. You told them what you could do for them. They didn’t even put a number out. They just said, we’ll give you $5,000. A friend of mine, Julie Wilder, was running the program at the time. She’s sitting in the back and I’m sitting in the back.
So we let our two organizations talk to each other. She looks at me. I look at her. We’re like, wow. She was like shocked. I was thrilled. We never asked for money.
MT: Well, think about it. You have these sponsorship bands or levels or whatever and you’re talking yourself out of money if you just start there. You know?
BB: Well, because that’s all they hear. The mantra is they know you need money. Don’t ask for it. Don’t ask for it. That’s a hard pill to get some people to swallow because they do need money.
MT: That is so fascinating.
BB: But the book – not to plug my book. By the way, it’s free on Amazon.com. Not Amazon, excuse me. I misspoke. If you go to my website, bruceburtch.com, you can get the book for free.
MT: The ebook.
BB: Ebook, yes, thank you. Ebook for free. Thank you. But the point is, there are simple ways that any nonprofit, small to American Red Cross big. I was PR Director for the United States Olympic Committee. Big organizations. Can use these same principles, alignment, strategy, business value proposition, don’t ask for money at first.
MT: Fascinating. Right, obviously you will eventually. So Bruce, you’ve already taught us so much. What will you be teaching at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit this September?
BB: Oh, that’s it. You’ve heard it all.
MT: Right. Don’t have to come to that then.
BB: No, I’m really excited about the Nonprofit Leadership Summit. I’m just so thrilled that you’re putting it together. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to do it last year. We’re going to talk about this area of how you ignite your social and your economic benefit through cross sector partnerships.
So cause marketing is a subset of cross sector partnerships because cause marketing is really about a for profit and a nonprofit working together for their mutual benefit. But it’s really about money. They’re trying to sell more Coca Cola and they’re trying to get more donations to the nonprofit. That’s a good thing. Cause marketing is a good thing. A cross sector partnership can provide up to 40 benefits to your nonprofit or to your for profit. So cross sector partnerships bring a lot more to the plate than just cause marketing.
So we’re going to talk about the difference. We’re going to talk about how do you assess what you have? How do you find out what they have? Because you think, well, how am I supposed to find out their business objectives? One key is, you might know someone. Either one of your donors, one of your employees, a friend of an employee, a friend of a donor who works for that organization.
So you call them up and you say, Susan, we’re thinking about approaching your company. Has your company ever done whatever that X is? Somebody in there may go, oh, yeah. We’ve actually talked about it. So there’s a lot of ways to find research. So we’re going to talk about – and it’s a big one. We talked about alignment. We’re going to bring that up. Which door do you open? That’s key. I’m not going to tell you now.
But what door do you open at a corporation that has the most benefits and in money? The only hint I’m going to say is it’s not their foundation. People think oh yeah, the foundation. That’s where the money is. We will show where there is 100 times more money. 100 times more money, different department.
MT: I love a teaser. I love it.
BB: So you’ve got to come to the Nonprofit Summit and you’ve got to learn these things. This is why she put it together. Right, Mazarine?
MT: Right. Yeah, that’s why I put it together. To help people, but also to help them really have access to you, Bruce. Because you know, you’re just incredible. They need to know more about how you accomplish what you did and then how they can replicate your success. So thank you so much for being interviewed today. What a fantastic time.
BB: Oh, I love it. Anything to support what you’re doing, Mazarine. Anything to support nonprofits in general, especially the members of the Nonprofit Leadership Summit. I’m thrilled to be a part of this.