Interview Transcript:

Mazarine Treyz: Hey everybody this is Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising and today I’m very lucky to have with me Bruce Burtch who is a highly respected cross sector partnership and cause marketing expert. Today we’re going to talk about what would it mean to go beyond sponsorship. We’ll talk about how to get more businesses interested in your nonprofit and how to talk to them. Bruce could you say a bit more about who you are and what you do?

Bruce BurtchBruce Burtch: I spent about 38 years developing partnerships between nonprofits, businesses and government sectors. I started out developing cause marketing, I was flattered to be called The Father of Cause Marketing by the Cause Marketing Forum.

I developed a partnership in 1975 between the Mariott Corporation and the March of Dimes and raised $2.5M which was 40% more money than the March of Dimes had ever raised in the western region. That’s basically cause marketing.

Since then I have expanded greatly beyond that into the world of cross sector partnerships, it’s a value driven multi-faceted relationship between two or more partners. I worked with Mariott, the Olympic Committee, the American Red Cross, started three for-profits, two nonprofits and one college. I can’t keep a job! Every 2-3 years I get bored and have to move on. The thread through all of this is developing partnerships.

Recently I wrote a book called Win-Win for the Greater Good, which is the first comprehensive how-to book to create partnerships in the nonprofit-for-profit and government sectors. These partnerships have to be focused on the greater good.

Mazarine: How did you get into the business of creating partnerships between nonprofit and for-profit organizations?

Bruce: I was 25 years old and hired to come to the Mariott Corporation in California to open Great America which was an amusement park. They asked me to spread some tickets around for our 1976 opening to nonprofit groups to put us in good favor in the community. I was young enough and naïve enough to realize that this just doesn’t make sense to me, passing out free tickets doesn’t create relationships. I interviewed about 20 different nonprofit organizations. I was looking for alignment, something between what we did and what they did. We were a family entertainment organization and so we looked for a family focused nonprofit. We ended up partnering with the March of Dimes, and we created a very tight partnership between Mariott and March of Dimes, we did promotion in 67 cities and 7 western states, and it raised $2.5M for March of Dimes, a large amount of money back then.

It was instrumental in the success of Great America, it broke regional records for opening day. When I stepped back I asked myself, why did this work? It started with alignment. We are a family entertainment center, and we were looking to get youth into our park, and March of Dimes does walks that focus on youth. We not only broke each others’ records but we raised $2.5M to go towards children’s birth defects. Partnerships need to have an end-focus, which is the greater good.

Nonprofits are not causes. Nonprofits are facilitators of causes. Nonprofits help serve the need and the for-profits bring a set of opportunities to that partnership. The partnership should be focused on why are we doing this? Not to help the Red Cross, but to help those who the Red Cross serves. And I’ve been creating partnerships ever since then.

Mazarine: What is the difference between cause marketing and cross-sector partnerships?

Bruce Burtch: Great question. Cause marketing is a partnership between nonprofit and for-profit with a focus on developing donations for the nonprofit and generating sales for the for-profit. Partnership is all about profit for the two partners.

Cross sector partnerships are deeper and longer lasting. My definition is that it’s a multi-faceted partnership that provides a value driven relationship between two or more partners, between nonprofit, for profit, education and government sectors.

Cause marketing is a subcategory of cross sector partnerships. I have found 69 different benefits when a partnership is put together. How can we get more than just money? How can we stimulate employees to raise satisfaction and morale and retention? How can we get more press coverage? How can we get more corporate people to sit on nonprofit boards?

How can we create as many of these linkages and maximize the value? I share my ideas, you share your ideas and what comes out is bigger than both of us.

I want people to realize how many benefits there are to create cross sector partnerships


Mazarine: You have talked about a sea change in the current nonprofit structure for relationship, please explain.

Bruce: I travel around the country meeting with lots of different organizations in all sectors, and coming out of the great recession which I still don’t think we’re totally out of, I’ve noticed that corporations are looking to get a return on their charitable investment. They not necessarily looking for a financial return, but they want a partnership, to bring something back to their company, perhaps through employee satisfaction, employee engagement, employees on boards, or employee retention, (which can be an outcome of the things we just mentioned). I call it a sea change because it’s a real shift.

The bottom line is for profits are saying it’s my time, it’s my talent and it’s my money that I’m giving and I want to get something in return for that. I really applaud that approach. I’m not a great believer in philanthropy. What I mean by that and I want to be careful when I say that, but “Brains are more important than money.” which is a quote from Karen Baker the Secretary of Volunteerism and Service for the State of California.

Brains are more important than money because you can get money from a corporation but a corporation has huge amounts of services, equipment and intellectual capital. Just a myriad of things you can get in these relationships. If a nonprofit is just looking at a for-profit for money, I have a need and I want you to fill it, the for profit is saying, this is not a partnership, this is just an ask. There’s a very long line of nonprofits in front of the for-profit. The for-profits are really saying we want a partnership and here’s what we want in return.

Mazarine: Wow, this turns it on its head, what you’re saying is, you can’t just ask anymore, “Hey give me a sponsorship, it doesn’t make you stand out”. So it’s like a business value proposition between potential partners.

Bruce: That’s Exactly What It Is. It is basically saying, this is a business discussion, this is the business of partnerships. This is not I have a need and want you to fill it. This is the corporation saying, What can I do with everything in my power to help you meet your objectives, and what can you in your nonprofit do to help me meet mine? When we look at each other eye to eye across the table and say, I am really here to help you, and I want you to help me, and what can we do together? That’s what makes these partnerships work.

Traditionally a homelessness nonprofit builds a case, saying this is our need, we have this many beds and this is the rate of breast cancer in the United States, and we need to fund the need. For-profits are saying there’s a whole lot of people asking me for that.

When I talk about a business value proposition, (and this is especially important for the nonprofit) look at the business and marketing objectives of the potential partner. Do your homework. Read the annual report. Read what the CEO has said his or her mission is for this year. Maybe they have talked with someone who works for the organization. And asked them, “What is your company really all about, What is your company trying to do aside from selling products?” The idea is that you develop an understanding of their business priorities of this potential partner. With that understanding put together a presentation that shows that by working with our nonprofit multiple benefits can come from that.

This is what I train. I’ve seen this happen so many times. You’ve got all of these for-profit executives who have people come in one after another with their need, and then in walks a savvy nonprofit executive, who says this is what I think will help your business. I think your employees would gain a lot of fun and satisfaction and community understanding if they came and volunteered at our homeless shelter. Your company would gain from the publicity at our event. Our event always gets television coverage. Wouldn’t you like to be the major sponsor and get television coverage?

I have 38 benefits that can come from a for-profit partnering with a nonprofit. That is always growing. The point is, you’re sitting there giving a business value proposition to the person sitting across the table. They are not used to hearing that. They are used to hearing make a donation, not, how can we help you?

They stand up and applaud! Literally! I had this happen once. A corporate sponsor stood up and said, “I am tired of you guys coming to me and asking me for money! I want you to come and tell me how you can help me!” Those needs are pretty easy to find out by doing a little bit of homework.


Mazarine: What are the biggest challenges when putting together partnerships between organizations from different sectors?

Bruce: That’s a good question. The biggest challenge is misconceptions and misunderstandings. A lot of nonprofits say “Oh you just want to use me to make your organization look good” And the halo effect-makes them look good. And yeah, it does, that’s good! A lot of nonprofits don’t trust for-profits, they think they’ll just make money from them, they don’t work at the same pace as the for-profit does, they usually work faster. The for-profit is saying, you don’t want to work with us, you just want our money! And you have all of these committees that have to make all of these decisions and you don’t want to move forward! I begin every one of my relationships with an assessment program or analysis, and you start out before you even meet with another potential partner, and you ask,

  • Do I have the bandwidth to do this?
  • Do we have the time to do this?
  • Have we done anything like this before?
  • What kind of partnership are we looking for?
  • Are we trying to raise money? Are we trying to build a shelter?
  • Who within my organization going to support this?
  • Is my CEO or my ED really behind this? If they’re not then you can have a problem.

You’ve got to get your ducks lined up beforehand. Hopefully your partner is doing the same before they come to the table too.

When you sit down at the table, you’ve got to put your cards face up on the table. You’ve gotta say this is my agenda, I need to build this homeless shelter and the for-profit is saying I need to sell more cars, or more toothpaste or sell more cereal. And you admit that to each other, and if the for-profit comes in and says “I just want to be a good community partner” well yeah of course but you’re also in business but you also want to make money and if the nonprofit is saying, “well, we want you to come and volunteer for us” “yeah, sure but you also want money” But if you’ve done your homework here is how I think we can work together, and make your employees more excited.

Here’s all the things I think we can do together. Here’s what you want to get out of this relationship and here’s what you want to get out of this relationship. Before you leave that first meeting, there’s nothing hidden, there’s no skeletons in the closet.

Anything that will break trust will break the relationship. When you get that down, Oh this is what they want us to do, and this is what we want us to do, then going forward there are no secrets. Okay, I want to help them build a homeless shelter because I think our employees will really want to be involved in that. So you start thinking about how we can work together. It goes from being a transactional relationship, it infers there’s so much more than just sponsorships or donations.

What are all of the things we can do together? Start right up front and go from that transactional relationship to work together to share ideas and move down that continuum of value and over a couple of years you start to create business practices around what you’re doing in that partnership. Here’s an example: A for-profit wanted to open up a new partnership in Cleveland. The nonprofit had a presence in Cleveland, and the for profit didn’t but they wanted to put a store there. By working together, they opened the store with an employee volunteers program and the nonprofit helped them opened the store. That’s not something you’d think about at the beginning of the relationship. That’s something you’d think of down the road, after the first or second year. Some of these are 20-30 year relationships, where they’ve really built what I call putting a cause consciousness into the company, where they’ve developed a fundamental understanding in the company of the benefits of working together.

Mazarine: So is that what you would call an impact partnership?

Bruce: Impact is a word that can mean small or huge. You can have impact where it means more volunteers, you can have an impact where it creates more money or more sales. But to me it’s more of a partnership. We’re looking out how to maximize each others interests separately, and then working together to create shared value. And the more you do that the greater the impact will be.

Mazarine: Can these partnerships work for any size organization?
What about small nonprofits?

Bruce: Absolutely, I was working with a two person arts program a couple years ago, a program called “Art from the Heart” here where I live in Marin County California. They started this program because they wanted to bring art to underserved kids in elementary school. These schools did not have art programs.

I sat down with them. We talked about the business value proposition and I helped set them up with an appointment with a good-sized local business. I just made the introductions and I sat back. It was supposed to be a 20 minute appointment and 45 minutes alter they’re still talking!

They walked out with a donation that was 50% of their entire annual budget. Of course their annual budget was $10,000, but it was really huge! They got it because they wanted to have their employees volunteer for them. It can be a hardware store, a drug store, a local bakery that makes cupcakes, maybe they can make a green cupcake for cancer awareness, there’s a great organization called St. Baldricks’ foundation maybe the cupcake company could make green cupcakes and donate the proceeds on St. Patricks Day to go to St. Baldrick’s Foundation. You always hear Komen working with Kentucky Fried Chicken, and you always hear about these large cause marketing campaigns, but this can work at any size of nonprofits and at any level.

Mazarine: I have a small nonprofit client who is looking for sponsorships. She hasn’t had much luck going to big corporations. Tbey’ve found that the big corporations won’t give them the time of day. Have you ever seen that small nonprofits work with small corporations best? What have you found?

Bruce: I look for Alignment. If you were the director of cause marketing for coca-cola, you might get 10,000 requests for funding. If you were ronald mcdonald houses, and if you’ve got 10,000 McDonalds that will promote this, well, now we’re aligned. But if you’re a small nonprofit, well, if you’ve got a bottling plant in your town,

An enormous amount of time is wasted where nonprofits look for the biggest payers in their community and go after them. I look for alignment. If you’re a homeless shelter, you might want to go to your local hardware company or home depot or lowes, or you might want to go to architectural firm. Or a furniture company, people who are in your neighborhood, in your community, who can provide, nails, hammers, supplies, and people to help you. Don’t go after coca cola. Hugely impossible to go after someone that big. Unfortunately many nonprofits waste a lot of time by doing that. Look for alignment.That means we’re aligned in mission, in values, in our geographical area, and aligned in size. When you walk into the hardware store, and you say we want you to develop this program to build a homeless shelter in our town, they say, oh, I know of you, you do really good work, let’s talk about this. That’s really important. Don’t try to shoot for the moon and waste your time.

Mazarine: Thank you that’s very helpful. For everyone listening, if you can think about who is of our size in our town, ask do they align their corporate giving to what we do, and are their values similar to ours? That would be helpful for you next time you’re thinking about a cross sector partnership, not just for sponsorship.
You can go way beyond that.

In fact Bruce is going to be doing a free webinar for us on how to move beyond sponsorships on June 11th at 10am PT and 1pm ET. Click the link here to sign up for this free webinar. It’ll be free, so check it out!

Bruce: I’m excited to do that webinar! Thank you for inviting me!

Mazarine: Oh I’m so excited to have you! People are going to learn a lot from you. You’ve spent the majority of your life helping people do this! It’s rare to meet someone who is so focused and clear. Thank you!

Bruce: Thank you!

Mazarine: You mentioned that your work is now primarily focused on the Millennial generation, basically, 18 to 33-year-olds and entrepreneurial startups. Why is that?

I’ll be very honest with you. Last year I gave presentations to 2,500 senior executives across the united states. I went to an annual meeting and I stood up in front of all of these executives and said Win Win means Work Work, we have to work together to meet our mutual goals. I just watched their eyes glaze over. So many nonprofit executives are averse to something that is new. They don’t want to change what they’re doing. There’s a sea change going on, and they’d better change because the philanthropic dollars are not near where they were before.

I asked them, “Do you really want me to open up my Rolodex and give you my corporate contacts?” And everyone put their hand up. And I said, “This is not what this is about!”

My move now towards Entrepreneurs and women’s organizations, I find that the younger people in business, they’re still optimistic, they still want to try new things. They think, how can I be a good employer and be a good person in my community and how can I work for the greater good? They think like that, especially millenials. But they don’t know how to do that. I see myself in a mentoring and coaching role to help people do this.

I even help high school students. The students say “I want to go change the world!” And I said, “how are you going to do that?” and they say “I don’t know!” And I say, “I can help show you how to do that”

In younger audiences they want someone to help them, they don’t want someone to come in and lecture them. But you can say from my experience, here’s a blueprint that’s work for me, here are some guidelines.

When I speak to younger and entrepreneurial audiences the level of enthusiasm and confidence that they will do something is much higher. It’s more fun to speak with them and it’s more fun to help them.

Mazarine: Yeah, I can see that. The instinct to help people who want to change the world is strong with me too. The trouble is, I feel very much like that idealistic 18 year old in high school. That was me. I wanted to change the world and I didn’t know how. And that’s why I chose to teach people how to fundraise. Because I feel like, well as long as you learn how to raise money, and learn how to partner with businesses, you’ll be fine, you’re gonna be able to figure out how to change the world. You just have to decide what you want to do after that, right?

Bruce: Absolutely. I had this young woman write me after this presentation a couple weeks ago. She said I really need to hear this message. She said, I am 23 and I am trying to start a clothing company that has a benefit for women who have gone through breast cancer and need different designs in clothing. And I heard your story about setting up a partnership at the age of 25. She said so many people look at me and tell me I’m too young to do it. My story of getting that partnership, t gave her the confidence that she could do it. She liked hearing someone tell her that it’s not an impossible task. Young people have great confidence, great drive, they need mentors like me. It’s very exciting for me to be able to be in that role.

Mazarine: For people who want to get more of you, we’re going to have a free webinar on June 11th, but you also have a new book out called Win-Win for the Greater Good. Why did you write this book?

I’ve read everything you can about cause marketing and cross sector partnerships. But I couldn’t find a hands on how to book on forming cross sector partnerships. I couldn’t find a course at any university or college, or the ken blanchards or the Tony Robbins business seminars, I couldn’t find any books about experts on collaboration and how to do it. So I wrote it at a 5th grade level. It’s a 12 step program for economic and social impact. There’s a lot of examples in there, it’s not rocket science. I read your book, and I really think I can do that! Bingo! That’s it! It was written to fill a void and I think it has done that. I’ve gotten testimonials from the CEO of Starbucks, Patagonia, and more.

Mazarine: I have to say that I’ve reviewed your book on my website and it’s so powerful. I think a lot of us are afraid that we’re not providing the right amount of value when we approach a business and say we’d like to partner with you. If you can’t make the free webinar on June 11th, get the book, but get the book anyway, it will help you think broader and deeper about corporate partnership and who knows, in 20 years, you could help a corporation open a store!

Bruce: It’s available at http://BruceBurtch.com and Amazon.

Mazarine: Thank you so much for being here today!

Bruce: My pleasure Mazarine! I love your organization! Wild Woman Fundraising is my favorite name! You bring a different perspective that I bring, the sharing of information we’re all trying to do good and work together to make the world a better place!

Mazarine: Thank you! All right everybody, see you next time!


About Bruce Burtch is an internationally-respected cross-sector partnership and cause marketing expert. He designs and directs win-win partnerships between the for-profit, nonprofit, education and government sectors which maximize their strategic marketing and financial success.

Bruce was called the “Father of Cause Marketing” by the Cause Marketing Forum for creating what is considered the first cause marketing campaign in history. This 1976 partnership between the March of Dimes and Marriott Corporation raised $2.5 million – 40% more than had ever been raised by March of Dimes’ Chapters West in the United States.

Among the many partnerships Bruce has created, he designed the most successful cause marketing campaign on emergency preparedness in the United States – a partnership between Pacific Gas & Electric Company and the American Red Cross. This highly innovative campaign raised $1Million, received over $3Million in free publicity, and resulted in an unprecedented 1,000,000 people being trained in emergency preparedness.

Bruce has served as Public Affairs Manager for Marriott Corporation, Public Relations Director the United States Olympic Committee, Director of Marketing & Communications for the American Red Cross Bay Area chapter. Additionally, Bruce has founded three companies and two nonprofit organizations.

Bruce was awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award, presented by the National Association of Community Leadership, for spearheading the development of the Tenderloin After-School Program in San Francisco’s crime-ridden Tenderloin district.

While an undergraduate at Ohio University, Bruce conceived and cofounded the Honors Tutorial College, the first and only degree granting college in the United States based on the tutorial system of Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

Bruce’s work has been widely published in national and international publications. He is the author of Win-Win for the Greater Good, the most comprehensive “how-to” guidebook on the development of cross-sector partnerships.

Join us for this free webinar on June 11th to learn more how to move beyond sponsorships!