How Charitable Partnerships Can Boost a Brand’s Profile

We’ve talked before about the importance of community impact for businesses both large and small. In any community, there are a wide array of ways to get involved and help improve that community for those living and working in it.

Forming charitable partnerships is another way to get involved and improve the community around a business. Of course, businesses can provide support in ways that individuals cannot to a nonprofit or charity. But these partnerships should always be done with tact and taste — the opposite effect can easily happen if a move is done for seemingly ulterior motives.

Finding the Right Charitable Partnership

When selecting a charitable partnership for a business, there are many things to consider. One of these factors is what charity or nonprofit to partner with. Here are some considerations for this decision:

  •     Core values and mission of the business
  •     Nonprofits that align with these core values naturally
  •     Reputation of nonprofit and of the supporting business
  •     Required budget to support a charitable partnership
  •     End goal of charitable partnership

Core values lie at the heart of a business’ purpose. These values are important. They give consumers a look at the belief and value systems of those in executive positions, and they provide a roadmap of how a business conducts itself in public dealings.

With that in mind, it’s equally important for a business to align itself with a nonprofit that also values the same ideas. The purpose and mission of the nonprofit must also make sense. For example, a leather goods company may not look the best if it were to support PETA, nor would PETA be likely to accept their partnership proposal. This is, of course, an extreme example, but it shows that a partnership should be genuine, not self-serving or just “for looks”.

Forming a Charitable Partnership

Once a business has selected a nonprofit to enter into a partnership with, it’s time to figure out exactly what that partnership is going to look like.

Not every partnership has to look the same. Remember, this has to be a beneficial arrangement for both the business and, more importantly, for the nonprofit. Whether the support is financial, in the form of volunteer help, or other services provided, it’s important to set clear expectations and guidelines for the new partnership. Contracts are helpful in this situation, to protect all parties involved.

Before jumping in, take the time to form a strategy about how a business can best assist a nonprofit. Perhaps a marketing agency can offer its services to a local animal shelter each month. Or maybe an event planning portal can donate a portion of the proceeds to local community programs in an effort to create a safer neighborhood in which to host events. Maybe a local consultant can jump on board to help plan a fundraiser for a nonprofit. The possibilities are endless!

Finding creative ways to help out is important too — it doesn’t always have to just be about writing a big check. In fact, finding other ways to get involved is often even more helpful, especially for under-staffed nonprofits.

Aligning business with a nonprofit is a smart move for many reasons, but the biggest motivator should always be the betterment of community or the helping of others. From this motivation can come a great, fulfilling partnership on both sides.

StarKist Caught in Bad PR Net

If you had to guess which popular food brand found itself in the PR hot seat last week, you probably wouldn’t have guessed StarKist Tuna, and yet, that’s exactly what happened. The brand was obliged to plead guilty to a price fixing allegation that could wind up costing the company $100 million, as well as a loss of face in the consumer market.

While most shoppers don’t worry too much when a brand changes a logo or tries to get an edge in the marketplace, when that company is accused of price fixing, people stop and pay attention. According to prosecutors, StarKist “colluded” with two other major brands to keep their prices “artificially inflated.”

Now, the company has been caught, publicly outed, and forced to admit culpability. What remained to be seen is if they would accept responsibility. To date, StarKist has taken a step in that direction. CEO Andrew Choe said, “We have cooperated with the DOJ during the course of its investigation and accept responsibility… We will continue to conduct our business with the utmost transparency and integrity.”

Those who have been following the case say it was just StarKist’s turn. After all, its co-conspirators have already been pushed out into the harsh spotlight of negative media attention.

Back in 2015, Chicken of the Sea attempted to buy Bumble Bee, but that attempt failed to be realized. At that point, Chicken of the Sea executives went to federal authorities and admitted to a conspiracy to inflate prices that involved them, Bumble Bee and StarKist. Subsequently, Bumble Bee paid a $25 million fine, which was more than $100 million lower than prosecutors had asked for. Given that information, it was only a matter of time before StarKist faced the music.

So, what does this mean for all three companies? Well, each has a black eye from all the proceedings. StarKist has yet to hear its penalty, and Bumble Bee, which is still struggling financially, now has to be a fine over the next five years.

But what does that mean for their brand bottom line? Hard to say, but it’s not helping when the Assistant Attorney General is pointing out that “the conspiracy to fix prices on these household staples had direct effects on the pocketbooks of American consumers…”

If that narrative takes hold, the fines may be the least of these tuna companies’ worries. No grocery brand wants to be on the bad side of cost-conscious American shoppers, especially when there are easy alternatives to choose.


Metallica Bataclan Album Funding Charity Efforts

When über metal band Metallica came out strong against file sharing services like Napster, fans turned on them in a big way. Sure, they understood the band’s complaint in principle, but they reasoned most people were still buying albums. Why go after little kids grabbing tracks from LimeWire?

The back and forth got ugly, turning Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich into a villain figure who became the butt of endless jokes on the net and even on popular animated TV shows.

But now the baddest band on the planet may have just erased any nascent negative feelings in a single act of targeted charity.

Metallica recorded a live album at the Bataclan, the same venue targeted by Muslim terrorists back in 2015. The band’s representatives say proceeds from the album “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, Metallica! – Live at Le Bataclan” will be donated to victims of the attack.

The planned release date for the album is April 16 coinciding with Record Store Day, which promotes indie music shops. Proceeds for the nine-track live platter will go to Give For France, a subsidiary of Fondation de France, a group raising funds for survivors of the attack and the families of those who were killed.

After the attacks last November, Metallica made a point to lead the pack in resisting fear through music. The band played three gigs in smaller clubs in Paris in a single night, a direct challenge to those who had tried to instill terror in the French through the unprovoked attacks that killed more than 100 people.

Tribute albums are nothing new in music, but they are more commonly seen in the pop genre, full of easily-digested mainstream music. Metallica is decidedly not that. The heavy metal mainstays are popular not just among fans of their genre but also anyone who appreciates melodic aggression.

Unrepentant trendsetters, expect Metallica to be only one among other harder rock bands to take up the charity gauntlet typically reserved for bands like U2 and Springsteen’s E Street Band. Their music may be angry, but these guys have heart.

yale charity - Ronn Torossian Foundation

Yale Invests Millions in Diversity

$50 million to be precise – all to increase the diversity among its faculty. The current stats for Yale have them at 39.5% female faculty and 22.5% minority faculty members.

“Yale’s education and research missions are propelled forward by a faculty that stands at the forefront of scholarship, research, practice, mentoring, and teaching. An excellent faculty in all of these dimensions is a diverse faculty, and that diversity must reach across the whole of Yale,” explained President Peter Salovey and Provost Ben Polak.

Yale is not the first to create or fund such initiatives either, earlier this year Columbia pledged $30 million, even though they are among the most diverse of ivy-league faculties at 41% women and 26% minorities. The University of Pennsylvania pledged $50 million in 2011, and Harvard pledged $50 million in 2005.

Money pledged to fund new programs and classes relates to diversity, training of minority and women educators, and a teaching academy to train future teachers.

In our world of political correctness, it’s a good move for colleges to voluntarily fund and create more diverse faculties matching with the more diverse student bodies. Though it might also be interesting to learn what the percentages are when it comes to the students since minorities implies the groups make up less of the population. How much of an increase needs to happen and are there specific minorities needing more representation than others? With women making up approximately 50% of the population, it’s easy to figure the numbers there. Presumably ethnic minorities will be joined by other types of minorities such as LGBT educators.

Until the goal is a little better defined, it seems more of a way to placate than an actual effort. Pledging funds is great – giving a broad overview may not be all that helpful.

George W. Bush Charges Charity 100K for Speaking Engagement

In 2012, George W. Bush charged $100,000 for a speaking at an event to raise funds for Helping a Hero.  This article addresses the difficult issue of finding the right balance between promotions and nonprofit investments. .

Nonprofit organizations have fundraising events often. Many of them have more than one a year and what is donated pays for the majority of the organization’s efforts for the entire year. In 2012 when GWB spoke at the Hero’s event, funds raised were record-breaking and came to the tune of about $2.6 million. But, now detractors are focusing on publishing the much less significant number of the speaking fee.

The complaint, of course, is that someone is charging a fee to help a nonprofit organization. Newsflash – people do that all the time. Would anyone expect the caterer, or the location where an event is held to not charge for their services?

GWB’s normal fee for speaking at an event at the time was $250,000, so he had discounted the amount substantially. On top of that, the costs to him for speaking at that event are not known, so who’s to say if that fee is exorbitant or just covering expenses.

The charity is not complaining about the fees, in fact, they have praised Mr. Bush for bringing in such a large amount to benefit their charity. He was not in public office at the time he spoke, just a private citizen. So, who is complaining? CNN carried the report on their network, and a former member of the military who has benefited from the charity in the past with aid for his family and recovery after losing both hands during his military service in Afghanistan.

Most former POTUS’s earn large fees for speaking engagements. The fees may seem huge to the average American, but the average American would not have to cover many of the costs they do either.

The real PR news is the connection to making money from offering your services to a nonprofit. Should you do it or not? Would it be okay to charge your full fee so long as it is paid to another nonprofit that you influence or control? What is the acceptable level of profit a speaker should make from providing services to a nonprofit? Remember, this isn’t just about GWB, the standard you choose should be applicable to everyone … entertainers, caterers, wait staff, venue owners, and others.

Don’t Make it Hard to Give

Recently it was reported that presidential candidate Rand Paul is now accepting Bitcoin campaign donations. This is a first for any POTUS candidate, but even their options are far and above those of many nonprofit organizations. Fearful of PayPal and leery of losing cash to fees, many charities still don’t allow donors to give online. And microdonations?

Never heard of them!

This is sad because all the indicators show that an increasing number of donors want to be able to give not only right from their computer, but right from their smart phone. Recently, at a Habitat For Humanity fundraiser, the emcee let the crowd know they could give on the spot using a specific text message. Those people raised five figures in five minutes just because they asked – and then made it easy. Could your organization use an extra ten grand at your next event? What about more? The easier you make it, the more money you can bring in. It’s just that simple.

And speaking of simple, not all online donation forms are created equal. You need to make the experience as user-friendly as possible. Yes, you will need their name, address and credit card information. But you don’t need to make them start from scratch if they make a mistake. And you don’t need to ask for unnecessary information or volunteer to sign them up for ten newsletters and a parting gift. If they click “submit” with anything on their mind other than the good they’ve done and how much you appreciate it—mission failed.

While all the new options may make you nervous, and, yes, it costs money to build a donation form correctly … most options are safe if you do your homework, and you will likely find that simple donation forms more than cover their cost.

So, ignore the options all you want. Yes, it’s “really not that hard” to mail a check or donate cash, but the reality is, many people in today’s world just don’t want to do it. But they are ready, willing and even eager to click their money right into your account.

Bottom line? Making it seem tough to give means leaving a ton of money on the table. Cash your organization needs to meet or exceed its goals this year.

volunteer engagement - ronn torossian foundation

Keeping your Volunteers Engaged

Ronn Torossian believes one of the surefire ways to keep your nonprofit venture healthy and growing is to keep your volunteer pool healthy and growing. If you can keep your workers engaged in the work and the mission, you will likely achieve some measure of success. However, if your pool waxes and wanes, or your methods create a revolving door of volunteers, expect at best no growth. Keep that up for long enough and your work will wither and die on the vine.

Bottom line, your volunteers have a specific set of skills you need to keep your operation…operational. Even if you can find similarly qualified candidates, the endless training, retraining and recruiting will steal too much of your time, artificially handicapping your success. So, how can you ensure that your volunteer base stays engaged and excited?

First, make it about them. Not the cause, necessarily, but allow them to grab some ownership of whatever they are doing. Your messages should be inclusive and generously appreciative. Let them know, often and specifically, what you can accomplish with their help. But you must also communicate in a way that engages your volunteers. If they love mobile, you must go mobile. If they are stuck in last century, don’t be afraid to send out letters or make “thank you” phone calls.

A word about this… far too many organizations assume how their volunteers communicate. They take how they and their friends do it and just do it that way. Or, in some cases, they are unaware of other alternatives that may be a better fit. While there is no blanket “right” or “wrong” way to do this, there is a right or wrong way to communicate in your organization.

Do not ignore social media, but please, do it right. Social media is one of the greatest tools and most notorious time-wasters of our age. While “everybody” uses it, most everybody is not using it properly. Social media can be a tremendous tool to keep your volunteers, fans and donors attached to your organization IF you manage your resources well. If you don’t know how to do that, DO NOT GUESS. Every mistake is time wasted you will not get back. Instead, invest in someone who knows what they are doing, maybe even a team of skilled volunteers.

In the end, the “secret” here is simple. Keep people engaged by learning what they want and need to hear and then delivering that information in a way they understand. Speak their language, and they will keep the conversation going.