The following blog post is based on Mark Feldman’s keynote Maximize the Power of Your Partnerships at the Jimmy Fund’s 2015 Corporate Partner Summit.

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Working to solve a shared problem and find common and innovative solutions is always easier when done together versus alone. But, that doesn’t mean it is always easy, nor does it mean that everyone puts in and gets out the same amount. When it comes to societal issues, which are often very complex and require multifaceted approaches, this is especially true.

As companies continue to enter into partnerships with non-profits to address social issues relevant to their businesses, they are demanding more and more from their counterparts.  However, it isn’t until companies activate their own resources, internalize their social impact mission and endeavor to create deeper relationships with their customers through substantive cause campaigns that they can truly transform their business and change lives.

To make the most of public-private partnerships, companies must strategically make their existing assets work harder. Here are 3 themes to consider to help companies maximize the power of public-private partnerships:

1. Make it yours

Even if your nonprofit partner is completely mission aligned with the impact you are trying to have, you need to find the specific elements that make sense for your business. Find the essence of the issue and shared values that resonate with your brand and your consumer. When you highlight these facets of the relationship, you will more quickly build trust and clearly link your business authentically to the cause.  Why you care about any specific cause must make sense to your consumers, especially if you want them to join you and make it their own.


2. Connect the dots

Cause partnerships should never be a one-and-done endeavor. Your commitment to a social issue can become a 24-7-365 part of your brand experience by weaving the cause and partnership into your core values, marketing, and messaging. It should tap into the widest range of internal and external communications, branding, and community assets to create simple linkages among all of your activities.

Make sure to share your successes and failures, and all of the steps along the way. Don’t forget to close the loop and report back on the impact of your efforts, and if you can, not just the outcomes of specific actions, but the way that lives have been altered because of the work you and your partner have done.

Get your employees passionate about your cause. Bring together the various teams across your company and make it easy for them to integrate the cause into what they do every day. When you connect the dots, customers will see that you actually ‘walk your talk’ and every interaction with your brand will shift from a series of transactions into long term relationship building.


3. Create champions

When consumers understand why the cause fits your brand and how deeply you are committed, they will join you, advocate for you, and become the champions of your business, brand, and cause. They will walk through fire for you. They will tell your story for you because they believe in it too, and share their stories with you.  Champions will become your product evangelists and accelerate your business and impact. And they will hold you accountable, but give you permission to take the relationship to the next level, ask for more, and think outside the box.  You will be allowed to push harder, be bolder, and take more risks to lead the change that needs to get done.


These 3 strategies will help you maximize the power of your partnerships to differentiate your brand and drive consumer trust, loyalty, and next-level engagement.


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