SVMlogoSo, we ended our last post offering an overview of the media space and ending with a prophetic cliffhanger that hints that we have the key to unlock buckets of undiscovered corporate partnership money. In truth, I’m sure we do not have the magic formula to all of a sudden change the way in which companies invest in nonprofits. However, we do have an approach. And, that is what we will share in this post.

At Shared Value Media, we believe four major obstacles are preventing us, as nonprofits, from being a part of the media discussion:

1. We, as nonprofits, are not presenting our assets in media terms

2. Most individual nonprofits lack national reach and scale

3. There is a misconception (that we don’t do a good enough job of confronting) that the majority of nonprofits lack have the executional integrity to execute a large, national campaign

4. Most nonprofits fail to track how their partnerships affect their corporate partner’s bottom line


#1 – Nonprofits often do not present our assets in media terms

Let me know if this sounds familiar… when I used to create our corporate partnership presentations at the end of each of our corporate partner’s fiscal year, I would begin the presentation by recapping our reach — 16 cities, 6,000 kids served, over 200 schools, etc. This is not how media professionals interpret reach. Reach is measured in eyeballs and media platforms.

How many facebook likes do you have?
How many people open your newsletter? How many people click through?
How many parents do you interact with each day?
How many attendees are at all of your national and affiliate events combined?
How many impressions did your press coverage generate last year?

6,000 kids does not sound like that many to someone who is buying a local radio spot that reaches 135,000 people in a week. However, when you add up the different touch points, how niche and targeted our audience is, and the impact of our touch points, we actually discover that a nonprofit’s reach is not that bad! But, without positioning ourselves in this way, we are selling our platform short! As an example of what we are competing against, check out the circulation card for Scholastic to the right.

#2 – Most nonprofits lack national reach and scale

I know what you are thinking… we are in 16 cities and spent years of sweat and tears building a national infrastructure. How can you say we’re not national?

Remember, you have to approach it from the eyes of a media planner. If a brand is looking to launch a media campaign in Chicago, NY, and Denver, they want to blanket those markets. If they are going to partner with nonprofits to serve as one of the media platforms in that campaign, that nonprofit has to have a VERY broad reach in EVERY one of those markets.

For this reason, Shared Value Media has begun to create collaborations of nonprofits that share the same “mission vertical” (youth health, financial literacy, the environment, etc.). For our youth health collaborative, we partner with five extremely strong nonprofits to offer corporations a way to create broad partnerships supporting youth health all over the country.

#3 – Nonprofits lack the executional integrity to launch a large, national campaign

I am not going to spend too much time on this because I will dive much deeper into it in my next point. All I will say here is that there is only one way to prove you are good at doing something and that is to measure it. And, in the media world, quantitative (not qualitative) measurement is key!

#4 – We need to measure MORE and we need to do it BETTER!!!

I would say there are four things we, as nonprofits, claim we can accomplish when pitching a corporate partnership:

1. We can execute what we have proposed
2. We will have an impact on our constituents
3. We will reach the people we say we can reach
4. The partnership will have an impact on our corporate partner’s business

I would say most good nonprofits do one of these really well — measure the impact on our constituents. As far as the others, I would contend nonprofits by and large have been given a pass by our corporate partners. We are rarely asked to really prove the impact we have had on our corporate partner’s business OR prove that we have met our deliverables.

As the National Development Director of a nonprofit, I often was asked to provide photos, a summary, and maybe a few quotes that demonstrated the outcomes of our partnership. How in the world with photos and a summary would I ever arm my corporate contact with the data he or she would need to increase our budget the following year? I knew, behind closed doors, my “picture book report” was competing against another partnership’s detailed breakdown that would list: how many impressions were generated per day/region/event/etc., how many of those impressions converted to sales, how that campaign impacted the consumer’s awareness and perception of the brand, etc.

On the other hand, I was hamstrung in what I could really measure. I was one person trying to oversee numerous national partnerships and all of our other fundraising activity. I did not have a database to allow for easy data input. And, my corporate partners weren’t demanding anything more from me. So… I followed the status quo and gave them what they asked for and begged for more money the next time we met. Surprisingly, the ceiling was always limited.

For the game to really change, it needs to start right here with measurement!

As nonprofits, we need to commit to measuring the specifics of our corporate partnerships to the same level of detail that we measure the affect on our constituents. I know that sounds backwards. But, as we all know, you raise money so you can offer better and more programming. And, the only way our corporate partners are going to invest more in us is if they believe that we are impacting their business’s bottom line.

Below are three easy recommendations on how to improve your measurement:

1. Build a simple database that allows for easy data input and detailed reports

It sounds harder than it is. There are a # of off-the-shelf database platforms that make this easy. Align with your corporate partners about the quantitative goals they have for the year and then set up a process with your affiliates for weekly/monthly data input. If you can provide reports that show how many people you’ve reached, how many hours your kids are spending engaging with your partner’s curriculum, photos from every market, etc. it will go a really long way!

2. Make a big claim about how you can affect their business and then measure it!

If I am a media planner and I spend $200,000 on a web-based campaign, $250,000 on an event marketing campaign, and a million dollars on a tv campaign I am going to put aside some money to measure the affect each channel has on their own and the affect they have in combination with one another. In one market, I may have spent a big portion of my budget on tv and less on the web, while inĀ  another market I spent almost all of it on event marketing. I want to know which combination is having the greatest affect on brand awareness, brand perception, sales, etc.

However, rarely as a media planner, am I including my cause partnerships into that measurement equation. As an example, let’s say in Dallas I spent $20,000 on tv, $50,000 on the web, and $10,000 on event marketing. The data shows Dallas is my most rapidly growing market. So, I attribute Dallas’s growth to these three platforms, functioning in combination with one another. However, as it turns out, I have been donating $75,000 a year to a nonprofit in Dallas that interacts with my targeted demographic every day. It is very possible that a factor in my brand’s growth is that cause partnership. But, if your corporate partner isn’t measuring it, they will never know!

Ask your partners if they are measuring the affect of your partnership on their brand? If they say ‘no’ ask them why not and what sort of changes to the partnership do you need to make to potentially impact the bottom line of their business? And, push them to determine what resources are in place to measure that impact.

3. Connect the Dots!!!

How many times in your career have you wondered why your corporate partner’s PR team never talks to their marketing or CSR team? I have executed SO many programs that were pr gold, but barely got covered because our corporate partner’s pr team was not at the table. I’m not naive about this and realize how hard it is! But, push really hard to maximize the affect of your partnerships. If you have something coming up that can generate strong press for your partner, make sure they bring in their PR team. If you have a program that lends itself to employee engagement, make sure they bring in the HR team. And… make sure they measure the affects of these partnerships and share the data!

Follow up with the PR team to see how much coverage was generated and the total impressions that resulted from that coverage. Follow up with the HR team to make sure a survey is sent to their employee volunteers that measures their perception of the experience. If you push on the measurement front, your corporate partner will appreciate it. It will arm you to make a more compelling case for expanding the budget. Finally, it will provide exposure to other departments internally.

Well… this was a long one. If you read all the way through, I hope you got something out of it. At Shared Value Media, these are the buckets we are concentrating on. We’re here to help… or feel free to take some of these tips and put them into practice on your own.

Good luck! In the next post, we’ll explore how HR Managers are measuring the success of their employee engagement programs and a groundbreaking report released by Starbucks in January 2011 that offers benchmarks for measurement in this space…

– Cal Zarin, CEO