Leveraging Brand and Cause Partnerships


Engage for Good Conference

With over 600 attendees representing the social impact offices of major brands like Starbucks, Unilever, Microsoft, JetBlue, Boeing, Subaru, and Coca-Cola, as well as the largest nonprofits in the country like the National Park Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Alzheimer’s Association, Habitat for Humanity, and the Alzheimer’s Association, we were in excellent company at the intersection of profit and purpose as a Premiere Partner of the Engage for Good Conference 2019 in Chicago.
In addition to launching the Mentoring for Social Good program, CSM hosted a Speed Networking session and a panel discussion on Building a Career in Social Impact, featuring senior leaders from Year Up, Deloitte and DoSomething.org.
Throughout the course of the conference, we noticed that there are six major themes that brands and nonprofits are considering when developing impact and sustainable partnerships.

Transformative Change is No Longer at the Margins 

On both the corporate and nonprofit side, organizations are launching initiatives that create transformative and systemic change.
Unilever launching an owned social venture, The Right to Shower, Toms made a shift to their giving model that mobilized $5 Million to ending gun violence, and AT&T made a $1 million commitment so the Trevor Project could expand its crisis services to serve more LGBTQ youth. Everlane's Human Together Campaign is taking a stand for Human Rights, and Harry's is taking on gender stereotypes in advertising, with a focus on men's mental health.

Content + Impact Share the Throne 

Corporate partners are moving beyond a transactional and “ROI” mindset when it comes to assessing the value of their nonprofit partners.
During a panel featuring Stefanie Matthew, VP of Corporate Partnerships for CSM client, the National Park Foundation and their partners from L.L. BeanUnion Pacific, Coca-Cola, and Subaru, brand leaders unanimously shared that the greatest value they're looking for in the partnership with NPF is rooted in impact and content. While some stakeholders, like retailers engaging in the Coca-Cola x NPF partnership, continue to value driving key business outcomes, the priority focus for these brands is on generating powerful impact and engaging content that brings the partnership story to life for consumers and employees.

Employee Engagement 2.0

Corporations are going beyond surface level, transactional relationships with their nonprofit partners, especially when it comes to employee engagement.
Employee engagement programs are becoming more empathy-focused, innovative and immersive as with the example of "Displaced" the experiential, refugee simulation workshop designed by Mercy Corps and implemented with Microsoft to educate and build empathy around the refugee crisis.

Diversity and Inclusion are Front and Centre

Starting at the leadership level, CEOs are taking the I Act On Pledge, with five commitments to diversity and inclusion in their organizations.
As D&I becomes a critical piece of how team members evaluate their workplaces and how organizations evaluate partners and agencies, weaving perspectives from a broad range of experiences into the fabric of the culture must be a priority at every level. It can’t be just for optics, or a campaign, or a photo shoot, and can’t be relegated to one committee or Employee Resource Group. The demand for authentic inclusion is here to stay.

Consumers are exercising their super powers for good 

69% of consumers want brands to help them explore their options for making the world a better place.*
Whether through their commercial dollar or through direct activism like Patagonia Action Works, connecting individuals with Patagonia grantees so they can take action on the most pressing issues facing the world today, brands are stepping up to channel consumer awareness and consciousness into action and impact.

*Cone Communications CSR Study

Exploding Industries are Getting in to Social Good

Esports. Last month VIE.gg teamed up with Epsilon Esports to raise money for charities chosen by gamers through a Peer-to-Peer Esports betting program.
Cannabis. Elixinol gave 5% of purchases over Memorial Day to the Wounded Warrior Project.
More than ever, brands, sports and entertainment properties have the potential to take a stand on important issues and move the need on causes while better engaging customers, consumers and fans.
As you think about ways your organization is leveraging Brand x Cause partnerships in meaningful and measurable ways, we hope that these theme and examples are helpful points of reference for crafting an authentic path forward.
And if you need a thought partner, we’re totally game!