FUNdraising – Perspectives on Corporate Sponsorships

Printer-friendly version

What do wine and surfing have in common? It turns out that clean beaches are good for both picnics and surfing…and for raising money. As Bruce Burtch, author of Win-Win for the Greater Good, explains it, when you find the right alignment of missions and a messenger you trust you’ve got a greater chance of leveraging corporate support into a productive, and financially rewarding, relationship.

We’re pleased to share this article by Bruce Burtch on the importance of mission alignment in “cross-sector” (nonprofit/for-profit) partnerships.

The correct alignment between your organization and a potential corporate sponsor is of paramount importance. By ‘alignment’ I mean that when put side by side, your nonprofit’s mission and culture align with the potential sponsor’s brand, and your nonprofit’s values with their values, so that the partnership is compatible: intellectually, emotionally, and practically. The alignment must make sense to both partners, and especially to the public. This critical need for the proper partnership alignment is what I refer to as “brand fit.”

In what I feel was a stunningly poor example of “brand fit” between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Susan G. Komen in the “Buckets for the Cure” campaign, the wrong product or service alignment can be disastrous for a cross-sector partnership or cause marketing campaign, and more importantly, to a nonprofit organization's reputation. 

In your assessment process, as you are selecting who to partner with, take a look at what your organization stands for, as well as the reputation of the for-profit partner. This is the starting point of your alignment process. Appropriate brand fit is fairly obvious. If your nonprofit is a food bank, for example, brand alignment would exist with a local grocery store. If your nonprofit is Habitat for Humanity, a construction business or hardware supply company would provide outstanding alignment because those businesses have expertise, employee talents, and knowledge of construction that are all needed in the building or remodeling of homes.

This alignment creates a natural flow when integrating the mission and cause of your partners into your own organization's culture. It just makes sense - to you, to your organization, to your partners, to the public - to all you wish to attract to the cause.
A perfect example of excellent alignment is the partnership between Barefoot Wine and the Surfrider Foundation, whose mission is the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches. Together they created the “Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project” to help keep America’s beaches “barefoot friendly.” The partners hosted beach cleanups and restoration events coast-to-coast, utilizing volunteers to clean the shorelines, plant native greenery and collect litter along the beaches. At the end of each event, volunteers enjoyed Barefoot Wine and surf-inspired food. Aligning a brand like Barefoot Wine with the surfing-originated and water-focused Surfrider Foundation is an example of excellent alignment. Even the events themselves emphasized this barefoot-friendly fit.

The campaign won the Cause Marketing Forum’s 2012 “Halo Award” for Best Environmental or Animal Campaign. And while the campaign and both organizations are national in scope, this type of cause-related campaign could just as well have been orchestrated with any community park, beach or swimming pool partnering with local businesses related to water sports. It’s about finding the right idea and the right brand fit.

Bruce Burtch is the author of Win-Win for the Greater Good. Please visit for more information about cross-sector partnerships.

Find Your State Association of Nonprofits

Find Your State Association of Nonprofits

Connect with local resources and expertise


Connect With Us

1. Sign up for updates

Stay up-to-date with the latest nonprofit resources and trends by subscribing to our free e-newsletters.

2. Follow us on social media