More Insights on Sustainable Partnerships

I am also a believer in ROI for giving initiatives, and that doing good can and should be a rewarding venture for both companies and their beneficiaries. But to accomplish this, those of us working in non-profits or corporate philanthropy have to do a better job of creating great matches between the two.
What makes a great match? If you look around, you can find many examples of giving initiatives that seem to really work. Like an energy company that supports environmental conservation, or a bank that supports financial literacy education, or a food company that helps feed hungry families.
In these cases and so many others, the match seems obvious and a good impact on society is sure to result. But effective programs don’t just meet a need, they play to a company’s strengths and allow them to make a meaningful contribution doing what they do best. Aah, now that’s a concept, and one that increases a program’s chances of weathering the ups and downs of the economy or other changing corporate winds, as Ed has pointed out. I’ve never seen a shortage of good causes to support; the reality is companies have to evaluate numerous opportunities to find those things that make the most sense for them — and their stakeholders — to invest in.
Here are a few thoughts, from my consultant’s perspective, on what makes a strong program and a great match. The best giving initiatives:
• Reflect a company’s mission, vision and values;
• Align with one or more business objectives;
• Match up with its operational locations and presence;
• Resound with stakeholders and the issues they care about;
• Create opportunities for community engagement and dialogue about how to effect positive change by working together;
• Excite employees and offer meaningful opportunities to be involved;
• Communicate credible messages about the company;
• Tell compelling stories about how lives, communities and society are being impacted;
• Establish collaborations with respected partners; and
• Enhance the reputation of everyone involved.
To do anything less is, well, to settle for less. Time we did more for the benefit of all.

Posted by Elise Mitchell

Elise Mitchell, APR, Fellow PRSA, is president and CEO of Mitchell Communications Group.  She and her group work closely with Tyson Foods in developing and implementing Tyson’s hunger relief strategy and communications.

7 Replies to “More Insights on Sustainable Partnerships”

  1. Elise Mitchell

    Billy is right. Measurement is one of the critical components of a sustainable partnership. I have to know if something is working in order to have a good case for continuing the investment.

    That’s why stories are an effective means of measuring and communicating impact. When we find and tell stories about how people’s lives have changed, or what someone or some group is doing that has found traction, it’s much easier to build momentum and attract new supporters and participants to the cause.

    I often tell our team, we are both "story knowers" as well as story tellers, but you first have to keep your radar up to find the stories worth telling. Always be on the look-out for something unique or captivating that could help illustrate a larger objective or message for your cause. Then tell it in a compelling way that reaches all the audiences who need to hear it.

    Good things come when great stories get told. I’m glad this website is helping find and tell a few of those stories.

  2. Ed

    Thanks, Billy

    I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how much those of us at Tyson have learned from you and SOS about partnerships in the past 8 years.

    For those of you who haven’t read the James Austin book I mentioned in my earlier post, Billy (the founder of Share Our Strength) and his organization are referred to as prominent examples several times in the book. 

    Billy has inspired and motivated tens of thousands of people toward effecting positive social change through his books, his letters and his personal example.

    We’re honored to have you comment here, Billy. 

    For more information about Share Our Strength, and to read some of what Billy has written, check out these links:

  3. Bill Shore

    All I can add to the above is the importance of both partners being willing to invest in both measuring and communicating the impact of the partnership.  There is expense involved in doing so, and it may seem hard to justify relative to getting more food to more people, in an anti-hunger intiiative for example, but in the long run it will yield even greater impact if the employees of a socially engaged company have a sense of the many tangible ways in which their engagement has changed and saved lives.  We’ve certainly seen this at Share Our Strength as a result of Tyson’s long record of generosity.  Thanks to all for such a substantive discussion.

  4. Ed Nicholson

    Thanks, for those kind words, Terri and Randy.  We’re honestly not fishing for  compliments here, but always sincerely grateful when we get them.

    You both come from the non-profit side, one with with an organization that’s been around and has established, long-term partnerships, and one that’s very young.  From your respective points of view, what are the things that make a partnership work well?  What makes you feel secure, and in what kind of situations do you find yourself constantly wondering whether the support will be around next month?

  5. Terri Lawson

    Tyson Angels,

    Three Square in Las Vegas was the very grateful recipient of 35,000  pounds of Tyson generosity. 

    As a new Food Bank, receiving a donation from a giant like Tyson gave us great credibility.  Your employees Billy McGreevey and Suzie Kaupp were outstanding and assisted us tremendously in making our community knowlegable of Three Square.

    The publicity on our local news stations brought so much awareness to Tyson and their Mission.  I had folks calling for days asking about the donation.  The questions were endless:  Did they REALLY donate that much meat?  Is it true they do this all over the country?  Was the statement correct that says Tyson Foods is the world’s largest provider or chicken, beef and porK?  Many (including myself) thought of Tyson as a provider of chicken products only.  I directed all who inquired with questions to your incredible website so they could see for themselves.

    The agencies we service, the friends we shared the story with, our employees  ~ all have a new allegiance to purchasing Tyson products.

    I cannot imagine the cost of such a magnificent donation, but I know the good that it did for our community AND the PR and awareness it brought for your fabulous company.  I don’t know if that could ever be measured in dollars.

    Bless you for your generosity  You have discovered the key to showing the world you can be a smart business and still take care of those in need.  Tyson Foods is a shining example for all to follow.

    In gratitude,

    Terri Lawson

    Food Resource Manager

    Three Square



  6. Randy Starck

    Since 1935, Tyson has been feeding America. Over the past 26 years, their support of America’s Second Harvest has resulted in the donation of protein enriched food to thousands of families in need. Our new name will be officially launched later this year.

    How appropriate that Tyson will continue to be feeding America and doing so partly through the new "Feeding America" organization. We’re grateful for the past support and excited about the increased visibility of this new name and its value to our business partners.

  7. Susan Brockway

    I cannot agree more with Elise.  In our partnership efforts; it is an important concept in the forming of long term strategic relationsips.  I speak to food banks and other potential partners on a regular basis and am always pleased when the words mission, vision and values are at the forefront of our conversations.  It makes it so much easier to talk about commonalities and what the expectations are for all of the parties coming to the table.  When the conversation ends with entitlement only, I can usually make a prediction on the success of the relationship.  Kudos Elise, for talking about how things are changing and how successful relationships are not only formulated, but sustained.

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