Profiles in Partnership: Interviews with America's Leading Nonprofit and For-profit Organizations on Creating Successful Cross-sector Partnerships

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Creating partnerships between nonprofit, for-profit, education and government sectors can increase sales and donations, raise employee morale, drive brand awareness and serve the greater good. New blog series Profiles in Partnership interviews over 20 of the America's leading public and private executives and offers “how-to” tips on creating successful partnerships. Interviews include: Chevron, Cisco, Special Olympics, Zynga, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Gap, PG&E, AAA, Bank of America, and many more.

“There is nothing in business today that will provide a much benefit, on as many levels, to as many stakeholders as a partnership between two or more from the nonprofit for-profit, education or government sectors. Nothing else comes even close.”

The name of the game is collaboration. When the American Red Cross Bay Area chapter wanted to develop an earthquake preparedness program they teamed with Pacific Gas & Electric to form a three-year partnership which raised $1,000,000, generated over $3,000,000 in worldwide press coverage and trained an unprecedented 1,000,000 San Francisco Bay Area residents in emergency preparedness. When Art from the Heart, a two-person nonprofit art program, wanted to expand their programs in elementary schools that didn't have art programs, they teamed with Autodesk for both funding and volunteers.

From large national and regional programs to very small local projects these cross-sector partnerships - partnerships between two or more partners from the nonprofit, for-profit, education and government sectors- are rapidly growing across the country. And the reason is simple: cross-sector partnerships can create a whole far greater than the sum of their parts when they combine their financial, technical, volunteer, community relations and creative abilities to focus on the greater good.

Bruce Burtch is credited with designing the first cause marketing program in history and now a nationally respected expert in the development of cross-sector partnerships stated, “There is absolutely nothing in business today which creates as much benefit, on as many levels, to as many stakeholders as a cross-sector partnership. Nothing else comes even close.”

So where does one go to learn the opportunities and challenges that exist when bringing together organizations from different sectors? Where are the models to follow from people who have deep experience in developing such partnerships? A new blog series entitled, Profiles in Partnership, has been launched by Bruce Burtch and can be found at Over 20 interviews will be shared from all sides of the cross-sector partnership equation, ranging from leaders of national organizations to small nonprofits, including Bobby Silten, chief foundation officer of Gap Foundation; Karen Baker, California State Secretary for service and volunteering; Matt Lonner, manager of global partnerships for Chevron; Sherri Lewis Wood, chair and national founder of One Warm Coat; Jeanne Bell, CEO of Compass Point Nonprofit Services, and many more.

Anne Wilson, CEO of the United Way of the Bay Area, said, “The most robust partnerships are multidimensional, so it’s not writing a check, it’s not sending a volunteer, and it’s not co-branding. There’s a sweet spot of these multiple dimensions that makes the satisfaction so great for both partners. And that’s why the design question is so important. You can send anybody in to paint the meeting room, but to say we’re going to really partner; we’re going to have an ongoing relationship with this entity and this issue. That’s multidimensional.”

Burtch said, “Cross-sector partnerships can be far more than just a marketing relationship designed to increase product sales or raise donations. When you truly embrace a cause, and generate benefit for those the cause serves, your efforts will raise the tide on all aspects of your organization. Indeed, there is a wonderful domino effect on your employees, donors, customers, the media, your community, vendors, stockholders, and more. When you embrace the cause, your entire organization’s culture will be stimulated. This focus on partnership, on doing good, takes win-win to a whole new level…it’s everybody wins!”

Sample excerpt from series: Karen Baker, CA Secretary of Service and Volunteerism

BB: Most of the discussions I am seeing are between nonprofit and for-profit organizations, what's missing?

KB: What's really missing in this discussion is the role of government, but the limitation is that government resources are scarce. If the money disappears, the nonprofits often have to pick up the ball and run with it. This is where many of the connections happen between the nonprofit and private sector. What I’m also equally intrigued by is people really don’t know how to get into the public sector space as a partner. Most of the professionals that I’ve met have only done the private and nonprofit deals. It’s really rare to get those that know the public too and have a three-way partnership.

BB: What might be a good example?

KB: I ran a homeless agency in LA, Chrysalis, and we worked with McKinsey & Company (a management consulting firm) to build a day labor business. We had both public and private funders for this initiative. It is now bringing in millions of dollars to this agency and providing jobs to homeless people. It’s a great revenue generating model. It was all built out of a pro bono project out of McKinsey. That was a great public/private partnership.

Background: Bruce W. Burtch

A cross-sector partnership expert, Bruce builds partnerships between the nonprofit, for-profit, education and government sectors. He has held executive positions with Marriott, U.S. Olympic Committee and American Red Cross Bay Area. He designed the first cause marketing campaign in history between Marriott and March of Dimes and a partnership between PG&E and American Red Cross, garnering over $3Million in earned media, resulting in an unprecedented 1,000,000 people being trained.

Bruce conceived the nation’s only degree-granting college based on the Oxford-Cambridge tutorial system - the nationally-acclaimed Honors Tutorial College at Ohio University, while still an undergraduate. Bruce was awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award, presented by the National Association of Community Leadership, for spearheading the development of the Tenderloin After-School Program.

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