Corporate partnerships between nonprofits and businesses can be incredibly beneficial to both parties. To provide a peek behind the curtain, this is the first in a series of interview-style articles where we will explore successful corporate partnerships from both the business and the nonprofit perspectives.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Marriott International have an incredible partnership spanning more than three decades. With me today, are John Lauck from CMN Hospitals and Amy Moyer from Marriott International to tell us a little more.

Craig: Thank you both for being willing to share with us. Tell us a little about each of your roles?

John (CMN): I am the President and CEO of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and have worked here for 6 1/2 years. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals raises nearly $400 million in funds for 170 non-profit children’s hospitals in North America each year. The money raised stays local and is used where the hospitals determine the greatest need. We started as a telethon in 1983 with Marie Osmond and John Schneider as its celebrity co-founders. Today the funds are raised mostly thru corporate partnerships, radiothons, Dance Marathons and Extra-Life (an online marathon for lovers of video and board games).

Amy (Marriott): For the past six years, I have the honor of being the Program Specialist for Marriott International.
My sole focus is the partnership we have with CMN Hospitals. I assist our hotels in their fund raising activities using our programs and events and connect them with their local CMN Hospital.

Craig: Can you tell us more about CMN and Marriott’s partnership and how it unfolded?

Amy (Marriott): Marriott International holds the honorable distinction of being Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ longest standing corporate partner. Since 1983 Marriott International has raised $115 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals throughout the US and Canada. We now have 30 brands in our portfolio supporting CMN Hospitals. The partnership unfolded back in 1983 when the founding members (Joe Lake, Mick Shannon, John Schneider and Marie Osmond) approached Bill Marriott to be a sponsor for their first telethon. They needed hotel rooms and catering for the attendees of the event at Osmond Studios in Provo, Utah. Mr. Marriott said, YES and nearly 35 years later we have raised $115 million raised for the children.

Craig: If you were to break down the process of approaching a potential new corporate sponsor into a series of steps, what would those be?

John (CMN): We first look for “fit” – does that partner share similar values, goals, and commitment to the community with us. We look at past charitable giving, who those partners are/were and size/scale of that potential partner. We look at any relationships that exist between that partner and our organization, hospitals, board and current corporate partners. References are valuable to assessing and building new partnerships. We also look at business categories that we do not currently operate in. We then begin the conversation with these potential new partners and explore what a partnership might look like.

Craig: How important is Brand Alignment to both parties when considering a partnership?

John (CMN): Critical, because it starts with step #1 – assessing fit. The partnership has to work both ways and not only be beneficial to our hospitals but also beneficial to that partner.

Craig: Amy, how important is your employee base as an audience when considering partners and specific initiatives?

Amy (Marriott): At Marriott, we believe that our company’s roots and culture set us apart from other companies. Our culture is made up of core values. It is how we do business. We put people first, and our associates are at the center of that. Supporting CMN Hospitals, where funds stay local, is key. We are supporting the children’s hospitals in the cities where we do business. These children’s hospitals are the ones our associates are taking their children to for care. More than 10 million children enter a children’s hospital across North America every year. To provide the best care for kids, children’s hospitals rely on donations and community support. We are proud to provide that needed community support.

John (CMN): We get the importance of this alignment. We have a research team that does all the due diligence on a new partner and provides us with an opportunity to understand those audiences and then matches them appropriately to our existing programs and events. As a nonprofit leader, you need to be proactive and strategic. 80% of our current partnerships started with intentional research and relationship outreach from us. Most of our current partners believe that employee engagement is one of the chief benefits coming out of a partnership. Their voice and vote are critical to the decision. We are finding that today’s work force cares about whether their organization is doing something to give back to the community. And they want to be directly involved in the decision and the fundraising activities.

Craig: How do you evaluate a corporate sponsor that approaches you? What are some red flags you’d caution others to look for and avoid?

John (CMN): Thanks! Again, we look for good fit – particularly is there a fit with our hospitals and children’s health. We’re also interested in long-term relationships/partnerships. We manage nearly 90 partners today, and we are looking for those few partners who will truly make a difference.

Craig: Amy, can you close us out by describing an initiative you’ve recently rolled out?

Amy (Marriott): Marriott began as a 9-seat root beer stand back in 1927. To get back to our history and roots, on August 6th we celebrate National Root Beer Float Day by hosting events at hundreds of our properties in the US and Canada. Simply, a scoop of Haagen Dazs ice cream and a can of MUG root beer for a donation to the local children’s hospital for our guests and associates to enjoy. This is one way we show our Spirit to Serve to CMN Hospitals.