I'm sure you've all seen the KFC commercials promoting the fast-food chain's pink buckets. (If you haven't, click here.) For every pink bucket KFC sells, 50 cents goes to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Dallas-based breast cancer nonprofit. My first reaction to the commercial? "Help fight breast cancer, all while increasing heart disease!"
By the looks of things, I'm not alone in those feelings. Intuitively, corporate sponsors and partnerships should coincide or reinforce the mission of the organization — not contradict it. And in the case of Komen and the Colonel, that doesn't seem to be the case. Nancy Schwartz, president of Nancy Schwartz & Co. and blogger at Getting Attention!, broke down the corporate partnership between KFC and Susan G. Komen in a case study blog post, highlighting that very point:
At a quick glance, KFC’s Buckets for the Cure campaign (launched in early April 2010) seems harmless. For each pink bucket purchased by franchise operators, 50 cents goes to the Komen for the Cure campaign. KFC’s goal is to make the single largest donation ever to Komen. What’s bad about supporting breast cancer research, education and advocacy?
But wait a second. KFC is a leading purveyor of fried food. And the KFC-Komen partnership was announced shortly after the fast-food giant introduced its heart-stopping Double Down sandwich.
The absurdity of the partnership is really there for all to see. There’s no way around it. How can funding breast cancer research with the proceeds of fried chicken sales (yes, 22 percent of KFC chicken sales are for grilled chicken) make good sense? Especially when fried foods are known to contribute to obesity and other health problems, and obesity increases the risk of breast cancer.
The reactions in the fundraising world and public sector were not kind. Schwartz goes into detail about the disbelief, disappointment and anger Susan G. Komen for the Cure faced and the relative lack of response from the organization. I urge you to go read the entire post here.
The moral of the story is that appearance and public perception matter. Fundraising isn't strictly about raising money. It's about soliciting funds to further your mission, and doing so in a logical, mission-driven way. All organizations are feeling the crunch during these times, and a corporate partnership is a great way to increase funding and spread your message. But not any and every corporate sponsorship makes sense. Because if donors see a contradiction in causes or partnerships that seem counterintuitive — which many people have alleged is the case with KFC and Susan G. Komen — it could wind up doing more harm to your reputation than good for your mission.