What Rock Climbing Taught Me About Corporate Partnership ROI

Learn 13 specific factors (that you can do) that lead to Jockey Being Family winning a GOLD Cause Marketing Forum Halo Award for Best Social Service Campaign

Rock climbing has taught me a lot about successful partnerships.

When I first started rock climbing with my wife at the young-ish age of 61, I was shocked at how exhilarating it can be to step outside my comfort zone.

Laura and I climbing "The Gunks" Shawangunk Mountains, NY)
Laura and I climbing “The Gunks” Shawangunk Mountains, NY

Laura was a seasoned climber and although I loved and trusted her, it wasn’t until I literally put my life in her hands that I realized the extent of that trust — and boy am I glad I took that risk because the view from the top is incredible.

Don’t go it alone. Find the right partner and the climb will be much easier – and so much more fun!

How Do You Get To the Top of the Corporate Partnership Summit?


In corporate partnerships a trusted nonprofit partner can provide the critical support needed to achieve goals impossible for either to reach separately. It’s relatively easy for a corporation to wear the halo of a powerful “cause”, represented by their nonprofit partner—and achieve limited results. It’s relatively easy to hold a successful national media event, a local event in the company’s hometown or to engage employees at headquarters. The “holy grail” of cause marketing and the real challenge is to scale-up those results to hundreds or thousands of consistent events or activations taking place at desirable locations in small, medium and large markets across the country and around the world.

When Laura and I climb at the gym, it’s fast, easy and fun. The walls are only 40 feet high, the holds are bolted in place and the rope is pre-threaded over a fixed anchor at the top, ready and waiting. We step into our harnesses, tie-in with a double figure 8 knot and we’re ready to climb. But when we want to achieve something truly breathtaking and spectacular, like climbing 250 feet up the steep face of a mountain that looks impossible to scale– that requires a different level of partnership. We call on a guide who has years of experience leading routes, reading the rock and with the knowledge about high-tech gear placement and rope management that will safely and securely hold two human beings hanging off the sheer edge of a rock ledge. We need a guide who has lived through it (literally!) successfully again and again and again!

Achieve spectacular results with the help of a seasoned guide and powerful technology!
Achieve spectacular results with the help of a seasoned guide and powerful technology!

For 35 years INPEx has been guiding companies to benefit from large scale hyper-local activations with cause partners. Cloud computing and powerful Salesforce.com CRM databases have enabled us to supercharge the results since 2008. That’s when we transformed a client program we had managed manually for years and increased results by over 1,000% to reach consumers where they live and shop for our clients’ products. These results are impossible without a system we pioneered to simulate the way our experienced relationship managers interact with volunteers and nonprofit staff, but do it with the maximum of “Tech” with just the right amount of human “Touch”.  We call it Tech~Touch®.


Want to Reach the Summit? A Guide Can Make All the Difference

When Laura and I climbed in Yosemite National Park, we looked up at the top of El Capitan and watched the climbers 3,000 feet above the ground. They were climbing with high-tech gear that did not exist 10 years ago. When we climb with our friend and favorite guide, we know that we’re climbing with someone who was the first to climb many of the world’s most challenging peaks. Take a close look at the “hanging belay” he set for Laura and me to hang out 200 feet above the ground while he set the route for us to climb safely up the last 50 feet. Without a guide who is experienced with the newest approaches to scaling the most challenging climbs, we know we would be too vulnerable and certainly would not have the same level of success.

Tips From an Experienced Corporate Partnership Guide

I am reminded of the challenge that faced Jockey International and their Jockey Being Family (JBF) foundation. Ten years ago Jockey International, a leading designer, marketer, retailer, and licensor of men’s undergarments and women’s intimates, created JBF to help the 50,000 families each year that adopt children from the foster care system. A spectacular group of headquarters volunteers created personalized back packs and filled them with special gifts for the kids. They also created special parent totes that contain post-adoption support materials and advice for their new families. The program thrived, but reached only the families in Jockey’s home state of Wisconsin.

Then Jockey’s CEO and Chair, who was herself adopted as an infant, decided she wanted to expand the program to reach all 50,000 adoptive families every year. JBF’s Executive Director had a real challenge on her hands and asked for help from her stalwart nonprofit partners who specialized in adoption services. After 2 Untitled-4years they were only able to reach 1,600 families in just a handful of new states. That is when they called on INPEx and our time-tested Tech~Touch approach. In less than 12 months the program now has a national network and is on track to reach goals that seemed impossible before.

JBF is even a finalist for a Cause Marketing Forum Halo Award!  Winners will be announced June 2, 2016 at the annual conference. [6/2/16 UPDATE: Jockey Being Family won the 2016 Gold Halo Award for Best Social Service Campaign.]

Here’s How They Tapped Into the Power of Local

A family photo captures three generations of Jockey Chairmen. From left: Harry Wolf, Debra (Steigerwaldt) Waller and Donna (Wolf) Steigerwaldt.
A family photo captures three generations of Jockey Chairmen. From left: Harry Wolf, Debra (Steigerwaldt) Waller and Donna (Wolf) Steigerwaldt.

Buy-in from the top

Debra Waller, the Chair and CEO of family owned Jockey, is personally invested in the success of the program. Having been adopted herself by Donna Wolf Steigerwaldt, Jockey’s previous Chief Executive Officer, Debra is committed to following this through.

Choose an unmet social need

JBF has identified a distinct niche in the Adoption space – that of post adoption services to families. The foster system is flush with regulatory oversight, funding and keen attention to the safety and eventual placement of children. But, JBF has recognized that it is at that very moment of adoption – when the judge declares an adoption is legal – that support suddenly disappears. Poof – it’s gone – you are on your own – good luck with this new child who may have arrived with very real challenges. This huge void in child/parent/family support poses a documented risk to successful adoption outcomes; without support and education, adoptions fail. When adoptions fail, society suffers, almost as much as the child.

Make sure the cause also is a good fit with the corporate DNA

Jockey’s stated purpose is: “To satisfy the human need for comfort.” A loving family is perhaps the very best metaphor for expressing the essence of Jockey Brand Values – to a child emerging from the foster system, a loving family is Comfort; Warmth; Trust.

Choose a niche that isn’t saturated with other corporations

Other corporations and foundations and government agencies across the USA provide support for children and families before the legal adoption has been formalized. But post adoption support is largely missing.

Imagine this much comfort and love…scaled up!
Imagine this much comfort and love…scaled up!

Partner with effective and respected nonprofits

We couldn’t hope to achieve our goals until we had developed child and family support resources that worked. So we found subject matter experts – agencies in the field of adoption – and we went to work as partners, for years. Since 2005, JBF has provided over $6,500,000 in support to these agencies to help them develop and improve resources for adoptive families; literally building a knowledge base and toolkit.

Make a tangible impact in people’s lives

Through JBF partner agencies, and to build their capabilities, we have directly impacted over 300,000 families in North America.

Connect the partnership with your product or service

The cause is promoted in all 120 Jockey Outlet stores, in its catalog and its online ordering website, in a way that organically blends the company’s product message with its cause marketing appeal to customers.

Give your customers a chance to feel part of it

Jockey consumers can buy the same snuggly bear that is in every adopted child’s backpack; and the purchase generates a donation that will help the next adopted child get their backpack and bear.

Do a pilot test before you roll it out to big scale

A long term pilot test was executed in JBF’s our home state, to identify best practices and develop a working model for expansion.

Create a network of grass roots organizations to help in each community

The national rollout of the backpack program has already recruited over 300 local adoption agencies in all 50 states; we are on the way to helping every adopted child in the USA.

Engage employees in a way that makes them feel proud of where they work

Both in headquarters and with charity checkout in every single retail outlet store, since 2005, JBF has inspired more than 75% of Jockey associates to participate and volunteer more than 8,000 hours.

With the right guidance, and the right tools, you can get to the top and enjoy the view!
With the right guidance, and the right tools, you can get to the top and enjoy the view!

Harness the latest cloud-based technology platforms

…to make a rapid, national scale up of the delivery of post adoption support services affordable and feasible, and fun, for all stakeholders. Read our JBF case study.

Choose an experienced guide to scale-up from pilot to rollout

… INPEx, of course!

Learn more about Jockey’s Halo Award-winning program in this interview by Selfish Giving’s Joe Waters speaking with INPEx CEO, Tali Schwartz, at the Cause Marketing Forum.

Image Credits: Rock Climbing Wall El Capitan

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email