Profiles in Partnership
Interview with Laura Pincus Hartman, Director, External Partnerships
and Virginia McArthur , Director Gal
Zynga, an online game company, is committed to transforming the world through virtual social goods. One program, Sweet Seeds for Haiti, started in October 2009. Through this virtual social goods initiative, players purchase sweet seeds in FarmVille. Depending on the campaign, fifty to one hundred percent of sales from the limited edition virtual items go towards their nonprofit partner FATEM to build a school in Haiti. Zynga players have made real change by raising millions for several international nonprofits in campaigns that have now expanded throughout many Zynga games.
BB: How do you set up the conversation to begin a partnership relationship?
Virginia: First when we start working with a potential partner we write up a contract. In that contract, they get to review the campaign before it goes live. That includes how their logo theme is shown, the verbiage that we’re using and how we’re explaining to the user that we are raising funds for the particular campaign.
We also work with them to identify a location, and its only one location. It’s not that we’re just raising funds for the organization in across a broad spectrum; we narrow the focus down to one location such that we can then research that location and then find things about that location. For Sweet Seeds for Haiti, we were able to look for actual crops and products that were grown in Haiti so that users could then learn something about that region.
So basically it’s finding your partner, coming up with a small campaign to test with your partner, it’s basically trusting, doing a back and forth approval process with your partner before you go live and they’re included, all the way through the process.
Laura: We’re also very sensitive to the issues that they are sensitive to. We do a lot of background leg work with the language we use. The words we use are really important because they’re going out to a million users per day. We’re really aware of that and we really take a lot of precautions to make sure that we’re not using inappropriate vocabulary, being aware of the true sensitivities on each particular issue because whether its water or poverty or food, they have their own vocabulary and we want to make sure that we learn it as well as they know it and they’re the experts.
BB: How do you go about choosing your partners? And how are you helping your partners build their capacity?
Laura: We get a number of communications almost on a daily basis from nonprofits to which we really have to just say no. We have been very careful, methodical and intentional about choosing our partners. The basis for that choice is to ensure that our partners are the actual organizations who are the direct providers to the human beings at the end of that channel. For example, the World Food Program actually hands out the food, they don’t give the money to other providers who are then on the ground handing out the food, they are the one’s doing it. In Mirebalais, Haiti, Water.org is the provider. Zynga is about that connection. It’s part of my job to go on the ground and do the due diligence to make sure that they have the capacity and if they don’t, to then create the capacity by helping them to build access.
Part of what’s going on in Mirebalais is that after the earthquake there created a huge influx of refugees and we had already been working with them. We have been helping them to raise capital in order to build a school. We also helped them to link up with architects and contractors and so it’s not just funding. I’ve been working to link them with universities, so we help to ensure that it’s not just a handout but a true partnership.
Up Next: Part 3: An unusual business model
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