We kicked off the 2014 Cause Marketing Masters webinar series with an information-packed session with Jennifer Maher, President of The Cause Academy and Author of the new book, Nonprofit Nonsense.
Among the several topics Jennifer addressed were legal issues and some tips she’s learned for navigating the seas of legalese. After reminding the group that attorneys are paid to protect the organizations they serve, she also pointed out that attorneys are trained to offer yes or no answers, which led to her “note to self”:
A “no” doesn’t necessarily mean no; it means you can’t do it THAT way.
Jennifer encourages cause marketers to ask questions a multitude of ways when dealing with legal. Simply because often the first way you ask will give you a “no” (e.g. “Can we do a sweepstakes?”…”No.”) but rephrasing or reframing the question may reveal a “yes” (e.g. “Can we do a contest?”…”Yes.”)
Other tips Jennifer has learned over the years that she shared with the group:
1. Learn CCV, UBIT and sponsorship laws (you’ll find some intro materials here). If you become an expert on the areas affecting you, you’ll be better able to tackle hard questions and foresee roadblocks.
2. Learn the legal lingo. When you’re speaking their language, you’re more likely to be received professionally.
3. Ask your attorney what keeps ‘em up at night. Jennifer recommends taking your attorneys to lunch and picking their brains about what is most important to them. It helps you establish rapport and better understand their perspectives.
4. Read and understand their redline comments. When you get changes back from legal, be sure to dig into each comment to truly understand the “why” behind the redline. Often you can return to Jennifer’s “note to self” and ask the question a different way or structure it differently to obtain your desired result.
5. Make a note of what works, and go that route in the future (set precedent). Once you get that “yes”, remember to structure future deals similarly to avoid legal questions.
6. Get down to business fast / be matter-of-fact. Attorneys typically bill in 2- or 5-minute increments. Time is money. So when you’re asking a question, cut right to the chase. Save relationship building for lunches.
7. Set precedents and remember them. Once you’ve established what works for your legal department, stick with it and remember to cite previous uses. This makes everyone feel more comfortable and eliminates precious time.
8. Vet deal structures in advance. Jennifer recommends running partnership deals by legal before presenting them to your partner. This may surface red flags up front and greatly reduce the time it takes your legal department to finalize that important contract.
9. Assess fair market value of UBIT. Just because a particular arrangement triggers UBIT doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a deal-breaker. Jennifer recommends calculating the fair market value of what your nonprofit organization is offering to the corporate partner (e.g. a social media campaign, ad in your magazine, etc.) and proactively sharing that with legal and the partnership team (e.g. “I realize this triggers UBIT, but I’ve calculated the fair market value of an ad in our magazine to be $2,000. For a $1 million partnership agreement, UBIT on $2,000 seems a small price to pay.”)
10. Pose various options. Going back to the “note to self”, always remember to present multiple options and structures to achieve the same result.
Want to hear more about this and Jennifer’s other recommendations? If you’re a CMF member, simply login to your Member Center and click “Recorded Webinars”. Not a member yet? You can purchase this webinar for $99 here.
Next up for Cause Marketing Masters webinars: Sports and Cause Marketing on February 13. Do join us!