UNICEF has field operations in 150 countries, a long and successful track record of scaling up life-saving children’s programs and a trusted global brand. Therefore you’d think that UNICEF has also been successful at fully monetizing its reputation through partnerships with the private sector. That would be an honest mistake.

Kelli Petersen, Cheskin Added Value spoke with Rajesh Anandan, Vice President, Corporate and Foundation Partnerships, UNICEF U.S.A, about how they are closing the half billion dollar gap. 

In the U.S. alone, we’ve come to realize that UNICEF’s brand has been under-leveraged by almost half a billion dollars (see Figure 1.) and that an important part of that gap has been due to the lack of a thoughtful and strategic approach to engaging the Corporate sector. A classic “product-driven” organization, UNICEF had been focused on delivering exceptional program results, while some of our peers had done a much better job of selling their work.

Figure 1. Relative Positioning of International Organizations in the U.S.

Eager to more fully leverage the brand, we sought the counsel of Cheskin Added Value’s Kelli Peterson in the reinvention of our engagement with the corporate sector. The first step was to just-say-no to the multitude of requests for one-off tactical sponsorships and promotions we were being inundated with – the downside of having a much sought-after brand. Then we took an inventory of our assets, identifying and classifying benefits into two types of mutually-beneficial CSR partnerships.  “Loud” projects which rely on strong brand power and incorporate more traditional cause-marketing components. And “silent” programs which create opportunities for us to develop implementation partnerships, leveraging our 60 years of global field experience, trusted relationships with governments and community, state-of-the art technologies and delivery channels, transparent monitoring & evaluation systems and other partner offerings. Next we defined the universe of relevant industry sectors, through a comprehensive mapping of UNICEF’s program areas (health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, child protection, emergency response) to all businesses represented in the Fortune 1000.    We were then able to identify high value prospect partners by looking at a matrix of core business competencies in conjunction with existing CSR portfolios, and customer and revenue bases.   We finally narrowed down the list of companies we would actively engage with by evaluating the alignment of our respective brand and business values. Over the past several months, we have had fewer partnership discussions than before, but each one has been deliberate and the results have been phenomenal. The nature and scope of each partnership under discussion has grown by orders of magnitude, championed in many cases at the Board and C-level.   For example, within the space of six months, UNICEF’s relationship with UPS has evolved from a series of small education grants to a global partnership leveraging UPS’ supply chain and logistics expertise and freight forwarding services, supported by multi-year grants, with a focus on strengthening UNICEF’s emergency response efforts. UPS employees at all levels have been involved in shaping the partnership and the President of UPS International recently joined the Board of UNICEF USA. All the elements of the partnership were put to the test in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, when UNICEF and UPS teams working together were able to get “child protection kits” to over 50,000 orphaned children within 72 hours. We still have a long way to go to realize the full potential for our corporate partnerships and we are only beginning to start closing the half a billion dollar gap, but we are well on our way -  with immediate and gratifying results!

  • Ilona

    An innovation is the force behind efforts by all organizations jointly working in this field. Lot’s of work needs to be done, as the system’s strategies are still under-designed to deploy cutting-edge technologies and ideas. Perhaps, that’s why the cross-industry exchange is one the most effective approaches that UNICEF has deployed. Great Intel!

  • http://www.cheskin.com/blog/ Kelli Peterson


    Yes, the approach is such a no-brainer and yet requires us to flip our thinking on brand value. for example, mostly we think of Amazon as being book providers, but if they were to engage in a partnership whereby they brought their expertise in mass storage and fullfilment to organizations dealing with mass deployment of medical, safety or food supplies, the intuitiveness of this partnership would actually strengthen their brand value and drive home the pillars that make their business so effective. IBM has in fact done a great job of harnessing their grid power to positive effect in developing countries. All it takes is a little creativity on the part of both partners to join forces for positive impact!