By Shalene Gupta
June 26, 2014

What do you get when Pampers and UNICEF marry up to take care of babies? Tetanus shots. Lots of them.

Earlier this month, Procter & Gamble’s (PG) Pampers brand celebrated the ninth anniversary of its partnership with UNICEF, where Pampers donates a portion of its proceeds to UNICEF for tetanus shots. So far, P&G says it has raised $50 million through Pampers to purchase 300 million tetanus vaccines around the world.

These types of corporate-nonprofit setups are on the rise, in large part because companies are recognizing the positive halo they give their brand. A 2010 Corporate Social Responsibility Perceptions Survey by brand-consulting firm Landor Associates found that 55% of consumers are more likely to choose a product that supports a social cause. In some markets, P&G says Pampers’ market share increased by as much as 3% when the campaign ran.

Yet, the Pampers-UNICEF partnership is the rare example of a mutually beneficial corporate-nonprofit relationship. The problem is that while these relationships are increasing in number, they tend to be lukewarm efforts. “Most corporate-nonprofit partnerships work relatively well but the expectations are not terribly high,” says Chris Marquis, an associate professor at Harvard Business School. Nonprofits don’t always hold corporations accountable for their promises because they’re just happy to have the corporation give whatever they can, and corporations have little incentive to stay invested since the relationship doesn’t always benefit them.

Sometimes corporate-nonprofit partnerships just flat out don’t work. When these relationships backfire, they can lead to reputational damage and even revenue loss. Here’s a look at three examples:

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