Cause Marketing for Nonprofits

By: Jocelyn Daw



It's a tough world out there. Whether you work for a non-profit organisation or in the corporate world, your competition is growing stronger by the day.

In response, you have 2 choices.

First, you can keep on doing things as you've done them before - only with more effort and capital put behind them. However, as most people will tell you, you'll probably just end of with "more of the same", and end up losing market share to your most savvy competitors.

Or, you can take the second approach and expand beyond what you traditionally view as your "place in the world" and enter into creative partnerships that help propel your brand and organisation to new heights.

In Cause Marketing for Non-Profits, Jocelyne Daw paints a vivid portrait of how non-profits and corporations can partner in creative ways so that both sides of the table come out on top.

In the next 12 minutes, you are going to learn exactly how to create your cause marketing plan, and get the leg up on your competition.

1. What is Cause Related Marketing?

Let's start out by defining exactly what "cause marketing" is.

It was first started by Amex in the early 1980s, and it has 4 key elements:

First, it is a mutually beneficial collaboration between a non-profit cause and a for-profit corporation.

Second, it combines the joint assets of the two organisations in order to create shareholder and social value.

Third, it is a way to build personal relationships with a wide range of groups, from employees all the way to suppliers and the general public.

Lastly, it is the combination of self-interest and altruism that supports community and publicly communicates the values that the organisations hold to all participants.

That early vision by American Express to support 45 local causes clearly demonstrated that doing good in the world and making money are not mutually exclusive. As Jerry Walsh - the senior VP at Amex at the time - put it: "We were giving money away, but we're doing it in a way that builds business and helps the cause."

If you are going to head down the road to create a cause marketing program, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, the focus is always on the cause, not the charity. As an example, the "cause" that Feed the Children would be working for is "hunger". The issue - and not the charity - is to take the spotlight in the campaign.

Second, the campaign needs to be presented in a positive light. Since a company is going to be attaching their name to the campaign in order to sell more goods or services, the campaign has to have a positive, rather than negative slant. For example, in a "hunger" campaign the focus would be on the good your joint partnership is producing to eradicate the problem, rather than on the problem itself.

Lastly, the campaigns can be national in scope, but the impact and implementation of the campaign should be localised.

2. Why would you do this?

If you are going to be successful in creating a partnership that produces results, you always need to understand what motivates the person on the other side of the table. This holds true no matter which side of the cause marketing table you sit on.

What motivates the corporate partners?

If you are a non-profit seeking a partnership with a corporation, here are the most important desires you should understand and be able to fulfil:

  • It is an employee motivator. It has never been more true that an organisation's most important asset is its people. Increasingly, employees are looking for motivation outside of how much money they make in order to feel fulfilled. Many studies have shown that employees are more likely to be loyal to their organisation if they have a connection to a non-profit organisation.
  • Companies are under ever increasing scrutiny. It's no secret that there's a shortage of trust in major corporations these days - especially with the leaders of those organisations. With the advent of social media, these companies have nowhere to hide, and they know it. Good or bad, information about a company makes its way online for the world to see.
  • Consumers are increasing socially conscious. This flows from the point above in that consumers are willing to change brands it if means they are able to support a cause that is near to their hearts.
  • They want to increase shareholder value. More than ever, companies want to understand how the program is going to have a positive impact on their bottom line. Make sure that when you are proposing a partnership with a brand that you've demonstrated that you understand this, and can articulate how working with your non-profit serves this end.

What motivates non-profit partners?

It is equally important that corporations understand the needs and drivers that motivate their non-profit partners. Here are their main desires:

  • They need more resources. Without access to resources - financial and otherwise - it is impossible for the non-profit organisation to operate. This is as important for the non-profit as increasing shareholder value is for the corporation.
  • Achieving their mission. Of course, those extra resources are required for a reason - and that reason is to achieve their mission - whatever it happens to be. Understanding what their mission is and how you can help is critical.
  • To be relevant to the communities they serve. Just as corporations are being held to account - so are non-profit organisations. They need to be doing work that is relevant to the community that will be holding them accountable.

Don't even think of approaching a partner for a cause marketing program unless you've thought through these issues.

3. How can you use Cause Related Marketing?

Now that you understand what cause marketing is, and what the motivations of your partners are, let's dive into the specific types of partnerships you can devise and execute on. As we are going through this section, make some notes on which elements you are able to take advantage of.

There are 7 different ways you can use cause related marketing, and they all start with the letter P:

  1. Product Purchases. This is the most traditional form of cause marketing in which a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the item go to the cause. The most famous recent example of these would be the RED branded products with proceeds going to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa.
  2. Purchase Plus. This is a type of partnership you'll often find when checking out at a retail store, where you'll be asked to support a cause by adding it on to your purchase. That additional portion will then be donated to the cause by the company who is collecting it. This is often one of the easier forms of cause marketing to be executed in market.
  3. Licensed Products. This is when a non-profit licenses the use of its logo and/or name to a company in return for a fee or royalty. If you are a non-profit, one of the assets you have is your brand, and this form of cause marketing will allow you to monetise it.
  4. Issue Promotions. This is the second most common form of cause marketing, where a company uses its promotional activities to create awareness of a societal issue. Usually, it will be accompanied by a direct donation by the company to the non-profit as a way for them to show their support for the cause.
  5. Cause Promotional Events. This is where an event is co-branded with the company and the cause. The company uses their power of their brand and marketing resources to support the event. In return, they are perceived both in the community and within their company as being committed to an important cause.
  6. Cause Programs. This is where the company and non-profit combine to co-brand a specific cause program. An example would be when a company sponsors a specific exhibit at a museum, such as when 3M Canada and the London Regional Children's Museum partnered to bring the "3M Science in Your World" Gallery to life.
  7. Public Service Cause Marketing. This is when a company and non-profit come together to support a social issue in the community, like when the Boys and Girls Clubs of America teamed up with Crest to develop "Crest Healthy Smiles". These are typically deep relationships and are usually focussed on impacting behaviour.

Think about the different ways you could partner with different organisations keeping in mind both the 7Ps and the motivations you'll need to tap into in order to make it happen.

4. The Framework for Success

Finally, it's time for the rubber to meet the road. Luckily for you, Jocelyn made this section easy for you to remember as well - the crafting of the program is in 7 easy steps, all beginning with the letter C:

  1. Cause. First, you'll need to align your organisational goals and assets to position yourself properly. This should include cataloguing any and all assets that you could bring to a cause marketing partnership. The previous 2 sections prepared you for how to do that properly.
  2. Collaborate. In this phase, you'll be searching for the appropriate partner. There should be a good mix of partner, purpose, passion and profits. The goal at this point is to ensure that you both are aligned on the "bigger picture".
  3. Combine assets. This part is simple - you'll sit together with your partner and combine your assets to see what type of partnership would make the most sense for you to work together on.
  4. Create value. Once you've decided the best way to work together, work together to figure out how you'll best generate the most value for each others' organisations. It's critical that at the very beginning you clearly define goals, expectations, and benefits for each partner and what success looks like. Before you leave this step, you should create an agreement that puts in writing the details of the program, including who will be responsible for the different parts of the program, and how decisions will be made throughout the partnership.
  5. Execute. (Ok, this one is an "E", but who's counting?). This part is made infinitely easier if you've done the appropriate work in the first 4 steps. Ensure that you are following through on your commitments and holding up your side of the bargain. You'll need a clearly defined internal structure in order to manage the deliver of the program.
  6. Communicate. Make sure you are communicating with your partner on a regular basis in an open and straightforward manner. It's amazing what issues can be prevented if you communicate regularly. This is especially important if you are going to be miss one of the commitments you've made to your partner. Also make sure to make an effort to learn the "language" of each other's sector - what might mean one thing to you, might mean something entirely different to your partner. This step also includes how you communicate with the general public about the program - working together with your partner to craft these messages is critical to the success of the program.
  7. Community and Corporate Outcomes. As Jocelyn says, "cause marketing is about win-win-win for the nonprofit, community, and corporation". In this last step you should be celebrating your accomplishments, evaluating on what worked (and what didn't), and building on what you've achieved so that you are building a long-term partnership.

So there you have it - your first steps towards creating a cause marketing program that produces results, no matter which sector you work in. Our hope is that you'll take this information, implement it, and that you'll dive deeper into the book to really master the ideas that Jocelyn has so greatly articulated that we simply can't fit into a 12 minute summary.