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Practical Advice for Cause Marketers ….

While a cause-marketing program can embark on almost any form of altruistic support, roughly three-quarters of consumers agree on a short-list agenda for support:

  • Access to clean water
  • Disaster relief
  • Economic development
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Health and disease
  • Hunger

The promotion of such causes are elevated by association with a well-known corporate brand, which has long developed identity and loyalty in the marketplace. But a symbiotic relationship develops when the “good vibes” arising out of corporate largesse are combined with the very real accomplishment of laudable goals by the nonprofit entity with boots on the ground.

In short, both the corporate brand and the nonprofit’s portfolio of accomplishment are strengthened by the cause-marketing partnership. And both can expect to receive public awareness and profits – the latter in the form of fundraising for the nonprofit.

Tips for Cause Marketers

What are some of the considerations you should make before venturing into the brave new world of Cause Marketing?

  • Does the nonprofit have a base of existing public awareness and appeal?
  • What reputation does the cause enjoy? Has it ever been plagued by scandal?
  • Does its appeal stand apart from that of similar organizations?
  • Does its mission fit hand-in-glove with your own corporate culture?
  • Does it operate in your key market areas?
  • Are they efficient with their resources?
  • And, can the target organization help you with message, manpower and exposure? How will they acknowledge your brand’s support?

Functionally, a cause-marketing program parallels any other well-structured marketing or PR initiative. The corporate marketer, working in conjunction with the nonprofit experts, should clearly define target audiences and determine what lists of contacts, resources and other data are available.

The objectives of both the corporation and the nonprofit must be clear. You may be trying to simultaneously invigorate market loyalty to a brand of beer while bolstering the transportation network for supplies of wheat into an area of drought … but remember – two such disparate goals are not mutually exclusive.

Conduct adequate research to determine the demographics of corporate customers and nonprofit supporters – what they want, and what actions will help them fulfill their needs and desires.

Bottom line, are the objectives of your cause-marketing program attainable and realistic, and do those objectives serve a corporate purpose that, at the same time, meets the needs of the cause partner?

Finally, determine how you will measure success – both short-term and long-term – of the cause-marketing engagement. Involve key executives and line managers of both organizations, and make sure the respective boards of directors are well-informed and in agreement with the key elements of the plan.

Interested in learning more about successful cause-marketing initiatives? Here are just a few of the myriad efforts over the last decade that have risen to the top of any in-depth discussion of the topic:

Ace Hardware and IHOP – Children’s Miracle Network

Ben & Jerry’s – Freedom to Marry

Coldwell Banker Real Estate – Habitat for Humanity

DICK’S Sporting Goods — Dick’s Community Sports Youth Program

eBay – MissionFish

Macy’s – Make-A-Wish Foundation

McDonald’s – Ronald McDonald House Charities

Pizza Hut – Book It reading incentive program

Procter & Gamble (Olay) – American Society for Dermatologic Surgery

7-Eleven – Muscular Dystrophy Association, Rock the Vote and others

Subway Restaurants – American Heart Association

Target Corp. – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

The History Channel – American Association for State and Local History

Toys R Us – Marine Toys for Tots Foundation & National Lekotek Center

Wal-Mart – Produce for Better Health Foundation

Wendy’s – Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

Finally, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is a strong example of an organization with dozens of concurrent corporate supporters engaging in programs that utilize elements of cause marketing to boost common objectives.

And the Boys & Girls Clubs of America advocates The Ten Commandments of Cause-Related Marketing as a road map for those interested in embarking on partnerships.

Sallie Burnett
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