7 Tips For Success: Before You Choose Cause Marketing

Posted on Posted in Greatness Marketing

Cause marketing vs. social responsibility
Both of them are fabulous for our society and for business, but there is a big difference. I’ve always been affiliated with a charity throughout my 24 years of being a business owner because I’ve always believed that one person can make a difference. Philanthropy has always been important to me, so I’ve been on the social responsibility side for years in big or small ways. I believe that we can make a tremendous difference if every business owner would tie-in charitable causes to their company.
However with the nonprofit I cofounded 5 years ago I now have Cause Marketing experience and it’s important to know the difference. Social Responsibility is about philanthropy and Cause Marketing is about business strategy, that makes a difference. According to studies 66% of businesses engaged in cause marketing in 2010.
Social Responsibility
It doesn’t matter if your business is big or small, your philanthropic time and money matters a lot.  Today I want to talk about social responsibility vs. cause marketing. Social Responsibility is the idea that businesses would simply give to charity or have a philanthropy/giving program of some kind.  Think about the point of sale ’round up campaign’ at JC Penny where they give your ’rounded up change’ to their charity of the year. They are using their platform for good and getting nothing out of it except good will. The company gives a percentage of money or fundraises for their favorite charities or they have a philanthropic program that gives scholarships/grants/goods etc. This is Social Responsibility and it’s a wonderful way for your company to engage in philanthropy and make a difference in your community!
Cause Marketing
But today, many organizations/companies are choosing the Cause Marketing route, which if done correctly, can really propel your company/organization (and the charity) in great ways. This is a company’s promotional campaign that has the dual purpose of increasing profitability while bettering society. Think Tom’s shoes. Think Oprah. Think Bill Gates. Think conferences who tie-in a charity. Think brands that sponsor charity awards or host large charity events or cobrand products with charities. Did you know $2 Billion of cause marketing happened in 2017?  Studies have shown that a company’s “social purpose” is a critical factor that influences a buyer’s decision. It’s also great for the charities because 79% of shoppers would donate to a charity supported by a trusted business. According to CauseGood, Cause Marketing has caused a massive shift in consumer behavior in a very short period of time with millennials leading the charge.


First Steps
Both scenarios are FABULOUS! But first, you need to choose which one you want to create, a social campaign (just giving back) or cause marketing (a strategic partnership between your brand and the charity). Next you need to know what charities you want to partner with. It’s important to start off by making a list of causes or charities that are aligned to your company/organization. Does their mission and values align with yours? Are they doing great work in your community? Why do you love them? Are they a 501c3 and legally able to accept donations.

It’s like having an intern program, it can go really well and elevate your organization, or really wrong, it all depends on how you set it up and manage it.

In being a cofounder of a nonprofit, Girls Rule Foundation, we have been blessed to be the chosen charity for various events/companies about 40 times over the years. Our last partnership was with NY&CO for our 2018 fashion show which was awesome! They donated clothes to our fashion show and got positive PR for it and we got to partner with a great brand and raise money.

Charities are businesses just like yours.

I have learned so much about both social responsibility and cause marketing, but in my experience when companies don’t know the difference they can get into a tangled lose-lose situation. If you do decide to work with charities in any capacity I encourage you to do it with thought, purpose and accountability so I added a few steps below to think about.  Many companies put little or no time into their ‘charity’ program because they just choose a charity and slap it together. That doesn’t work. Charities are companies just like yours, but they can’t touch their profits where you can take all of your profits. They have employees, payroll, bills, IT issues, marketing to do, IRS reporting, programs to manage, donors to answer to and they are changing the world, but they have little capacity for drama or ego’s. They usually work on a very small staff who work double the hours and get paid half the salary of for-profit businesses.

My passion is to help more organizations become philanthropic, with thoughtful philanthropic programs – even the small ones need a good plan. As a business coach I have helped many companies to create a thoughtful plan for their vision to be philanthropic. I wrote a few of them below…


Below are 7 Steps to better success with charities

  • 1. After you choose your charity partner be clear in the expectations of the charity – have it in writing what you expect of them and be honest so they can truly determine if they can do it or not. What do you want them to do, to attend, to give, to speak at, to do for your organization?  They won’t know and they will not fulfill these expectations if they aren’t clear.
  • 2. Think outside of the box. Don’t just choose a charity to choose a charity (that will look bad) and it won’t go well for either one of you. Choose them because you love their work. Do your homework to find the smaller charity that all the other companies haven’t found yet. Some cities are filled with businesses that all give to the the same 5-6 charities so think outside of the box. Be sure to pick nonprofits that have their 501c3 status.
  • 3. Think big – Think of 1 or 2 big ways you can give, serve, elevate your chosen charity over the next year.  Your members/employees will follow your lead, so organize a volunteer day, or a giving day, or support their events or sit on their board/committees. If you are creating a cause marketing campaign with a charity there should be a legal agreement of what the campaign should entail and measures along the way so everyone stays well -informed. THINK about what you can collectively do for your charity – they usually have a wish list so that is a good place to start.
  • 4. Know them. Be sure that your board or leaders know the charity well. Have the charity do a presentation at a meeting so your team knows who your charity is. Ask good questions and see where you can get involved or what programs or products the charity has that you can support, buy, cobrand or get involved with. Also ask about their PR and social media plans maybe you can be a part of them?
  • 5. Have a charity liaison – this person is from your team who stays in contact with the charity through the year. The charity usually doesn’t know how to communicate with your company otherwise. Make sure this person touches base with the charity monthly and reports back to your team.
  • 6. Be clear in what the charity gets from you –  If it is a % of ticket/product sales, or minutes on stage, or it’s point of sale round up change, or a presentation on your stage, or a number of volunteers from your team, or dollars raised or a dedicated space in your newsletter or X amount of social media mentions or space in your office . etc. Be warned small charities (who have under $1M budget) need these kind of relationships the most, but most of them will have very low capacity so be clear in what they get and what you expect from them.
  • 7. They love you back. Most charities will love you back in big and small ways. They will rave about you if the relationship goes well.

A list of 20 more ideas are found here.

I hope this helped you with the steps to choose a charity and do good in your community.

I always encourage business owners to build your business so you can do well, so you can do good.


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Dena’s passion is to help leaders and entrepreneurs structure, market and lead their business to the next level of greatness and revenue.  Let’s start today.

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