Cause Marketing For Every Nonprofit

If you’ve ever seen or heard the phrase “a portion of the proceeds will be donated,” then you may already familiar with cause marketing.

Cause marketing is when a for-profit business and a nonprofit charity combine their efforts to benefit each other as well as donors, consumers, and/or the public at large.

While the idea has been around since the mid-1970s and the terms “cause marketing” and “cause-related marketing” first appeared a decade later, it can still sometimes seem like a foreign concept to many nonprofits, especially those who don’t know where to begin.

Types of Cause Marketing

In order to understand cause-related marketing, it’s important to note the many different forms it often takes.

As in the example above, it can mean that the for-profit company donates a portion of sales, often sales of a single product, or only during a specified time period. For example, credit card companies sometimes allow cardholders to choose to donate a portion of their unused points or miles.

It can sometimes even show up in the form of a spokesperson for the for-profit business lending their star power to the nonprofit’s cause.

However, there generally are three major types of cause marketing:

  1. Transaction-Based Campaigns
    • The for-profit business advertises to consumers that they can contribute to a non-profit organization through a portion of their purchase.
  2. Add-on Campaigns
    • The for-profit business solicits an additional contribution from the consumer at the time of their purchase, like round up the purchase or donate an additional sum on top of the purchase price.
  3. Message-Driven Campaigns
    • The for-profit business uses its resources to promote a cause or message that ideologically aligns them with the nonprofit, while also helping the for-profit business meet its sales and marketing objectives.

These three types of cause-related marketing can be achieved through any number of avenues, such as social media, brand licensing, staff involvement, and more.

Nonprofit organizations should always be on the lookout for new ways in which the for-profit world and the non-profit sector can often work hand-in-hand to address issues and solve problems together.

Cause Marketing Benefits for Nonprofits

Cause marketing can have many positive effects for nonprofit organizations, such as:

  • enhanced exposure to the for-profit business’ customer base and/or target demographics
  • elevated public awareness of the nonprofit’s cause or message
  • improved ability to fuel the nonprofit’s mission by leveraging the financial resources of the for-profit business
  • increased revenue through new donor acquisitions

In addition, there are many other intangible benefits that the staff at a nonprofit organization may experience, including making new connections, expanding professional development, and gaining insights into the business world.

Cause Marketing Benefits for Businesses

The possible benefits of cause marketing for business include:

  • positive public relations through opportunities for positive press coverage
  • improved customer relations
  • new or additional marketing opportunities via the nonprofit organization’s donor database
  • increased revenue from charity-minded consumers who want to feel philanthropic and/or factor in corporate social responsibility when making purchasing decisions

dawn soap, cause marketing, wildlife rescue

One for-profit company that does great cause marketing is Dawn dish soap.

For three decades, Dawn has been donating funds and bottles of its grease-fighting dish soap to help save wildlife affected by oil pollution.

In fact, Dawn is so well-known for its work with wildlife that its commercials no longer tout its plate-cleaning prowess, but rather it’s feather- and scale-washing abilities.

Ingredients for Successful Cause Marketing Campaigns

Cause marketing works to the mutual benefit of businesses and nonprofits because of socially conscious consumers who make deliberate choices when making purchases, even for something as commonplace as a new pair of shoes.

blake mycosckie, toms shoes, cause marketing

Blake Mycoskie, founder and “Chief Shoe Giver” at TOMS Shoes, is a proponent of cause marketing.

One of the most well-known cause marketing campaigns is TOMS Shoes “One for One” charity. For every pair of TOMS that are purchased, the company donates another pair to a child in need.

TOMS is also a great example of how a for-profit business can continually build on their involvement in cause marketing campaigns. In recent years, TOMS has also expanded their charitable efforts to include not just footwear, but vision correction, safe drinking water, bullying prevention, and even labor + delivery aid kits.

So think about which avenues your nonprofit might take to reach out to for-profit companies that may have objectives which align with your mission. Then go further and explore the possibilities that exist if you keep building on your cause marketing.

For more information on how to start a well-run cause marketing campaign, check out this handy best practices list from CharitiesNYS.

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