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June 25, 2022
Cause Marketing Shows How to Open New Revenue Channels
Book - Cause Marketing for Dummies
The bad news: corporate philanthropy is dying. The good news: Social investing is on the rise. And this creates opportunities for nonprofits to create mutually beneficial corporate partnerships, argue the authors of the newly published Cause Marketing for Dummies. Better yet, they show nonprofits how to do it step by step.

Joe Waters, author of the blog and a consultant, and Joanna MacDonald, a marketing professional at Boston Medical Center, both long-time practitioners of cause marketing, have produced in Cause Marketing for Dummies a superb primer from which all nonprofits, big and small, can benefit.

First things first. Cause marketing is not the marketing of causes, they write, but rather “a partnership between a nonprofit and a for-profit for mutual profit.” It’s a win-win that’s good for the nonprofit and good for the company.

While providing open-ended financial support for good causes is increasingly difficult for businesses to justify, teaming with nonprofits in a way that supports corporate goals is compelling. It’s compelling because it helps businesses—regardless of size—build sales, target key customers, and attract and keep employees.

Cause marketing also works for nonprofits, the authors write, because it:
  • Creates a new source of revenue by opening a new door in the corporate suite.
  • Generates awareness in a crowded and competitive world, especially for those lacking expertise or resources to promote themselves more widely.
  • Provides access to new marketing channels, especially through the use of technology.
  • Reaches new donors, especially younger donors who are in their 20s and 30s today and who are enthusiastic about cause marketing.
Example: Starbucks teamed with Jumpstart, a Boston-based national nonprofit, by donating 25 cents to the nonprofit from every Leprechaun Latte it sold on St. Patrick’s Day. Starbucks could participate in local programs and be the hometown hero, while Jumpstart increased its visibility and got tens of thousands of dollars in new funding.

Example: Absolut, the vodka purveyor, engaged with the Charles River Conservancy, which is dedicated to the stewardship of the Charles River Parklands from Boston Harbor to the Watertown Dam, raising $50,000 in the process. Local, well known personalities were asked to share their favorite Boston moments on a “Wall of Pride,” which were then sold on eBay.

Cause marketing, like all marketing efforts, doesn’t just happen. It needs to a plan. Before reaching out to prospective partners, MacDonald and Waters outline five essential steps, as follows:
  1. Get your boss on board. Passive support is not enough: your boss has to be your ally.
  2. Identify people who can help you. Cause marketing takes effort and dedicated staff time.
  3. Create a place of “yes” that celebrates success and failure. A risk-friendly environment, where the cause marketing team can try new things and be allowed to fail as it makes progress, is essential.
  4. Identify assets to get started. These include people affiliated with the nonprofit who can provide links to marketing partners, your key message, and existing supporters.
  5. Be realistic. Cause marketing, research shows, generally enables nonprofits to raise their revenues from 5% to 15%. Therefore, don’t look to cause marketing to double your revenue.
Cause marketing, launched in 1983 when American Express partnered with the Statue of Liberty restoration project, has caught on with businesses because it helps them achieve their goals in a changing world. Nonprofits also operate in a period of rapid change. The most successful ones will be around for a long time and, most likely, will incorporate cause marketing into their revenue-generating programs.

Cause Marketing for Dummies is available from Selfish Giving.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

September 2011
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