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Clinton OBrien 10 min read

New Book Reveals How Cause Marketing Helps Nonprofits Succeed

We’re hearing lots more these days about “Cause Marketing.” What is that, anyway?

For most Frogloop readers, the main thing to know is that Cause Marketing has become a major source of dollars for nonprofits large and small -- from First Book and KaBOOM! to Feeding America and charity: water. It also delivers big bucks to thousands of nonprofit food banks and soup kitchens like the ones in your neighborhood.

So you might want to school yourself on this. Adding a new Cause Marketing income slice to your organization’s budget pie could seriously reduce your dependence on foundations and individual donors.

On August 15th, we’re going to hold a drawing for Frogloop readers to give away two free copies of a major new book (“Good Works!”) about Cause Marketing. To be in the drawing all you need to do is write a comment on this post (a relevant one, please) and then click the button to share the post via Facebook or Twitter by July 31st.   It will only take a minute. And trust me, you’ll be really happy if you win this book.

One easy way to think about Cause Marketing is that it’s what happens when a nonprofit and a for-profit company team up, for mutual benefit. For the nonprofit and its cause, these benefits usually include cash donations, branding and awareness-building for the NPO’s mission. Sometimes the nonprofit also receives vital knowhow, warm introductions to high-level contacts, new technology and all manner of services and other in-kind donations.  Of course, the for-profit partner has to get benefits out of their alliance with you, too.  There is no free lunch.

I could say much more, such as how Cause Marketing has gone far beyond – and is not at all the same as -- the old time-honored traditional model of corporate “sponsorship” of nonprofits. But a much better source on this topic is David Hessekiel.

When I want the scoop on Cause Marketing, I always turn to is David Hessekiel, who founded the Cause Marketing Forum 10 years ago and has built it into THE go-to authority on practical information for companies and nonprofits seeking to succeed together.  David also puts on a terrific annual conference (usually in Chicago) that I have eagerly attended for inspiration and networking for each of the past six years.

David has just co-authored a new book -- “Good Works! Marketing and Corporate Initiatives that Build a Better World and the Bottom Line” -- that is a true “A to Z” on the whole cause marketing field. After reading it I can say that this book, which includes lots of concrete examples and case studies, is a must-read if you want to understand a framework for creating great cause marketing programs.

Did I mention that one of David’s co-authors is legendary marketing professor Philip Kotler? This is the same Philip Kotler who wrote the foundational marketing textbook (widely considered the marketing “Bible”) that we used back when I was in business school. The other co-author is social marketing expert Nancy Lee.

Nonprofit fundraising and marketing pros will want to pay special attention to the chapter called “A Marketing Approach to Winning Corporate Funding and Support for Social Initiatives.”

Fresh from CMF’s conference, David sent me the following message, which provides a taste of the wise advice contained in that chapter.


From David Hessekiel...

“When I first started the Cause Marketing Forum, Share Our Strength founder Billy Shore told me something I’ve never forgotten: ‘The problem with most cause marketing is that it’s too much about cause and not enough about marketing.’  By that he meant that many nonprofits were treating cause marketing as a sort of disguised corporate ask – they had not invested in capabilities that provided real value to corporate partners or in staff to service them.

“The ranks of nonprofits that approach corporate alliances with real professionalism have grown tremendously since then, but many need reminding of the fundamentals. That’s why “Good Works!” ends with a list of suggestions nonprofits would be wise to heed.   Some key recommendations include:



  1. Start by developing a list of social issues that your organization is focused on and the types of resources it would benefit from receiving (e.g. funding, materials, volunteers, media exposure.)
  2. Analyze your assets to determine what value you can provide a corporate partner (e.g. a powerful brand, signature programs, events that lend themselves to consumer interaction, a demographically attractive supporter base, an active social media network.)  
  3. Develop policies on what you will and won’t do for or with a corporate partner and procedures for professionally delivering on the commitments you make.
  4. Determine what companies might find a link to your organization appealing based on their business mission, products and services, customer base, employee passions, geographic footprint, giving priorities or history.
  5. Be proactive in reaching out to targeted companies and/or their communications agencies to find out more about their interests and needs and to give them a feel for your capabilities. Listen closely to gauge what they find most appealing or what you might be able to bring to a partnership.
  6. Recognize that most company/cause alliances are built over time. Seek out opportunities to propose ways in which you could help them meet their business and marketing needs.  
  7. Participate in developing an implementation plan that clearly delineates who is responsible for what and how outcomes will be measured to assess success.
  8. Keep communication open. Provide recognition for the company’s contributions in the manner it prefers.


An excerpt from “Good Works!”

Why Do Good?

“Cone Communications has been surveying U.S. consumers and employees on their attitudes concerning companies and causes since 1993. Perhaps spurred by the economic downturn, the 3011 U.S. data revealed some of the highest levels of consumer expectations and preferences Cone had ever recorded.

  • Ninety-four percent reported that they were likely to switch brands, about equal in price and quality, to one that supports a social issue – an all time high.  (That figure was 66 percent back in 1993 and 79 percent two months after September 11, 2011.)
  • Ninety-one percent said they would buy a product associated with a cause if given the opportunity.  Sixty-two percent said they had purchased a cause-related product in the past year.
  • Eighty-one percent said they would donate to a charity supported by a company they trust, if given the opportunity.  Seventy percent reported they had made such a donation in the past year.”