What if there was a way to support nonprofits and boost your brand awareness?
Good news, we’re living in a time where such a thing is possible! As the world becomes more connected via social media and digital communications, brands are becoming more connected with their customers. As such, customers are beginning to expect more from the brands they interact with: that’s where cause marketing comes into play.
What is cause marketing?
Cause marketing is a type of corporate program in which a for-profit company either partners with or donates to a nonprofit organization in order to build their brand and promote the greater good.
Cause marketing programs are good for increasing donations to the nonprofit and the greater good while also boosting brand awareness and potential revenue for the for-profit company.
What are the different types of cause marketing?
Though the definition seems pretty straightforward, cause marketing actually takes on many forms. The two most popular forms of cause marketing are collaborative partnerships and corporate social responsibility. Let’s break each of those down further.
The first type of cause marketing campaign is a collaborative partnership. When you think of cause related marketing, this is likely the type of campaign that comes to mind. A collaborative partnership is when a for-profit company partners with a nonprofit organization to raise money and awareness for their cause.
One of the most popular collaborative partnerships in the United States is between Walgreens and Red Nose Day. Since 1988, Walgreens and Red Nose Day have sold novelty red noses across stores nationwide during the month of June to raise awareness for childhood poverty.
The campaign often features celebrities promoting the campaign online wearing red noses to raise and spread awareness. All proceeds raised go directly toward Red Nose Day’s fight against childhood poverty.
Source: Red Nose Day
There are a few things that make this campaign such a great example of a collaborative partnership program: the campaign is shareable, it’s established, and it has community support.
The campaign benefits Walgreens because they are associated with a successful nonprofit fundraising campaign, it increases their corporate reputation, and it establishes trust in their brand, all while promoting the greater good. Red Nose Day benefits from the revenue generated by the campaign and brand awareness from being associated with a large enterprise company.
What makes collaborative partnerships so popular is that both companies benefit equally. The challenge is that both organizations need to pull their weight in order to pull it off successfully. It’s best to only get involved in a collaborative partnership if your company is willing to invest the time, money, and people power into making it a success.
Corporate social responsibility
For businesses looking to get involved in philanthropy without launching a brand new program, corporate social responsibility seems to be the popular choice.
Corporate social responsibility is a self-imposed set of standards a company holds itself to in order to deliver economic, social, and environmental benefits for their stakeholders, employees, and the public.
An example of corporate social responsibility is our own G2 Gives. At G2, we support a rotating cast of different 501(c)(3) nonprofits through donations powered by our users. When someone visits the G2 website and follows the call-to-action to complete a software review, they unlock a $10 donation to support one of our partner nonprofits.
The primary difference between collaborative partnerships and social corporate responsibility is that the latter usually encompasses more programs. Corporate giving, volunteer time off, gift-matching, and more all fall under the larger umbrella of social corporate responsibility.
This option is popular because it offers more flexibility to brands. It allows them to pursue multiple partnerships and programs, while allowing their program to evolve with the community’s needs.
Here’s that call to action we mentioned earlier! Write a software review for a program you use at work and unlock a $10 donation, courtesy of G2 Gives.
What is the benefit of cause marketing?
For some, promoting the greater good is all the push they need to get involved in cause marketing.
But for others, knowing the ROI of investing time, money, and energy is vital before making any large-scale corporate investment. The good news is that cause marketing does just as much good for your bottom line as it does for the public.
The Salesforce State of the Connected Customer Report recently dove into how business ethics and corporate social responsibility impacted a customer’s perception of a business: and what they found was pretty interesting. According to the report, 68% of customers said they wouldn’t buy products from a company with poor ethics and 56% of customers actively seek philanthropic businesses to buy from.
Source: Salesforce State of the Connected Customer Report
The incentive to engage in philanthropy is greater when you realize that 67% percent of customers think companies are responsible for giving back to the communities where they do business.
Keeping this in mind, it’s easy to see how cause related marketing can translate into increased customer engagement and brand awareness. These two things combined can drive increased word-of-mouth marketing, social media shares, and revenue.
How to do cause marketing the right way
It’s not enough to simply choose a charity and start throwing money at them – cause marketing is still a publicity play. When done incorrectly, your organization won’t see the benefits of getting involved or worse, might face public backlash if you’re perceived as opportunistic or insincere. Here’s how you can avoid that and do cause marketing the right way.
Get behind a cause you believe in
The easiest way to remain authentic in your cause marketing campaign is to find a cause you believe in. Customers can spot an inauthentic brand ploy from a mile away and if your heart isn’t in the game, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Brainstorm with your team and figure out what causes and organizations are close to your employee’s hearts. If your company is too big for a single company-wide meeting, consider using a survey software to gauge employee interest.
Find the brand alignment
It’s not enough to just have a passion for the organization you sign on with, there should be brand alignment as well. Some of the best brand alignments out there are no-brainers when you hear them. Patagonia’s environmental protection initiative or Chipotle tackling large-scale food waste are both perfect examples of companies getting involved with a cause that aligns with their brand.
Our own G2 Gives have routinely partnered with Girls Who Code and Chicago Tech Academy to support programs that encourage tech literacy and open doors for underrepresented groups in STEM careers. This alignment makes sense because as a tech company, it’s our responsibility to prepare the next generation of tech giants.
These are just a couple of examples of how brand alignment and philanthropy can work together. Take the time to think about your own company and what sort of nonprofit might make sense for a potential partnership.
Donating money to a cause is one of the most popular ways to support nonprofits. And while money is important to continuing a nonprofit’s mission, there are other ways you can support nonprofits other than money.
Here are a few ways you can support nonprofits:
Hold a company food drive
Donate your skills
Promote their message on social media
Donate your time by volunteering
Always communicate with your partner nonprofit before deciding on your cause-marketing strategy. It might seem like a good idea to donate hundreds of canned goods to your local nonprofit, but if they don’t know you’re showing up with that food, it could be a logistical nightmare. The best way to support your partner nonprofits is to ask their staff what would best support them.
Focus on the partnership
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when creating a cause marketing campaign is focusing too much on your own brand and not enough on the nonprofit. People are inspired by results.
Take the time to focus on why the organization you’ve partnered with is a good fit, what they do for the community, and who they help. When you focus on outcomes instead of clout, you’ll end up with a better end result.
Choose the right campaign
Deciding on the right campaign might be the trickiest part of any cause marketing campaign. Consumers are naturally skeptical and the wrong campaign might turn them off to your attempts to do good. There’s no one correct answer when it comes to picking the right cause marketing campaign, but there are plenty of options to choose from.
Types of cause marketing campaigns
100% of sales
Buy One, Give One
Call to action
Donation with purchase
There’s no one correct answer when it comes to picking the right cause marketing campaign. You should be spending as much time strategizing your nonprofit partnership as you would a new product launch at your own company.
Related content: Learn how to create a memorable PR campaign in 7 easy steps
Track the ROI
We mentioned before that tracking the ROI of any campaign is the best way to convince hold-outs that a project is worth investing in. Some people may not be motivated by altruism, and they might want to see how your cause marketing campaign impacts your bottom line. That’s why tracking the success of your campaign is key.
What should you be tracking for your cause marketing campaign?
Social media engagement
There are other metrics you can track like volunteer hours and money raised – but these metrics are about the impact your cause marketing campaign has on your company specifically. When it comes to tracking large campaigns like these, many companies employ the help of campaign management software.
Campaign management software is perfect for measuring and tracking data, automating simple digital marketing tasks, and helping teammates organize and share content. These platforms often include tools for all parts of digital marketing, including social media, email, and website. It’s the perfect way to get all of your information and tracking in one location.
This is cause for applause!
Congratulations, now you know (almost) everything there is to know about cause marketing. The world of corporate social responsibility is always changing, so you’ll never know everything there is to know. But the key to doing cause marketing the right way isn’t perfection, it’s passion.
Ready to put everything you’ve learned into action? Check out these 5 fundraising strategies to implement. While you're at it, learn how to create a Facebook fundraiser that'll help you reach and surpass your donation goals.
Lauren Pope is a former content marketer at G2. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, the G2 Learning Hub, and other sites. In her free time, Lauren enjoys watching true crime shows and singing karaoke. (she/her/hers)