Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Online Cause Marketing: Do Well by Doing Good

Post by Vivanista

Bruce Burtch, an entrepreneur in the world of cause marketing, summed up his work in five words: “Do well by doing good.” Cause marketing is a mutually beneficial, cooperative effort between a business and a nonprofit organization. In this way, nonprofits receive exposure and support while corporations simultaneously promote their business. In 1976, the Marriot Corporation partnered with March of Dimes for one of the first true cause marketing campaigns. Marriot sought to promote the opening of their theme park, Great America, while March of Dimes hoped to greatly increase fundraising by the program’s deadline. The end result? The most successful promotion in the history of Chapters West of the March of Dimes and a record-breaking opening for Great America.

But cause marketing isn’t just a thing of the past. In 2009 alone, $1.57 billion was spent on cause marketing. And as marketing, communication, fundraising, and shopping transition to an entirely online world, applications like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have become the new tools of the trade. Thinking about starting your own experiment in online cause marketing? Examine it from the perspective of both nonprofits and corporations and learn from the experiences of previous partnerships. Finish off with some general tips for online cause marketing and you’ll be doing well by doing good in no time!

For Nonprofits:
First, nonprofit organizations must understand that both parties are equally important in a cause marketing relationship. In the same way that nonprofit organizations couldn’t accomplish many goals without a corporate partner, businesses need nonprofits to succeed. For example, nonprofit organizations have expertise in areas that corporations find crucial. Who better to decide where money should be spent than the workers who are on the ground facing the issues everyday? Therefore, nonprofits should feel empowered. However, in fulfilling their obligations to a corporate partner, an organization must critically assess what they can offer and potentially shift their approach in order to maximize results. And in a corporate world where all that matters is the bottom line, nonprofits must discover ways to measure and report their impact in order to prove that cause marketing is a worthwhile strategy for both parties.

When it comes to online cause marketing in particular, the success of a partnership depends mainly on the nonprofit’s activity in the social media world. Businesses look for nonprofits with a strong base of followers and support, but more than that, they need a partner who can mobilize support to actually create change.

For Corporations:
Businesses are now realizing is that social good motivates consumer change. A recent study found that 89% of Americans (ages 13 to 25) would switch brands of a similar quality and price if one was associated with a good cause. However, with the increasing prevalence of cause marketing, consumers have become adept at detecting PR schemes versus sincere philanthropic efforts. Therefore, it is important for corporations to find a delicate balance between a cause that is relevant to their company but is also meaningful to consumers. Above all, corporations must care about the cause everyday, not just at the time of a transaction. In an article from the Good Works section of Advertising Age, the author summed up the formula for a successful cause marketing partnership from a corporation’s side: “Engage, don’t just sell. Educate, don’t just market. Find a nonprofit partner that makes sense. And if consumer donations are involved, be open and specific about what they are accomplishing.”

Online Cause Marketing in Action
To see how others have put online cause marketing to work in the real world, look for resources like Mashable’s list of “5 Winning Corporate Social Good Campaigns.” They include examples like Crate and Barrel’s DonorsChoose gift certificates, in which customers chose among education initiatives to invest in online using gift certificates provided by the store. Next, check out Target’s “Bullseye Gives” Facebook campaign, which combined crowd sourcing, social media, philanthropy, and a contest. Over a two-week period, Target encouraged its Facebook fans to choose among 10 nonprofits to receive a $3 million prize. And don’t forget one of the most prominent examples of online cause marketing today: the Pepsi Refresh Project. If you don’t know how it works, Pepsi accepts 1,000 new ideas every month to benefit charity. Next, anyone can vote for up to 10 ideas every day. Every month, Pepsi awards grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 (totaling $1.3 million every month) to winners in categories like health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighborhoods, and education.

Tips and Tricks
Before you launch your own online cause marketing campaign, remember a few crucial tips. First, be aware of your different audiences across different social media outlets. Your Facebook fans may not be the same as your Twitter followers, so treat them as separate entities. Don’t just collect supporters for mere appearances; mobilize them by asking them to vote, join other platforms, donate money, or share content. When it comes to timing, run campaigns for as long as you can without causing supporter fatigue. Sometimes short and sweet is best, as evidenced by one-day Twitter campaigns.

When getting into the nitty-gritty of what social media outlet is the best, it depends on your campaign’s goals. If you simply want to connect with other like-minded individuals and groups to share and learn, Twitter might be best for you. For the ability to send detailed information to supporters and allow supporters to connect more easily, Facebook or Causes on Facebook is the way to go. For filmmakers in the cause marketing world, YouTube can also be an effective tool to motivate followers. And the next big thing in social media? Location-based marketing tools like FourSquare and Gowalla. Since these applications are not as common as Facebook or Twitter, the key is enlisting them, not just waiting for them to join. And since it is projected that in people will use the Internet on their phones as much as on their computers within five years, you can be ahead of the game by learning these tools now.

What tips can you give to Non-profits or Corporations interested in Cause Marketing Online?

About the Author:
Vivanista is a member-based, lifestyle community for fundraising volunteers. Sharing of unique insights, expert tips and a spirit of giving empowers members to improve their own lives and the lives of others.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do You Choose Your Causes Or Do They Choose You?

Everywhere I turn these days, it seems I am surrounded by a sea of pink somehow linking back to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Soon, holiday season promotions will begin and we’ll be seeing all kinds of charitable messaging around the "season of giving." Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not complaining. The more dollars given to charity, the better! However, I do stop and wonder whether our charitable actions are motivated more by personal preferences or just really good marketing. In other words, do we choose our causes or do they choose us?

Seems like a silly question, but let’s give this some serious thought.

Answer this question honestly: Do you care more about breast cancer than other life-threatening diseases like lung cancer, heart disease or AIDS? If your answer is yes, then that’s wonderful news because your cause is getting lots of attention and funding right now. However, if you answered “no,” then you might be wondering why in the world all of America is looking so pink these days.

On a related note, here’s a quick little quiz for you.

Did you know that in addition to being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is also…

a) Domestic Violence Awareness Month

b) LGBT History Month

c) National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

d) World Blindness Awareness Month

e) Healthy Lung Month

This quiz is worth a total of 5 points. Give yourself 1 point for every time you answered, “yes.” How many points did you get? Not surprisingly, I got a whopping zero, a.k.a. a big fat F. So, either I’m really ignorant or we’re all doing a lot more to promote breast cancer awareness this month than any other cause that happens to “share” October with breast cancer awareness.

Here’s another question: Are you more inclined to volunteer at a soup kitchen, raid your closet for gently used shoes and clothes, or donate cash to a homeless shelter towards the end of the year, during the height of the holiday season, than at any other time? For me, the answer is most definitely, “yes.”

Last year, money was tight in my household. So, I had a choice to make. Either I could make my ritual end-of-year donation to charity or I could buy holiday gifts for the various members of my rather large family. While I was tempted to go on a holiday shopping spree, I decided to make an online donation to a homeless shelter in Chicago, where much of my family happens to live. I, then, sent holiday cards to my family members, informing them that I’ve made a donation in their name to this particular homeless shelter. It felt so good to do that, but honestly, I have no idea why I chose a homeless shelter over any other charity. There’s just something about the holidays that makes me think of helping out the homeless even though I’m so much more passionate about women’s and girls' empowerment issues (hence why I launched Glamour Gone Good this year).

Am I alone here? Or do you often find yourself getting involved with the “cause of the moment” even if it’s not really the cause you’re most passionate about?

In my humble opinion, huge advertising and marketing firms, as well as the Fortune 100 companies that hire them, have somehow penetrated my mind and taught me to believe that during the month of October, I need to think pink, talk pink, and wear pink. Then, during the holidays, I need to empty my closet and my pocketbook for the homeless people in my community. And, any time a natural disaster hits any part of the world and involves substantial human devastation, I need to shell out as much cash as I can to support the cause…and if I don’t, there’s something seriously wrong with me.

What’s your opinion? Am I over-thinking the influence of corporate America and American media on my personal decisions regarding charitable giving? Or would you agree that, generally speaking, Americans tend to spend less time and money on issues that speak to us than to causes of the moment?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Latest Trends In Corporate Charitable Giving

October 1st kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a hugely popular time of year for companies to embrace the beauty of charitable giving. Everyone from the NFL to Hershey’s to Bloomingdale’s has gone pink for the month and is donating large sums of cash to breast cancer organizations.

Unfortunately for me, there are so many companies involved in breast cancer awareness that I could not decide which ones to highlight for you. So, instead, I’ve decided to explore with you the latest trends in corporate charitable giving.

October is a great month to talk about corporate giving since it’s a month saturated with charitable messaging thanks to the permeation of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in American society. You can’t argue with the fact that pink ribbons have become the October equivalent of red ribbons and bright lights around the holidays. But, how has corporate giving evolved since Breast Cancer Awareness Month emerged and corporations began slapping pink ribbons on products? Has the recipe for corporate giving truly changed over time? Or just the packaging?

You be the judge.

Generally speaking, most companies engaging in charitable giving programs usually do so in one of the following ways:
1. No-frills cash or product donations to charity
2. Employee giving matching programs
3. Event sponsorships
4. One-dollar donation for pin-up programs (usually at grocery stores)
5. Percent-of-proceeds promotions tied to specific products (especially popular during Breast Cancer Awareness Month)
6. Some combination of any or all of the above

We still continue to see all of these forms of corporate giving, but new trends are emerging, a few of which I find particularly fascinating. Thanks to some friendly folks at Benevity, I’m going to share with you some of the latest and greatest options available to companies of all shapes and sizes that are interested in charitable giving.

Online micro-donations: Companies can integrate special software into their e-commerce engines to allow customers to make donations to the charities of their choice while making online purchases. In some cases, companies will match what their customers contribute dollar-for-dollar.

Text-to-give: Companies can partner with not-for-profits to set up mobile texting programs that allow customers to text unique keywords from their cell phones to shot numeric codes, making quick and easy donations to charity from their mobile devices.

Charitable gift cards: Companies can purchase gift cards for employees and/or customers (as thank you gifts or a show of appreciation) that have specific cash values. The recipients of these gift cards can donate the cash value of their gift cards to the charities of their choice.

Add to these strategies another new trend in corporate charitable giving: Crowd-sourced corporate giving. (Think Chase Community Giving and Pepsi Refresh for the two most relevant examples of this.) Companies decide in advance how much total cash they plan to distribute to charity and create online portals through which charities and community leaders can promote their projects. Consumers are given specific time frames during which they can vote online for their favorite charities or community projects to win cash grants. The winners of these crowd-sourced online contests win both free publicity and cash for their organizations or proposed projects.

So, what do you think? Is corporate giving as we’ve known it transforming thanks to the wonders of technology? Or will traditional charitable giving strategies continue to rule despite these new advances?