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Joe Waters
The four great truths of cause marketing
By: Joe Waters
Aug 29th, 2011


"Establish, grow and deepen your business partnerships:" Join us for a live webinar with author of Cause Marketing for Dummies, Joe Waters, on Thursday, September 29 at 4 – 5 p.m. Eastern (2 p.m. Mountain and 1 p.m. Pacific).


Cause marketing is the talk of the town, and with good reason. Cause marketing -- a partnership between a nonprofit and for-profit for mutual profit -- is a progressive fundraising strategy that can help nonprofits raise money, build awareness and diversify their support from corporate funders. But to succeed with cause marketing, nonprofits need to accept the four truths of cause marketing.


First, the reality.

Cause marketing is a life preserver not a lifesaver. Nonprofits need to be realistic about how much they can do with companies and how much their partnership will raise. The bad news is that cause marketing won't solve all their financial woes. It will help, for sure, but we're not talking about a mountain of money. Jocelyne Daw has a good rule of thumb on this: 5-15% of your total revenues: that's what nonprofits can expect to raise from cause marketing. So, if your nonprofit has a $500,000 budget, you can expect to raise between $25,000 and $75,000. It's not chump change, but it may not be as much as you expected.


Second, follow the money.

The real money isn't in the companies. It's in the customers. People often make a big mistake with cause marketing: they confuse it with sponsorship. They talk about logos and billboards and companies cutting fat checks. For every cause marketing program that is funded by a company, there should be three more that allow consumers to give through or because of a company. The reason is quite simple: you'll almost always raise more money from consumers.


Third, walk toward the light.

Skip ahead to mobile. You need to jump ahead with mobile technology and tap text messaging, location-based services and QR codes. (Here are some posts to get you started!) Don’t get me wrong, I love traditional tools like point-of-sale and purchase-triggered donations, but the future is in the mobile. And I wouldn’t begrudge any nonprofit that looked ahead instead of over its shoulder.


Finally, forget cause marketing. Really.

It's about philanthrotunity. It's not about cause marketing. It's about nonprofits thinking innovatively about their unique assets and how they can leverage them creatively and lucratively with companies, consumers and donors. Cause marketing is just another hammer in the toolbox. You may need to choose something else to get the job done.


Nonprofits need to reorient themselves to rediscover who they are and what they do to survive. Henry David Thoreau, the father of environmentalism, set off to live a deliberate life in the woods but journeyed just two miles from his mother's house in Concord, Massachusetts. No matter. Thoreau's journey was within, not without.

Nonprofits don't need to sell their souls to save themselves, but they do need to adjust their thinking and work inside out or deny themselves a better future. But it won’t happen by itself. As Thoreau extolled, “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.”


by Joe Waters


"Establish, grow and deepen your business partnerships:" Join us for a live webinar with author of Cause Marketing for Dummies, Joe Waters, on Wednesday, September 29 at 4 – 5 p.m. Eastern (2 p.m. Mountain and 1 p.m. Pacific).


For more thinking on this topic, the following Page to Practice book summaries discuss cause marketing:


Cause Marketing for Nonprofits: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profits by Jocelyne Daw


The Nonprofit Marketing Guide by Kivi Leroux Miller


Brandraising: How to Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications by Sarah Durham


Married to the Brand: Why Consumers Bond with Some Brands for Consumers Bond with Some Brands for Life by William McEwen


For more articles on marketing, click here.