Posts Tagged ‘Katya Andresen’

Four things you need to know before pitching a corporate partner

This post first appeared on Katya Andresen’s site,

When a company contributes to your cause, how does it affect how people feel about the company? If you’re a nonprofit, it’s important to be able to answer this question. Why? Because most companies have twin agendas when they support a cause: doing good and doing well. The longest-standing partnerships are those that not only provide value to the nonprofit but also to the company’s philanthropic AND business agendas. If you want to engage corporate partners, it’s important to understand both.

So, I’m going to share some interesting new research on how corporate social responsibility (CSR) and cause marketing can do that. Consider it useful fodder for your corporate partnership pitches.

First, let me share the basics that are well known in research. CSR can create a brand halo for a company. It makes consumers more likely to view the company as likeable and trustworthy. It might inspire brand loyalty. And if price and quality are considered comparable, a consumer might be more likely to choose a socially responsible company’s product over the competition. All good reasons for a company to support your cause.

But how does a company’s social responsibility affect how consumers actually view its products? Do consumers think the products are better if the company is invested in good causes? This has been a question with frustratingly few answers over the years. Some past research has suggested that the more active a company is in social responsibility, the more consumers might question product performance. For example: is that chemical-free counter cleaner from that tree-hugging corporation really going to work? Consumers may think not.

So it’s exciting that a new set of studies from Alexander Chernev and Sean Blair of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University tackle the specific issue of how CSR influences the way products are perceived. Their paper, “Doing Well by Doing Good: The Benevolent Halo of Social Goodwill” describes several studies that led to four conclusions by the researchers.

1) To consumers, good company = good product

The first big finding is that when consumers think a company is socially responsible, they are more inclined to view the product as better than others. The study described in the Chernev and Blair paper describes a winery that donated a portion of proceeds to charity. People who knew this act of good perceived the wine as superior. So CSR can enhance perceived product performance! But read on–it’s critical that it is the COMPANY, not necessarily the product, that be viewed as socially “good.”

2) Consumer mindset dictates when “good” matters

In research with a hypothetical running shoe, consumers were more likely to feel the product was better because of the company’s CSR if they were in an abstract rather than concrete mindset. The researchers got consumers to think abstractly by asking why they exercised. They got a separate group of people to think concretely by focusing them on how they exercise. When people were focused on the “why,” they were more influenced by the social good of the company. This finding is in line with fundraising research, which shows people are more generous when in an emotional mindset.

3) A socially responsible company trumps socially responsible product

Here’s the most surprising finding: a socially responsible company may drive more business than a socially responsible product. People feel better about a product that is created by a company that donates to green causes than a company that created a product with environmentally friendly technology. The researchers tested sunscreen, bug spray, laundry detergent and air conditioner refrigerant that had attributes such as being chemical-free and tested that against a company that made one of those products and donated 10%of sales to charity. What was interesting was consumers tended to favor the latter–maybe because they worried “social good” meant a less effective product. When “social good” was decoupled from the product and assigned to the company as a whole, people felt the best about the product. They believed it meant higher performance.

4) Consumers smell self-interest a mile away

People like companies that do social good, but that warm feeling can be attenuated when they sense crass corporate self-interest behind those good works. For me, this finding echoes the truth equation from Charles Green, which says trust is the sum of credibility, reliability and security DIVIDED by the self-orientation of the company (or person). Self-orientation is self-interest and refers to how much an organization is perceived as focusing on itself vs. others. The more a company seems focused on its own needs, the bigger the denominator in the trust equation and the lower the level of trust. This seems to hold true in CSR too. A study with a pretend company named eco-Inks showed that its self-interested advertising about the product’s petroleum-free attribute was far less effective than putting that messaging in its CSR outreach–or having a nonprofit speak to the merits of the company.

See also:

Katya Andresen’s site:

Cause Marketing for Nonprofits: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profits

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How to write a perfect donor thank you: a template and example

My favorite nonprofit, A Wider Circle, sent me a thank you letter this weekend. It started with the following quotation:

I truly appreciate everything you have given my family. The household items aside, it’s the hope, the faith, the trust, and the reassurance that kind, caring and loving people still do exist. I used to be the one that donated the clothes, the canned goods, and volunteered my time. But here I was having to rely on the same from others. It’s going to be a struggle for a while but we’re keeping our faith and staying strong.

It was from Raeleen, mother of two, whose home was fully furnished by A Wider Circle.

This has all the hallmarks of a wonderful acknowledgement: It’s heartfelt, it’s original, it’s emotional and it’s tangible. And better yet, it’s got the right messenger.

The inclusion of the words of someone helped by my donation is powerful, authentic and moving. Not to mention relatable. How many of us have had moments where we are reluctant to ask for help and understand the vulnerability that accepting it entails? I not only understand the difference I made, I think I understand something of the person I helped.

I hope this inspires you, because there is no greater gift to donors than stories of how they helped.

And if you’re stuck, here’s my template for a great thank you.

Dear _________________ (use donors’ names, spelled correctly)

First: Don’t start with the typical, “Thank you for your donation!” Start with a vivid image or mini story of what the donor made possible, like the example in this post.

Second: Say thank you and give the donors credit for the impact of the donation and/or the specific program(s) supported.

Third: Express gratitude for the specific gift amount, noting the date and including any language on tax deductibility.

Fourth: Tell the donors when and how you’ll be in touch to let them know more about what their gifts are accomplishing. Include contact information–your email, phone and website–so you can stay in touch or reach out.

Closing: Thank the donors again and sign a real person’s name. If this is a mailed letter, include a P.S. with a nice added detail about a resource where they can find out more about the difference you are making because of their gift.

This article was originally posted at Katya’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog on March 22, 2012.

See also:

Robin Hood Marketing

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

Relationship Fundraising

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