Your Cause Marketing Campaign Questions, Asked & Answered

For a small business, marketing usually needs to be smart, proven, results-driven, and often local. The idea of investing in long-term brand building with a projected (fingers crossed) pay-off in sales a year or two or five down the road is often unrealistic. For small businesses looking to increase sales without long-term investment or delayed payoff, cause marketing is a great option. Below, the FAQ’s that’ll set you up for success.

What’s the Definition of Cause Marketing?

Cause marketing is any type of donation of time, products, resources, or revenue from a for-profit business to a not-for-profit organization. This can look like a purchase-related donation, employee volunteering, sponsorship of a non-profit cause or event, or annual giving to a charity or foundation. Cause marketing draws heightened, usually emotionally-driven attention to your brand as well as to the cause you, your employees, or your customers care about.

What Are Examples of Cause Marketing?

Companies large and small have attached various causes to their brand in the form of a donation with purchase of their products, annual giving, or employee involvement. Here are a few causes and companies you may have heard of:

  • Breast Cancer Awareness: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and many companies, like the NFL, Target Stores, Ulta Beauty, and others, partner with associated non-profits to contribute a percentage of sales or profits to “pink ribbon” causes. Many people, directly and indirectly, are affected by breast cancer, making this cause, and marketing campaigns that support it, a popular choice.
  • Environment: Patagonia has donated more than $89 million to environmental groups since 1989.
  • Justice Reform: Ben & Jerry’s donates a portion of proceeds from sales of its Justice ReMix’d™ ice cream flavor to a non-profit dedicated to front-end criminal justice reform.
  • General: Newman’s Own salad dressing, sauces, popcorn, and more, donates all after-tax profit (over half a billion dollars so far) to charities focused on education and other causes. Colgate-Palmolive’s “Colgate Cares Day” enables employees to perform service projects in support of local communities and causes they care about.

Is Cause Marketing Important?

Here are a few stats that make a clear case for cause marketing as a tool to advance your company’s goals:

Our global economy offers consumers endless purchase options and year-round deals and discounts. At the same time, there are countless issues to be addressed and causes worth championing. Attaching an emotionally compelling cause to the purchase of a product or service resonates with consumers of all kinds.

Not only that, but cause marketing makes employees, customers, and donor recipients feel involved, connected, and cared for. Cause marketing tends to underscore our commonalities rather than our differences. When your cause marketing is custom made with your brand in mind, it benefits all stakeholders.

Is Cause Marketing Complicated?

No way! Giving isn’t limited to the global retailers of the world, and you don’t have to be a big company with a big budget to get into the cause marketing space. Following are some guidelines to help you rock your cause marketing campaign:

  • Pick a cause that matters to your company and your customers. Start with your employees. What do they care about? Focus on local causes if you’re a local company–like Little League, Scouts, homeless shelters, food banks, or beach/bay cleanup.
  • Steer clear of political causes unless they align directly with those of your customers.
  • Vet your chosen cause to ensure it’s legit, using online resources like CharityNavigator or CharityWatch.
  • Pick an appropriate level of engagement. Structure your cause marketing campaign around what works best for your business model. A few examples:
    • Donate a designated percentage of profits to the non-profit you pick. Your donation can be focused on one product or many. Your giving can be ongoing, or specific to an occasion or time-period, e.g., supporting arthritis.org during Arthritis Awareness Month (May) or supporting earthday.org on Earth Day (April 22, 2020).
    • Allow employees to donate time to a designated non-profit (during work hours, please!). This is a great morale boost for employees and affords lots of opportunities to promote the cause(s) you believe in through social media and earned/free media (when a news media reports your involvement). Donating time underscores your company’s emotional commitment to a cause and helps your customers to engage emotionally with your employees and your products/services.
  • Draft a Written Agreement with Your Designated Non-Profit: This helps the cause you care about to report your engagement for tax purposes and ensures a smooth partnership. Include items such as:
    • When the promotion starts and ends.
    • What percentage of profits (or revenue) are being donated, and which products or services trigger a donation.
    • How and when donations will be distributed.
    • What you expect from the non-profit (if anything) as far as linking to you on their website, promoting you in their social media, etc., and what they expect/request of you.
  • Spell Out to Your Customers How You Are Helping: This is critical for a successful cause marketing campaign. With so many causes and so many companies engaging in cause marketing in one form or another, consumers can be suspicious of a company that claims a donation but doesn’t specify how much, when, and to whom.
  • Report Results: Set a goal, announce it to your customers, and report back the results. If you don’t hit your goal your promotion is still a success. Focus on the cause you and your customers helped. Your customers will support your mutual success if you hit the mark, and rally behind you for next month’s or next year’s effort if you didn’t.
  • Promote Your Cause Marketing Campaign: Include signage in your store, banners on your website, additions to your email signature, send out direct mail, and distribute giveaways promoting your campaign.

Which Cause-related Products Are Best to Advertise Our Campaign?

When you partner with a non-profit your brand is enhanced by theirs and vice-versa. It’s a win-win for your exposure and theirs. When you promote your partnership on a physical piece you extend your cause marketing benefits beyond a specific event or time period. Below are some affordable, high-visibility cause-related products you can customize to promote your cause marketing partnership:

Bags

This Good Value™ Neon Fanny Pack delivers bright exposure at outdoor events like charity walks and fun run fundraisers.

Good Value(TM) Neon Fanny Pack

This Eco-Green Jute Tote provides plenty of room to promote your cause marketing partnership, and the bag is made of eco-friendly jute. This one’s great for environmental and Earth Day-related partnerships.

Eco-Green Jute Tote

Pens

To maximize visibility for the cause that you care about, promote your partnership on a pen that’s sure to stay in steady circulation. The Alpha Soft Touch Bright with Stylus is a best-selling crowd-pleaser with a smooth finish and integrated stylus.

Alpha Soft Touch Bright with Stylus

Eco-friendly Products

No matter which cause you’re passionate about, from clean water to kids sports to helping the homeless, promoting it on an eco-friendly promotional product is always a safe bet. A few hits include the Full Color Inkjet Eco-Friendly Dawn Pen, made of 35% wheat, or the Stainless Steel Straw Kit, featuring a carrying pouch with plenty of room to advertise your chosen cause.

Full Color Inkjet Eco-Friendly Dawn Pen
Stainless Steel Straw Kit

Apparel

Customized bracelets like this Debossed with Color Fill Silicone Wristband are popular among kids and adults when it comes to causes. Check out our broad selection here.

Debossed with Color Fill Silicone Wristband

Consider a trendy U-Level Knit Beanie or an ever-popular baseball-style cap like this Buttonless Cap.

U-Level Knit Beanie
Buttonless Cap

Check out all our apparel options, including sunglasses and t-shirts here.

How Can My Small Business Get Involved at a Local Level?

No matter what your company cares about, from the local food bank to shelter animals to sending kids to summer camp, it pays to get involved. Check out GreatNonprofits to help brainstorm causes in your community and connect with local non-profits.

Caution: Cause Marketing Is Habit-forming

Like comfort food, helper words, and reminding your kids to brush their teeth, lending a helping hand is hard to do just once. What’s more, cause marketing has the added benefit of being both good for business and good for the soul. We predict that once you start, you’ll find an ongoing stream of causes to which you and your employees are eager to contribute. Let us know which one you choose and how you promote your involvement by tagging us on Facebook and Instagram.

P.S. Check out some of the causes National Pen’s cares about here.

Karleen A.

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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Karleen A.

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