Friday, January 13, 2012

Choosing Your Cause Partner - The Four Pillar Approach

A lot of companies make the move into cause marketing by simply looking for an organization that’s a good match for them. Joe Waters, one of the authors of Cause Marketing for Dummies, calls that the Garanimals approach. You remember those? Choose the same animal on each item of clothing and they should match. That’s definitely a consideration, but I don’t think it’s the first thing you should look at...rather, make it the last. Like any other marketing strategy you undertake, you should have a plan. I like the 4-step approach.
  1. Choose Based on Passion, Support, or Appeal (Waters, Cause Marketing)
  2. Cultural Fit
  3. Fiscal Responsibility
  4. Program Impact

Choose Based on Passion, Support, or Appeal

Follow your organization’s heart. You notice that I say “Your organization’s heart” and not “your heart”. You need to pick a cause that the bulk of the people in your organization can get behind and have passion for. If you choose saving the Lesser Known Spotted Horney Toad from extinction because the CEO is passionate about the cause rather than choosing the Red Panda Rescue when 70% of the company thinks that’s an important cause, you made a bad decision. You’ve given up the multitude of advocates in favor of the one.

If no one cause stands out, select one that has a large following. These are people you want to connect with your business. If you partner with a cause that has loyal active supporters, they’re much more likely to be drawn into supporting your organization.

If you don’t feel passionate or can’t choose a cause with an active support base, then choose a cause with a strong emotional appeal. What’s a more emotionally powerful message? That your nonprofit rehabs meth houses or that your nonprofit cleans up oil spills and saves animals from death?

Cultural Fit

You’ve narrowed your cause partners down to a select few. Now what? They need to be evaluated for how they fit with the marketing culture you’ve created. Take a look at their ads, website, social media efforts and other marketing strategies. Are they in alignment with your organization’s mission and message? Is their message and branding consistent? And how do they deal with their other cause partners if they have any? This will go a long way in determining how successful you’ll be in partnership with them.

Fiscal Responsibility

Evaluate the nonprofit’s ratings in Charity Navigator, the BBB for Charities and Donors and Guidestar. Look at the board members and their reputations. Evaluate their operating performance for the last two or three years. These will efforts will provide you with enough information to determine the organizations ability to run smoothly and maintain their current reputation. It also shows you what they spend on programs versus administration.

Program Impact

The last piece of the puzzle is to look at where the organization’s programs have impact. Are you looking for an organization with a global footprint? Maybe you want something local. Or possibly you want an organization that has a global footprint but visible local impact. Any way you look at it, it needs to meet the needs of your plan and the kind of exposure you want to develop or enhance.

Don’t Forget…This is a Partnership

In the end, you still have to decide what kind of partnership you want to have with the nonprofit. I support a true partnership, not one where the for-profit is dictatorial. Listen to the nonprofit about their past experiences. Be transparent about who your company is, changes taking place, sales and goals you want to accomplish. This is like any other partnership: you need to get buy-in from the stakeholders. They want to know they’re maximizing their benefits just like you like to know you’re maximizing your profits and benefits.


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