Nonprofit Growth

How Nonprofits Find Success with Cause-Related Marketing

Cause-Related Marketing

There is a beautiful harmony created when a nonprofit and a corporation team up to promote a cause. It can build a two-way street that lasts for years to come. When done right, cause-related marketing leads to success on both sides. Let’s dive into what exactly this means and how it can help your nonprofit.

Cause-related marketing (CRM) is a collaboration between a corporation and a nonprofit to benefit both sides. The nonprofit will benefit by promoting their cause and increasing donation funds, while the corporation can increase their sales.

According to Candid Learning, American Express first started the concept in 1983. The goal was to raise funds for the Statue of Liberty’s restoration while also boosting American Express sales. American Express donated one cent for every charge card swipe and raised over $1.7 million. Their sales also went up 27%, proving the endeavor to be a beneficial partnership for both sides. The project lasted three months and was heavily covered by the media, giving it positive notoriety.

Another reason corporations want to get involved is it supports their “social responsibility” in the eye of the public. Mailchimp notes that 70% of people want to know how brands are giving back and 46% pay attention to a brand’s actions. This means people want to know their purchases are supporting ethical companies. Cause-related marketing makes it easy for the consumer to link a brand to a charity or nonprofit organization and feel assured.

How it helps your nonprofit

So the payout for the corporation makes sense—but what does your nonprofit get out of it? Corporations often have a rolodex of connections and support. They reach a large number of people and a different consumer base than your nonprofit may reach in a typical day. There are several ways this partnership can help your organization.

  • More donations/funding

If you are receiving a percentage of every sale made by a corporation, your donation numbers can skyrocket. How many times have you been asked to round up for a cause at a cash register and not even thought twice about it? Many other people do the same and you are bound to see an increase in numbers with a positive partnership.

  • Social media exposure

If the corporation has thousands of followers and shares a post in collaboration with your organization, you’ve now reached many new eyes. It allows people to connect to your social channels and stay updated on ways to get involved. Be sure to create fresh content while the campaign takes place, in order to maximize your online exposure.

  • Exposure through products

Another form of cause-related marketing is licensing. A company can pay a nonprofit to use their branding on some of their products. This is great because you receive more funding and notoriety through people wearing your logo on a shirt or sipping coffee out of a mug with your mission written across it. The Nonprofit Times offers more information on licensing practices.

  • Draw in volunteers

Maybe someone sees your campaign on the company’s social media and your cause directly speaks to them. You’re a nonprofit dedicated to animals and they foster dogs all the time. You just found yourself another volunteer! The exposure can lead to more than just monetary donations, it can lead to direct support through volunteering or outside fundraising.

  • Networking opportunities 

Not only are you reaching consumers with CRM campaigns, you are also being seen by other corporations or large nonprofits. This can lead to collaborations of all kinds in the future. It establishes you as a credible nonprofit because a business wanted to invest time and money into your cause.

Your turn to get started

So how do you put this into practice at your own nonprofit? There are a few different steps to ensure both sides have an enjoyable experience and see the benefits at the end.

  • Check your local laws

According to the National Council of Nonprofits, in at least 22 states, these partnerships are regulated legally. This can serve as protection for both your organization and the corporation. You may have to file a formal contract or register the partnership before proceeding. You want to make sure you do everything correctly upfront so there are no surprises in the process.

  • Pinpoint a corporation with similar beliefs

Maybe this means starting small and teaming up with a local business to see how a collaboration goes. Or maybe you jump immediately to the bigwigs. Either way, make sure your morals align. If your nonprofit promotes sustainability, try to find a brand that creates sustainable products. If your fundamental beliefs don’t line up, the consumer will not be as compelled to support because it looks disingenuous.

  • Outline the terms

Be sure that you both know exactly what the collaboration will entail. Know going into it what is expected from both sides and what the major objectives are. Go over a formal marketing plan and specify the exact percentage of sales that will go to your organization. This keeps everyone on the same page and protects you legally.

  • Promote

Utilize social media, advertising campaigns, flyers, and whatever other tools you have to promote the collaboration. Make sure you include approved branding from the corporation. Tag them in all posts and make it easy for them to reshare content. Ensure they are doing the same for you.

  • Get everyone involved

Many corporations will encourage their employees to actively participate in the collaboration. Make sure your team members participate as well. Coordinating activities for both sides to do together can help raise more funds and ensure both sides are devoted to the end result.

  • Share results

Be sure to compare notes with the corporation at the end of the campaign. Make sure you both hit your targets and if you didn’t, explore why. This leads to better campaigns either with that corporation or others in the future. It also gives you the numbers to bring back to your board members or strong donors.

Success stories

Red Nose Day / Child Poverty

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of cause-related marketing is Red Nose Day. NBC dedicates a show to the cause and people wear their red noses all over social media to show support. Funds raised go toward ending child poverty and combating food insecurities.  In just six years, they’ve raised over $240 million for children all over the world. The concept of the red nose grew quickly because it’s such a distinct (and simple) way for donors to show their support. They receive a red nose for their monetary contribution and in 2020, the nose went digital. This made it even easier to share on social platforms. They accept donations all year long, allowing the support to continue long past their major fundraising days.

Lee National Denim Day / American Cancer Society

The employees at Lee Jeans came up with the concept of donating $5 to the American Cancer Society to wear jeans to work for a day. This campaign rolls out in early October to kickstart Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is a great concept for its simplicity and appeal to a large group of people. Who doesn’t want to wear jeans to work while also giving back? It increases brand awareness for Lee Jeans, while donating over $93 million throughout the years. It is also a team event and easy for businesses to implement.

Ben & Jerry’s / Advancement Project National Office

Ice cream is a pretty widely loved product. Ben & Jerry’s teamed up with Advancement Project National Office to offer a flavor that supports transforming prison systems. They named it “Justice ReMix’d” and gave a percentage of the sales to the cause. This is highly beneficial for the nonprofit because the flavor name makes one question why it’s called that. The sale not only supports their cause, but also intrigues people enough to learn more.

Coca-Cola / World Wildlife Fund

Coca-Cola teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund in 2007 to conserve freshwater resources. Their brand image includes a polar bear, so the CRM concept didn’t seem too far off. They work to fight climate change and help fund projects all over the world. This brought national attention to both sides and created more sustainable packaging for Coca-Cola products. This shows they put work behind the mission and truly believe in the World Wildlife Fund.

Patagonia Action Works

Patagonia also funds a number of wildlife and conservation initiatives. They support multiple organizations and promote finding ways to get involved in local communities This is helpful for smaller organizations because it increases marketing and awareness for people in your area. They have a list of organizations, events, and petitions related to these causes. They donate 1% of their sales to these efforts. Since they started these efforts in 1985, they’ve raised over $100 million for environmental causes. Again, the partnership makes sense to the consumer because Patagonia sells outdoor clothing and many of their consumers would have an attachment to a wilderness organization.

There are so many different ways to work with corporations. Find the right one, as these nonprofits did, and you will both find success in cause-related marketing!

By Kaitlin O’Dougherty