Irwin Union Bank Donation

Is ‘Any Charity’ As Good as One Charity?

My posting about 505 Green Chile Sauce talked about how a company might go about picking a suitable charity to partner with in a cause-related marketing campaign. My posting on Firedog Across America revealed a study which shows that customers respond best to CRM campaigns when causes and companies are well-matched.

But what if you’re a bank and have all kinds of different customers who aren’t tightly segmented, but want to try your hand at cause-related marketing? Couldn’t you get away with supporting not just one charity with a cause-related marketing campaign, but ‘any charity?’

Illustrated is an ad for Irwin Union Bank, an Indiana bank with branches in nine states. Here’s the offer: When you open a new certificate of deposit with $10,000 or more, the bank will make a donation of $50 in your name to the charity of your choice.

So if you’re fan of Oxfam, Environment Defense, the local homeless shelter, or your church’s missionary work in Africa, the $50 would go to ‘any charity’ you designate.

The disadvantages of this approach are plain: Irwin Union misses out on public relations value; they’re not going to get any PR help from ‘any charity.’ They also lose much of the corporate halo effect as well. This isn’t a partnership, it’s a $50 donation.

But, the bank’s marketers might counter, “what we lose in partnership, we make up in added appeal. Our customers don’t care only for cancer or the environment or animal rights. Collectively they care for all those things. So supporting ‘any charity’ gives our campaign nearly universal appeal.”

So are ‘any charity’ appeals as effective as those for specific charities? I don’t know, but in the States the very largest charities are not single-issue entities but federated charities, like the United Way and the United Jewish Communities. When federated charities get their programs and marketing right, they can be all things to all people. And that’s very powerful.

If you have another answer to the question, please weigh in.

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