Open Standards Cause Marketing

If cause marketing is to really grow, I'm increasingly coming to the opinion that cause marketing needs the equivalent of an ‘open standard.’ When speaking of software especially, the term ‘open standards’ means an agreed-upon convention that is free and unconstrained in how it can be used.

Open standards are enormously valuable to you and me. HTML and XHTML are open standards. PDF is an open standard and CD-ROMs will run in any computer with a CD-ROM drive because of open standards.

That you’re reading this post is because of an open standard called TCP-IP, which is the way website data is divided up into packets, transmitted, and then reassembled by servers somewhere near your computer or phone.

According to the entry on the topic in today’s (August 17, 2009) Wikipedia: Open Standards means “a published specification that is immune to vendor capture at all stages in its life-cycle.” Its more complete definition according to the Digital Standards Organization is:
“The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organization, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties.

The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available freely. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute, and use it freely.

The patents possibly present on (parts of) the standard are made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.

There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard.

A key defining property is that an open standard is immune to vendor capture at all stages in its life-cycle.

Immunity from vendor capture makes it possible to improve upon, trust, and extend an open standard over time.”
What would be the benefits of open standards cause marketing?
  1. It would create a series of cause marketing conventions that anyone could adopt, change and modify.
  2. Because it would be free, it would eliminate some of the transaction costs of cause marketing.
  3. It would make it easy for any sponsor to quickly plan and begin a cause marketing campaign.
  4. It would give charities an easy starting point when approaching prospective sponsors.
What elements might be part of any cause marketing open standards?
  1. Sponsorship contracts.
  2. Maybe a seal of some kind.
  3. General cause marketing approaches.
  4. Standard donation amounts.
What else?

Honestly, my thinking on the subject is a work in progress. I’m not sure I know enough about the all the ins and outs of open standards to give more complete answers right now.

But I am convinced that just as all the big hotel chains in the U.S. profited when they worked together to create open standards for their reservation systems about a decade ago, the development of open standards for cause marketing would benefit all stakeholders involved in cause marketing, including the 'donors,' charities, sponsors and consultants like me.

I hope you’ll weigh in with your own thoughts and ideas.