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Scoop it Forward, A Cause-Marketing Campaign Benefiting Volunteer Match

In this second half of my interview with Robert Rosenthal, director of communications at VolunteerMatch he talks about how the nonprofit's new cause marketing campaign, Scoop it Forward, came about and how all the partners are working to make it wonderful. (Read the first half of the interview here.)

6. How did the CRM partnership come about?

Target Corp. has been a long-time partner and recent national sponsor of VolunteerMatch. We also help power their employee program. Recently they renewed their focus on education-related related issues, and it was natural for them to leverage our relationship for a consumer campaign they wanted to do with Ben & Jerry's in time for the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, which took place in NYC.
7. What were your criteria in developing cause campaigns?
Our sweet spot is clients who want to support volunteer engagement in a cause area that aligns with their brand -- not just one or two nonprofits. For example, with Pedigree we have worked together to inspire volunteering at dog shelters.

We look for partners who recognize our model, which is to support both sides of the volunteer engagement match. On the one side are consumers who are inspired to give back with their time and skills, For them the key issues revolve around creative execution, discovery of opportunities, incentives to get involved and opportunities to share the experience. On the other side of the match are nonprofit organizations that are looking to leverage volunteers as resources toward their mission. For these we need to raise awareness about the benefits of using our service, as well as expose them to best practices for working with volunteers. We are interested in cause campaigns can drive volunteer engagement on both sides of this match.

In addition to relationships with our thousands of nonprofits, we deliver essential services, tools, data, and consulting service to our cause clients. So we are looking for clients who view us not as a charity they are supporting but as a professional partner.

Beyond that, we partner with brands that have national prominence as we are a national service, and brands with a track record of delivering on their value proposition, which we think is essential to building credibility in our market.
8. What are VolunteerMatch's goals for the campaign? How will you measure your progress?
Our goal is always to connect more volunteers to nonprofits -- and over the years we've developed a core metric of success, our "SROI" (social return on investment), which we apply to all the work we do on our public Web site and our corporate partnerships. In 2009 we helped to generate an SROI of more than $400 million.

How this works varies from campaign to campaign because depending on a partner's program, there can be different sets of causes that can be aligned narrowly or more broadly. For example, for Allstate we have been helping to align its Beyond February campaign with the MLK day of Service. For BlackPlanet.com, we helped them align with African American-related nonprofits through their Black Planet Rising campaign. In another example, at REI.com we're helping to align employee and consumer audiences with environmental causes.

More granularly, we can also track activity in various ways. For Target and Ben & Jerry's we're looking closely at volunteer referral rates and page views on our side, while our partners look closely at coupon redemptions of ice cream, shares, and online buzz.
9. Can you speak about what Target and Ben & Jerry's hope to get from the deal as well?
For our partners, Scoop It Forward symbolizes each company’s shared commitment to volunteerism -- particulary service in support of education and literacy organizations. Both companies are already doing so much in these areas - indeed, giving back to the community has been a part of their DNA from the start. So as much as this is about two brands hoping to build a sustainable relationship with their customers, it is also about two companies investing in local communities.
10. Campaigns with three partners can be very challenging to put together and to manage. Given that, how does the management of the campaign work?
Regardless of how each project is configured, we have been fortunate to have great cause marketing partners. We work in partnership with the company and their marketing partners -- often there are ad, PR or web agencies involved, and there are usually marketing executives from the company involved as well. A few of our partners manage their side directly -- for example, with both REI and Kenneth Cole Productions we worked only with executives at those organizations.

Essentially, everyone contributes their expertise. From our end, we provide our technical solutions and applications, we work with the nonprofits and the volunteeers, and we help with the communications strategy. Our partners on their end are handling media strategy, media buys, most of the creative development, and the public relations.
11. What does the future hold in terms of other CRM campaigns at VolunteerMatch?
The independent sector has always played a key role in solving problems that government and corporations can't solve alone, and the recession has only highlighted the critical needs at schools, libraries, arts organizations, mentor programs, and environmental organizations. Government is strapped, so it's imperative that more companies get involved in programs that can serve the public interest as well as business interests. We've proven our ability to help brands find cause alignment in all kinds of creative and unique ways -- and we're excited to be able to build on these successes.

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