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Reporting Back and Giving Thanks is Vital in Cause Marketing

Before Christmas I posted on the efforts of a local grocery chain benefiting local food banks and utilizing their proprietary paper icon.

Yesterday, February 1, 2011, the chain, called Fresh Markets, reported their results in their weekly circular. In a small rectangle about mid-way down on the right side of the circular, Fresh Markets says it was able to donate $98,000 to local food banks. Whether this included any cash, matching, or in-kind donations from Fresh Markets isn’t clear from this page.

The Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database has thousands of examples of cause marketing ‘activations,’ but the folder labeled ‘Thank You Ads’ is notably thin. I just don’t see many examples of sponsors or causes thanking supporters for their help.

This is a major mistake for both causes and sponsors.

Transparency is vital to cause marketing. And part of transparency is to report back how it all went. Such reporting reassures supporters that whatever effort they took helped in some way.

(Fresh Markets could have taken the extra step of figuring out how many meals or how many families were helped with that $98,000. But in just announcing the dollar results they went further than 99% of their peers.)

More than that reciprocity demands that people be thanked for their effort, even if it has to come as a collective thanks and even if the gift was just $1. Plus, because cause marketing can be so in-your-face, you risk donor-fatigue even though the donation amounts are small. Continually asking without reporting back makes it seem like the baby bird whose mouth is always wide open and squawking for more. Causes must pause to thank their supporters, even when the support comes in $1 at a time.

Sponsors and causes must bake these “here’s what happened and thank you for your help” communications into the budget, otherwise it will never happen. In the case of the Fresh Markets circular, the marginal cost of added that little notice is very low.

But the thank you ad at the left cost Volvic money. It ran on the back cover of Scientific American magazine. But I'd argue that it was money will spent.

Finally, it’s in the best interests of causes and sponsors to take the opportunity to keep the conversation alive with their customers and supporters. It's a legitimate potential touch point. And thanking them for their help and reporting back the campaign’s results is a no-nonsense way to do so.

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